Ask Woodiwiss: “Can I use a Magic Eraser on walls? Will it damage painted walls?”

Magic erasers have the word “magic” in the name for good reason. They’re a versatile cleaning tool good for removing pencil marks, scuff marks, stubborn stains, and do way better than a soft sponge on soap scum on shower walls. You can use a Magic Eraser on painted walls and surfaces, but it also comes with the risks of removing paint.

Unlike a sponge with warm, soapy water, a Magic Eraser is technically melamine foam. Melamine foam is a formaldehyde–melamine–sodium bisulfite copolymer, which is just another way to say “a porous, rough material.”

We say all this knowing you will use a Magic Eraser on your walls because we don’t recommend it.

How to use Magic Erasers on painted walls

Magic Erasers are, as we’ve covered, a “porous, rough material.” Those are key words because not only does it mean they absorb dirt, but they’re also super fine sandpaper. 

No one considers asking, “Can I use sandpaper on my walls?” because you know what you’re in for.

But a Magic Eraser is a “superfine” sandpaper of sorts. The trick is using it with good technique and in the right places.

  1. If you can avoid it, don’t use Magic Erasers on large, prominent spots on your wall. Dark corners, hallways, and areas behind bits of furniture or plants are less risky.
  2. Only use clean Magic Erasers. Don’t wipe down the top of the stove and think, “Oh, I can just flick that bit of spaghetti sauce off the wall.” A clean magic eraser won’t transfer gunk around, because your walls can be a little porous, too.
  3. Use a damp Magic Eraser — not a soaking wet one, but a damp one with warm water. Excess water can damage paint if it’s older.
  4. Remove scuff marks with the smallest amount of the Magic Eraser you can. If that’s just the corner of it on a small part, use that and not the whole flat surface.
  5. Rub the Magic Eraser in smaller, circular motions.

Critical but obvious helpful tips worth repeating about Magic Erasers:

  • Spot-test this in an inconspicuous area.
  • Don’t scrub too long or too hard.
  • Dark colored walls risk showing damage more than lighter or white walls if you scrub too long or hard.
  • Remember that a little water on the wall is likely to appear darker than the rest of the surface. Let it dry before you declare victory over the scuff marks or decide to come back for a second round.
  • If you’re working on wood stain or cabinet, and depending on your kitchen cabinets’ finish, they may be more susceptible to damage from melamine foam than the walls. Try an inconspicuous spot test and let it dry before putting a Magic Eraser to work on the cabinets.

Critical but less-obvious helpful tips worth knowing about Magic Erasers:

  • Magic has its limits. Some stubborn stains, like permanent marker, rarely come off walls. This is because permanent marker (which has “permanent” right there in the name) applies wet and, unlike dirt and scuffs, soaks into surfaces. It is likely a permanent stain that needs covering.
  • If your walls were recently painted in the last 90 days, consider just applying small amounts of the leftover paint to the stain or mark. It’ll likely dry with less visibility than the risk of damage from a Magic Eraser.
  • Coffee stains may seem like tough stain requiring the Magic Eraser, but water will often easily remove and dissolve the coffee.
  • Unrelated to your walls but important nevertheless: never use a Magic Eraser on a non-stick coating, like a pan. You’ll lift off the coating and expose your food to the Teflon.

Maybe start with a milder cleaning product before reaching for the Magic Eraser

Using a Magic Eraser to scrub a stain or marks off the wall is a bit of a nuclear option. Consider using milder solutions first:

  • Use a soft cloth or towel with warm soapy water. Dawn dish soap works well.
  • White vinegar and baking soda can work wel, too, when you need a little “grit”. A professional cleaner knows the baking soda is a little gritty and rough without being overly abrasive to remove dirt. And a professional 7th Grader knows vinegar and baking soda causes volcanic eruptions, so don’t go overboard combining them.
  • If pencil marks are the problem, consider the age-old nemesis of pencil marks everywhere: the pencil eraser.

Magic Erasers are a little less magical when the painted walls show a light spot. This is a sign the melamine foam has rubbed the paint down closer to the drywall or the paint beneath it (remember, it is superfine sandpaper!).

Magic Erasers really are best kept to hard surfaces like a toilet bowl, stainless steel appliances or sinks, ovens, the inside of the microwave, and residue from soap scum on glass shower doors and walls. Cleaning using a Magic Eraser will do some level of damage to your walls. The key is to be careful and keep scrubbing to a minimum so you don’t notice the damage.

The same goes for furniture and wood stains. Wood stains, like paint, are just coatings that scrub off if you use a Magic Eraser to clean too much.

What’s the ultimate way to clean painted walls? Get new paint!

You can keep your house beautiful by using a Magic Eraser to clean walls when every other method fails to remove grime and stains. But if you really want to eliminate stains, it may be time to repaint the walls.

Contact us in the East Bay for the ultimate solution to clean, beautiful walls. No scrubbing required!