After my last post on detoxing your bathroom I was reminded of a product (thanks Raven) I’ve always dismissed in my head as toxic. I’m sure you’ve heard of cleaning erasers, the most popular brand would be Mr. Clean’s magic eraser that is marketed to help surfaces look ‘new again’! I thought this article would be straight forward seeing as Mr. Clean is a Proctor & Gamble product….and my jaded self usually deems any traditional cleaning product toxic. Well I’ve researched it and I’m surprised really, but I don’t think magic erasers are toxic. Don’t get me wrong, they are not eco-friendly but they don’t appear to be laced with loads of cleaning agents within the sponge that would be released when used.
The confusion starts when savvy mamas Google ‘magic eraser ingredients‘ and find the material safety data sheets for Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Cleaning Pads and see warnings to keep this product away from toddlers and then see the word Formaldehyde included in the only chemical ingredient listing called ‘Formaldehyde-Melamine-Sodium bisulfite copolymer’. As moms, we get upset when seeing Formaldehyde listed in ingredients because we know it’s been lurking in our kid’s personal care products (shampoo, body wash, etc.) and think of nasty products like nail polish that contain this chemical that harms human health. Well in the case of the magic eraser, the formaldehyde is used in the manufacturing & production of the melamine sponge (which is the eraser). So unlike Melamine dishware where we worry about the trace amounts of formaldehyde leaching after subjecting the dishware to cleaning, we don’t have to worry about this chemical ‘leaching’ out of the sponge. So while this product is not a toxic cleaning tool – it’s not eco-friendly because chemicals will be absorbed back into the earth when the eraser is discarded, but nothing will be ‘off-gassing’ while it’s being used which I find comforting knowing how many people I know use them.
You might have seen the ‘chemical burn’ picture via an email of a child that circulated around the internet a few years ago. The mother had taken photos of her child with terrible burns on his arms saying that he rubbed the magic eraser on his skin. I believe this has been deemed a hoax, but I would agree with the household products database that these sponges should be kept away from children. It’s not a chemical finish that is removing soap scum and marks from surfaces, its the foam’s structure of melamine resin that becomes more like sand paper when the sponge is put under water. So the outer material of the sponge works like fine sandpaper which could cause a child (or parent with sensitive skin) to react to this surface. This however is different than the supposed ‘chemical burn’ that the child in that email received by using a magic eraser. As far as I can see, adding cleaning chemicals to the sponge has not happened.
So was I delighted with these findings? No, not really, but I was surprised. I would have bet a lot of money there were chemical cleaning agents added to a Mr. Clean magic eraser and I don’t think this is the case. Split decision here if I would actually purchase one. I would recommend a magic eraser over spraying toxic cleaners at a permanent marker stain on a wall, but it would be a joke to call them an ‘eco-friendly’ solution and make them a permanent fixture in my home. Here is why I wouldn’t recommend simply for soap scum or every-day cleaning:
1) If a sponge only lasts a few weeks (I’ve read they breakdown quickly when used) they are not considered an earth-friendly, reusable product.
2) The foam was made by a German company (BASF) and was invented as an insulator and fire retardant. Sorry, but all I can say is gross…it makes me itchy just thinking of holding one.
3) I will never go back to cleaning with something that my kids can’t use. I wouldn’t let them hold one of these and whenever I start cleaning my bathroom, my girls especially want to help. My current cleaning system is very safe for them to participate with.
So while I’m still not a fan, I will no longer be fearful when I hear another glowing testimonial from a mother that swears a magic sponge was the only thing that could get marker off her floor or walls. But, if P&G starts spinning that these sponges are good for the environment, I might not be able to stop my eye twitch…