When it comes to cleaning, I believe in magic. Ever since Mr. Clean magic erasers hit the scene, I've been using them to tackle some of the tougher jobs around the house. But I recently discovered that there are generic versions of magic erasers—it's just a non-proprietary material called melamine foam—that can be scooped up for cheaper than the Mr. Clean brand. But do they work just as well? I wanted to test it for myself and put each of these sponges through the ringer.
The Test Subjects
THE NAME BRAND:
Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, $3.47 for 4 on Amazon
THE GENERIC VERSION:
Swisstek Magic Cleaning Sponges, $11.95 for 20 on Amazon
I bought a 4-pack of original (the most basic version) Mr. Clean Magic Erasers at my local hardware store for $3.99 ($1 per sponge), and a 20-pack of Swisstek magic cleaning sponges from Amazon for $11.95 (60¢ a sponge). I feel compelled to mention that, yes, you can find Mr. Clean Magic Erasers for less than $1 a piece, though the cheapest I could source online (in any quantity) is 87¢ each from both Walmart and Amazon—still more than my generic erasers. And you can buy generic melamine erasers for way less than 60¢ a piece (here's a pack of 100 on eBay for $13.95).
Want to know how melamine foam works? Check it out right here.
When they arrive and I open the packages, the two sponges feel exactly the same in my hand. The generic brand I bought is a teeny bit thicker and squattier-shaped than the long, lean Mr. Clean erasers (and they don't feature Mr. Clean's face on them—this may or may not be a dealbreaker). Both packages bear the same 3-step instructions: 1. Wet, 2. Squeeze, 3. "Erase"/"Clean."
Wet, squeeze and clean is exactly what I did. I tested each of the two sponges on three different surfaces, sharing how each brand handled the task with a two-point rubric of effectiveness (how well it cleans) and durability (does the sponge physically hold up?). In all of the photos below, the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is photographed on the left, and used to clean on the left hand side of the frame. The generic brand is pictured right and was used on the right.
First up was my metal patio table, pretty dingy from weeks of neglect and exposure to the elements. The sponges, they... handled it. Equally. Each took care of the regular dirt easily (then again, so would a basic rag), but the real test was two identical stained rings left behind from potted plants, which they aced. I'd say each sponge was able to erase the ring about 95 percent—it's nearly impossible to see the outlines below each sponge in the photo above.
Most durable: Tie
Most effective: Tie
Next was a scuff on the wall upstairs. I cannot tell you what this scuff, about 6 inches long, is from or how long it has been here, but I can tell you that it was the first test where one sponge truly stood out. Both sponges took a bunch of scrubbing to eliminate the scuff, but only one managed to do the work without visibly pulling paint from the wall (you can better see the paint missing here; although both sponges had a yellow-ish tint after cleaning). The clear winner here is, surprisingly, the generic sponge.
Most durable: Tie
Most effective: Generic sponge
The final test was designed to really measure durability. The name-brand magic erasers are my go-to tool for cleaning the white rubber of my sneakers, and I know them to be a shreddy mess. For this test, I took a messy pair of sneakers and used fresh sponges to clean each shoe. Both got the white details equally clean and, frankly, both turned out to be pretty frail when faced up against the gritty textured rubber. There were bits of eraser everywhere. But I give a slight edge to the generic eraser: The thicker, squattier shape seemed to hold up just a bit better than the Mr. Clean brand.
Most durable: Generic sponge
Most effective: Tie
Considering that the generic brand is cheaper and, in my tests, able to barely edge out the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, I feel confident crowning a winner, and adding more generic erasers to my Amazon cart.