Does Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Cause Chemical Burns?

Investigating the Email Evidence

Mother and child in the kitchen cleaning with a sponge.

Peter Muller/Getty Images

A viral email message circulating since November 2006 describes chemical burns sustained by a 5-year-old child when he scrubbed his own skin with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge.

Using a Magic Eraser on Skin

The majority of the text below originated as a November 2, 2006, blog posting on, written by a businesswoman and mother of three named Jessica. The original post has been deleted, but it has been reposted dozens of times on various websites. Based on a harrowing experience involving her own five-year-old son, she sought to warn other parents of the potential hazard posed to children by the unsupervised use of Scotch-Brite Easy Erasing Pads and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. There's no reason to doubt the sincerity of her effort.

There are two points at issue, however. One has to do with unauthorized additions to the text, including an opening paragraph referring to a different child altogether and an attached photo which never appeared in the original article. The other pertains to the question of whether or not the injuries suffered by Jessica's son were actually chemical burns.

Did Another Child Suffer Similar Injuries?

As Jessica herself noted in a follow-up blog posting, it is in the nature of forwarded emails that "information is added, changed, or misused" by other parties. In this case, a preface was added — signed by someone named Karlee — lamenting the injuries sustained by her son, Kolby, while playing with a Magic Eraser sponge. Readers have no way of knowing who these people are, let alone whether a child named Kolby actually suffered injuries similar to those of Jessica's son (whose name is Jacob).
Likewise, readers have no information on the origin of the photo showing a child with burns or abrasions on his arms. According to Jessica, the picture is not of her son (who had facial injuries), nor does she have any idea where it came from.
Given these dubious additions, not to mention the fact that her original posting is copyrighted, Jessica requested that recipients of the message simply delete it and point interested parties to her website, instead of passing the spurious email along.

Chemical Burn or Abrasion?

As Jessica herself admitted in later postings, it is by no means an established fact that her son's injuries were chemical burns. The product safety specs for Scotch-Brite Easy Erasing Pads and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers (MSDS) list no soaps, solvents or other chemical ingredients of any kind. The pH factor of Magic Erasers (and presumably Scotch-Brite Pads) falls between 8 and 10. This is alkaline enough, according to a poison control center consulted by Jessica, to cause a "base chemical burn." But it bears pointing out that even a pH of 10 to 12 is comparatively mild on the alkalinity scale. Baking soda has a pH of 9, for example. Milk of Magnesia has a pH of 10, and soapy water has a pH of 12.

Conceivably, a patch of skin, especially the sensitive skin of a child, could be made more susceptible to irritation by a weak alkali if it is mildly abraded by, say, the melamine foam surface of an Easy Erasing Pad. With vigorous enough rubbing, this may be possible. On the other hand, perhaps the material itself is capable of causing injuries such as those shown in the photograph. It is also possible that an allergic reaction was involved.

Product Warnings Updated

In any case, we can't assume the accuracy of the title of the email message, "Chemical Burns to Children," nor any statements in the body of the text implying the same. This is because it has not been established that chemicals played any role at all.

Can children harm themselves by misusing these products? The answer is clearly yes. Despite the misadventures of her blog post, we have Jessica to thank for the manufacturers' decision to amend their product labels and include warnings against rubbing them on the skin and allowing their unsupervised use by children.

Sample Email About Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Burns

Here's the text of an email that circulated online in 2007 and 2008:

Subject: Magic Erasers — read if you have any contact with kids!
Ok, I'm sending this out to everyone so they don't make the same mistake I made. I'm so embarrassed that this happened but I want you all to be aware of what can happen. This was caused by a magic eraser sponge. I have let both kids erase their crayon marks off the walls and never even thought the sponges would have this kind of chemical in them that would cause this kind of burn or even hurt them. Learn from my mistake. You can't even imagine how bad I feel that this happened to Kolby. Pass this along to anyone who has kids or grandchildren.
Kolby 24 hours after being burned by a magic Eraser sponge. It was much worse yesterday.
My sister found this article about another child that was burned by the same kind of sponge.

