Whenever I hear someone rave about Magic Erasers, she'll usually end her remarks with something like, "Of course, they are probably carcinogenic."

What's the scoop? 

Americans are accustomed to thinking that every new "miraculous" product or cure-all is going to have a backlash, that anything really delightful (bacon, ice cream, margaritas...) is going to come with a steep payoff in health or good looks.

I am happy to report that such is not the case with Magic Erasers. These cleaning sponges are made from melamine foam. That's right, the same material that budget dinnerware is made from.

When melamine resin cures into foam, its microstructure becomes very hard -- almost as hard as glass -- and that makes this open-cell structure act on stains like super-fine sandpaper. 

As soon as the melamine cell structure gets wet, it breaks down into a microscopic abrasive eraser. It grabs grit and grease, then holds the dirt in the sponge to be rinsed away. Nifty!

Rumors online indicated that these melamine foam erasers could cause serious health problems because they contained formaldehyde, and had the potential to cause chemical burns, but these turned out to be false.

Actually, the sponge is made using formaldehyde. The chemical in the sponge is formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer, a different compound. It means that there are very large polymer molecules that structurally resemble formaldehyde. Not to worry. You can still have a spotless home, ready for the competitive real estate market. 
Do you think it's time to replace
my sponge? I'm very frugal!

When to use eraser sponges

I'm a big fan of Magic Erasers because they do things that other cleaners don't.

They let you trap and remove oil-based stains and marks without having to use a de-greaser. 

That's a huge advantage because it means no caustic chemicals to breathe or pollute. Love that!

Perhaps the people who appreciate these sponges most are moms of children who get inspired with crayons and markers. But here are some other uses home stagers can appreciate. 
  • Remove rust stains from PVC pipes under sinks, behind toilets, and on the floor of the vanity.
  • Get the interior of your dishwasher white again. 
  • Clean the oven to look like new.  
  • Clean stains from your smooth top stove. 
  • Get scuff marks and stains off vinyl flooring.
  • Remove the water marks from the sides of your pool. 
  • Make glass shower doors sparkle. 
  • Pull stains out of carpets and rugs. 
  • Refresh older laminate countertops like nobody's business.

When not to use these sponges

The eraser sponge can burnish flat paint or dull shiny paint if you scrub hard. But if you have to use it on painted walls, it will be easier than painting the entire wall when you aren't able to do paint touch-ups. You can minimize sheen differences if you proceed with caution, using the least pressure necessary.  

Do not use on wood paneling or varnished wood surfaces. Do not use on skin or animals. Do not use on delicate fabrics. Test leather in an inconspicuous spot before using.

I've found that rinsing is crucial to the success of Magic Erasers. They will leave a visible white residue on some surfaces, like shower doors.

I've also discovered that the generic knockoffs available at dollar stores and discount big box stores are just as good as the name brand. Sorry, Baldy. But you're still a sponge-worthy guy.   

I give lots more advice and cleaning tips in my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. If your home is on the market, or you are getting your home ready to sell, you need my book.