Today we are going to search for an answer to a question that’s probably been the only thing you wonder about in these calm, untroubled times: what is the best eraser?
If you’ve seen our Instagram with CWPE staff favorites you already know the eraser I can’t stop talking about. But no spoilers. I promise I’m not leaning on the scales. This is an investigation.
To me, there are a few ways to evaluate an eraser:
- eraser material
- effectiveness for your specific task
- cleanup ease
- comfort and style
Let’s do an overview first:
Erasers are made up of two main kinds of materials: plastic and rubber. Rubber erasers can be both synthetic or natural. From just those few categories we get erasers in a huge range of textures and styles.
Kneadable erasers are like silly putty, favored by artists and people who love a functional, moldable object. The soft material is more likely to smudge your graphite around, so they’re especially nice if you intend to smear instead of strictly remove it. They’ll feel a little tacky too. Knead them and knead again to find a clean spot to return to your page.
Gum erasers are soft, crumbly, and exceptionally gentle on your intended surface. Ours, from General’s, is made of rubber. Recently a customer asked for a recommendation for removing pencil marks from a museum wall and we suggested these!
Natural rubber erasers can feel chalkier during use and are prone to drying out. Some rubber erasers are even mixed with sand, and the grittiness of that combination actually scratches into your page to lift marks off it. You’ll know a rubber eraser by all the fine eraser dust it creates.
Many people prefer natural rubber erasers because they want to reduce their plastic consumption, and their comparative environmental friendliness is important.
Plastic erasers - Just like their rubber counterparts, plastic erasers come in different shapes and textures. They can be softer and wobblier as well as firm and even textured. (No matter the material, the firmer and grittier an eraser the hardier it’ll be, and the more it’ll wear into your erasing surface.)
Plastic erasers tend to be more effective than rubber erasers at lifting graphite, and even the pigment in colored pencils, off the page. They're actually sometimes called drafting erasers because draftspeople like their ability to cleanly remove the sharpest details. Plastic erasers are also much tidier, and leave much less eraser mess to clean up.
Some plastic erasers, like our Caran d’Ache Technik, advertise that they’re phthalate-free. Phthalates are a chemical which make plastic pliable, transparent, and durable, and they’re found in all manner of everyday plastic objects, but experts have found that they’re associated with negative health effects.
Quick tip: Can’t tell a plastic from a rubber eraser? In our shop most of our plastic erasers come wrapped in cellophane.
One big caveat is that eraser performance will depend on the pencil and paper they're paired with. An eraser may work magically on one surface and be a dud on another. Today we're using our extra thick, beautifully toothy test pad paper. All of these pencils and erasers will act differently on a different surface.
Now, to show you what I mean by all of this, I’ve gathered a handful of erasers to show off their various strengths.
First I made a huge swatch to test everything out, and threw in one colored pencil for good measure. The graphite pencils are ordered from softest to firmest. From top to bottom we’ve got:
- Koh-i-Noor FX Magic Jumbo in Tropical
- Musgrave 600 News
- Mitsu-bishi Penmanship Pencil - 4B
- Staedtler Kakikata - 2B
- our shop exclusive collaboration with Camel - HB
- Caran d’Ache Natura - HB
- Caran d’Ache Natura - 2H
Next, please say hello to today’s eraser contestants, and how they fared. From left to right:
L & C Hardtmuth eraser from Koh-i-Noor - this classic and classy rubber eraser comes in three sizes. The largest is a decent paper weight! See all the fine eraser dust? It does a decent job with graphite but can’t put up a fight against the colored pencil.
Laufer Plast L-125 - this plastic eraser has a bit of gritty texture that, to me, makes it as effective with colored pencils as some other erasers that are intended expressly for that purpose. (Ahem.) The blue sleeve helps it stay clean and keep its shape, too.
Tombow Mono Black - a super portable highly effective plastic eraser. We’re often asked if black erasers will color the paper they're used with. I hope this proves to you that they don’t! I'm impressed by how well it handled the firmer pencils in particular.
Caran d’Ache Technik - a firm high-powered eraser that can take care of graphite AND colored pencils. It gets the job done, though it does leave a bit more eraser dust than the other plastic erasers. I did have to reall work the eraser across the page to get these results.
Retrico Foam - The Retrico's colored pencil erasing performance aside, this one continued to amaze me. Not only does it work fantastically, it took the least effort of all of these to get excellent erasing results. Something about the spongey foam just makes it a joy to use. And check out the tidy threads it leaves behind.
So there you have it! Do you have any of these in your own rotation? Do you have a personal favorite? What's your "best" eraser?
Want to see the same erasers and pencils tested on different papers, or to know about other erasers? Let us know. As your humble woman of science I'm ready to get to the bottom of this, one of the most pressing stationery questions we face.