Chemical Burns to Children

If you are a parent or grandparent, this post is meant to save your loved ones from the horror one of our friends went through. Here is the email we received:
One of my five year old's favorite chores around the house is cleaning scuff marks off the walls, doors and baseboards with either an Easy Eraser pad, or the real deal, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I purchased a package of Magic Erasers ages ago when they first came out. I remember reading the box, wondering what the "magic" component was that cleaned crayon off my walls with ease. No ingredients were listed and absolutely no warnings were on the box, other than "do not ingest."
My package of the Scotchbrite Easy Erasers didn't have a warning either and since my child knew not to eat the sponges and keep them out of reach of his little brother and sister, it was a chore I happily let him do.
If I had known that both brands (and others like them) contain a harmful alkaline or "base" chemical (opposite of acid on the pH scale) that can burn your skin, I never would have let my little boy handle them. As you can see from the picture, when the Scotchbrite Easy Eraser was rubbed against his face and chin, he received severe chemical burns.
At first, I thought he was being dramatic. I picked him up, put him on the counter top and washed his face with soap and water. He was screaming in pain. I put some lotion on his face — more agony. I had used a Magic Eraser to remove magic marker from my own knuckles a while back and I couldn't understand why he was suddenly in pain. Then, almost immediately, the large, shiny, blistering red marks started to spread across his cheeks and chin.
I quickly searched Google for "magic eraser burn" and turned up several results. I was shocked. These completely innocent-looking white foam sponges can burn you?
I called our pediatrician and got voice mail. I hung up and called the hospital and spoke to an emergency room nurse. She told me to call Poison Control. The woman at Poison Control said she was surprised nobody had sued these companies yet and walked me through the process of neutralizing the alkaline to stop my son's face from continually burning more every second.
I had already, during my frantic phone calling, tried patting some numbing antibiotic cream on his cheeks, and later some Aloe Vera gel — both resulted in screams of pain. The Poison Control tech had me fill a bathtub with warm water, lay my son into it, cover him with a towel to keep him warm and then use a soft washcloth to rinse his face and chin with cool water for a continuous 20 minutes.
My son calmed down immediately. He told me how good it felt. I gave him a dose of Tylenol and after the twenty minutes was up, he got dressed in his emergency room doctor Halloween costume and off we went to the hospital.
They needed to make sure the chemical burn had stopped burning, and examined his face to determine if the burn would need to be debrided (from my fuzzy recollection of hospital work, this means removing loose tissue from a burn location). My son was pretty happy at the hospital, they were very nice and called him "Doctor" and let him examine some of their equipment. The water had successfully stopped the burning and helped soothe a lot of the pain. I'm sure Tylenol was helping too.
They sent us home with more aloe vera gel, Polysporin antibiotic cream, and some other numbing burn creams. By the time we got home, my son was crying again. I tried applying some of the creams but he cried out in pain. Water seemed to be what worked the best.
After a rough night, I took the above photo in the morning. He was swollen and wouldn't move his lips very much to avoid moving the skin on his taut cheeks. I was fighting back the tears, and I said, "oh honey, I wish I could take it away from you. I wish I could take it off your face and put it on mine." He was so shocked, he started to tear up a little and said, "Mom, no. You don't want this on your face, it hurts so much. You would be hurting. Last night was terrible, I couldn't sleep, and you wouldn't be able to sleep either." It just broke my heart into five trillion pieces — as much as he is hurting, he wouldn't want me to be hurting in his place.
Today he is doing much better. The burns have started to scab over, and in place of red, raw, angry, skin we have a deeper red, rough healing layer. I can touch his skin now without it stinging, and this morning he went back to pre-school with Polysporin rubbed all over his face. He announced to the class, "I brought my face for Show and Tell!"
He was doing fine as of Friday. Kudos to this diligent parent for informing us all.


The Procter & Gamble Company. "Material Safety Data Sheet." The Procter & Gamble Company, July 2007, Cincinnati, OH.

David Mikkelson. "Dangerous Chemicals in Mr. Clean Magic Eraser." Snopes, July 12 2004.