It’s sweltering hot outside, and you’re certain that any parking space will leave you with a sizzling car when you return. Oh ye of little faith. Look what’s straight ahead - a spot under a tree on the shady side of the street. This means your leather seats will only semi-scorch your legs when you return.
Later, when you fetch your car, you notice it’s been decorated with bird droppings, and sap. The bird poop, you figure, will come off with some soap and water. The sap you're not so sure about.
When you get home you discover the sap has turned into a sticky glob. Getting it off will take some creativity.
You recall vaguely that one of the kids marked a wall with crayons, and something called a Magic Eraser removed the mark with no effort. If a Magic Eraser could take crayon off the wall, why not try it on tree sap?
If you use a Magic Eraser to scrub away some tree sap you might get lucky. It might come off. But before you declare victory, wash and dry the area where you used the eraser. It’s likely that you’ll discover you’ve created a bigger problem. The Magic Eraser has scratched the heck out of the paint.
Magic Erasers seem innocuous
How can something so soft cause so much damage?
Magic Erasers are made from melamine foam, which is used to insulate pipes and ductwork. It’s also used to soundproof recording studios, and sound stages. In other words, those pliable and innocuous looking sponges are made from materials used for industrial strength jobs.
When a Magic Eraser gets wet, its abrasiveness is the equivalent of 3000 to 5000 grit sandpaper, depending on how hard you scrub. That might not sound very rough, but on car paint the damage could be severe.
Worse, if you have a heavy hand and go to town with a bone dry Magic Eraser, it would be similar to using 800 grit sandpaper.
In either case, using a Magic Eraser to clean a spot on your car will scratch the paint.
Some Magic Eraser scratches can be fixed by an average DIY’er. To judge the severity of the scratch, run your fingernail over the affected area. If your nail slides across without catching, it’s minor scratch that you can polish out with the help of some rubbing and polishing compound, polishing pads, and maybe a little touch up paint.
If your fingernail catches, you’ll need a professional to fix the scratches.
Using the Magic Eraser inside the car
If it’s ok to use a Magic Eraser in your house to get scuffs off of chairs and walls, is it safe to use it on the interior of a car? It depends on what you’re trying to clean.
The experts at AutoGeekOnline don’t recommend its use over wide areas because the sandpaper-like quality of the Magic Eraser can strip the dye out of plastic dashboards and kick plates. The leather seats in cars also have a coating. By using a Magic Eraser you could, unknowingly, remove the protective layer.
If you’re intent on using a Magic Eraser to clean minor scuffs on the interior of your car, get the eraser very wet, and scrub very softly. Limit the size of your cleaning area. Test the eraser and your pressure on an out-of-the-way spot to see how it looks before working on a larger, more noticeable, part of the interior.
A Magic Eraser can be a wonderful tool, but it has to be the right tool for the right job. If you’re cleaning stains off of interior carpeting or scuffs in areas that aren’t highly visible, Magic Erasers work just fine. But if you’re considering using one on paint, leather or your plastic dashboard, you might want to look into alternatives.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How a Magic Eraser Can Damage Your Car and was authored by Kevin Woo.