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Erasers work well on leather, suede, papers, cardboard, unfinished wood, and stone. They should be tried before attempting wet cleaning. They are amazingly versatile if used carefully. They need to be fully removed from the surface. Most erasers are made of materials that will degrade and damage surfaces with time. Start with eraser crumbs – they are the least damaging.


Erasers are versatile cleaning tools that combine abrasion and slight solvent action. They are good for removing grime and some residues from surfaces. Although they’re solids, erasers hold enormous amounts of solvent. The Magic Rub seems to hold the most. Holding solvent helps an eraser with certain tasks, such as softening tape residue.

Like any tool, however, use erasers carefully. If you use an eraser that’s too hard, it will abrade. If it’s dirty, it will leave a smudge.

Ground eraser is even more versatile. It can be applied with a brush to a surface. Some conservators grind specific types of erasers because they want a specific technique. Commercially available ground eraser – called dry cleaning pads or eraser crumbs – usually are made from gum eraser. This is a natural rubber eraser that may contain sulfur.

The dry cleaning pads are a cotton knit filled with eraser crumbs. Squeezing the pad puts out a fine eraser powder. It can be used to clean suede, paper and leather. Squeeze the powder onto a paper towel. Pick it up with a flat oil painting brush. Apply to the surface, moving it around with the brush. As it changes from tan to gray, it is picking up dirt. Brush it off the surface or into a vacuum cleaner. Then apply a fresh batch. Work methodically across a surface so you can identify clean from dirty areas. Micropipette vacuum to remove all eraser residue. We don’t know what damage eraser residue may cause if left on the object. If you don’t feel you can remove all the residue, don’t use this technique.

The eraser in the pad can be used for cleaning surfaces such as historic wallpaper. Gently move the pad over the surface you want to clean. Be EXTREMELY careful and observant. Historic, painted wallpaper may be easily abraded or have flaking paint. If you see any possible damage, stop immediately.


- Always test in an unobtrusive spot to make sure the eraser won’t damage the surface.
- Watch for scratches, surface abrasion or wear.