Let’s take a look at some popular pencil erasers.
When I’m taking notes at a meeting, I rarely use an eraser. There just isn’t time. I strike out the error, and carry on. But at my desk or at home, the ability to correct one’s writing, charts, and drawings is a major benefit of the pencil. It’s especially great when the eraser works well.
I wanted to look at the two leading erasers that I see in the marketplace – the “Pink Pearl”, and the “white vinyl” type, specifically the Staedtler Mars plastic. I’ve also added in a gum eraser, and a kneadable eraser. There are still other types of erasers, but I think these four represent the main categories one would encounter in an office or art supply shop. I specifically wanted to test the Pink Pearl and Mars plastic side by side since they are so well known.
The science behind gum, rubber and erasing is interesting, but out of our scope today. There are some links below for further reading.
For the test, I sought brand new erasers at local stores. The Mars plastic came fully wrapped. The Pink Pearl was in a “blister pack” of three, the Lyra kneadable eraser was partially wrapped, and the General’s gum eraser was loose. The exact models used were:
General’s Gum Eraser No. 136E
Dixon Pink Pearl 101
Staedtler Mars plastic 526 50 UP
Lyra Knetgummi 3467
My reference pencil, the Staedler Mars Lumograph 100, was used for the first round of tests. A second test suite was done with Pentel Hi-Polymer Super 0.9mm HB lead, used in a mechanical pencil. This was partly to contrast the pencil lead types, as well as give the erasers additional tests.
Four paper types were chosen to represent a spectrum of types and quality. Two cheaper papers (Office copy, Moleskine), and two better quality papers, including watercolor paper – Rhodia, and Strathmore cold press watercolor. The exact papers were:
Xerox Business 4200 20lb. 75g/m2, 92 brightness
Rhodia vellum paper 21.3lb 80g/m2
Strathmore Watercolor cold press 140lb 300g/m2
Two type of markings were made – a straight line, and a doodle/shading of a square area.
I took photos as well as having the original documents for comparison. I realized that this also turned out to be a test of the papers and leads from the erasure perspective.
Here is a test sample, the Mars Lumograph 100 on Rhodia, before and after erasure.
Here are the scores. The erasure results were ranked 1 to 4, with 1 being the best erasure, and 4 the worst erasure.
Interpreting these results, the Mars plastic is the best or almost the best at erasing lines on all types of paper. Erasing a Lumograph 100 drawing, the General’s Gum eraser performed slightly better. At Pentel drawings, the kneaded eraser did very well, though not better than the Mars.
The overall test winner is the Staedtler Mars plastic, with a nod to the General’s Gum for woodcase pencil artists, and kneaded erasers for mechanical pencil artists. As the results depended on the task and type of lead and paper, the real lesson is that an eraser has to be looked at as part of a pencil/paper/eraser combination, and in the context of usage.
The Pink Pearl was a disappointment. It came last in all sixteen invividual tests, and sometimes left a pinkish smear.
The kneaded eraser has a major benefit that became apparent as my desk got filled with eraser detritus: Kneaded erasers leave no residue, since they absorb the graphite as they erase. The eraser thus gradually becomes darker (and dirtier) over time.
An observation about the pencil lead is that the mechanical pencil lead is much more erasable – remarkably so in some cases. The Pentel markings on the Moleskine and Rhodia seemed to just disappear with the Mars eraser. The mark’s only remaining evidence seemed to be indentations in the paper from the pencil’s pressure – and these require careful examination to see.
The photocopy paper and the artist’s watercolour paper – neither of which were created for pencil use – retained the most graphite after erasure attempts.
Erasers World A collection and information site for erasers. Several interesting company biographies, as well as essays on erasers and eraser materials.
Joy of Erasers Blog devoted to erasers.
Wikipedia eraser article Not bad for Wikipedia.
Chemical & Engineering News Informative non-technical article on erasers.
Staedtler document on erasers (700K PDF) A mix of technical and marketing information about erasers.
49 Replies to “Erasers: The Pink Pearl, the Staedtler Mars plastic, and others.”
Pink Pearl? I have never enjoyed using a Pink Pearl. That eraser always feels so abrasive to the paper. You’d have better luck using 150 grit sand paper to remove the pencil markings.
Excellent post! I really liked the comparison and ranking scheme.
It’s not an eraser I generally use, but it remains very popular in the marketplace, so I thought I should give it a try. I think I’ve learned my lesson! The licensing of the name is curious – I noticed both Dixon and Sanford Pink Pearls for sale.
Thank you for the comment.
I was just going to say I’ve seen the Papermate Pink Pearls only. There is also now a White Pearl at places like Office Depot.
I like some of those on the PencilThings site, like Mercur, and at Dick Blick, like the Faber-Castell Dust-Free. I haven’t done any rigorous testing, though!
With my very recent experience of a gum eraser I’m surprised to see how well it does here. Not surprised to see the Mars plastic as the winner though. I commend you on testing the various paper types – I’ve wanted to do that myself but couldn’t be bothered.
After trying a lot of erasers, my top two are the Mars Plastic and the Pentel Hi-Polymer, with a preference for the Pentel, both are awesome, but I like more the feeling of the Hi-Polymer and they way the dust sticks. I tried the pink ones when I was younger and they were a piece of cr*p, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are the same composition of the pencil erasers
here’s the pentel http://www.erasersworld.com/eng/collection/pentel.php
Thank you to all those who left comments.
A future test (if there is one) could test other types of eraser, but I wanted to make sure the leading brands were covered for this initial review.
Diane, I do have a “White Pearl” – though again made by Dixon!
If you do another test, try the Magic Rub by Sanford? Faber Castell? I’m not sure what brand it’s sold as anymore. For me it seems to work better than the Mars, especially if you make lots of mistakes like me and want to erase large sections. I find it works best to used long stokes with this eraser. Also, an artist friend says to try the Ruby erasers over the Pink Pearls, which are a nice deep red color and harder than the Pearl.
I’m new to your blog, and want say thanks and good work!
Peter, thanks for the comment! The Magic Rub would definitely be part of a potential future trial.
This was a good review…I wish you could do a few more. Maybe the Boxy eraser in black from jetpens…Also the Pilot Foam eraser which I’ve personally started using this week after ordering it from ebay and I’ve really liked it but I still haven’t tried the Staedtler Mars, but I’ve been curious to try since everyone’s been saying good things about it.
I would like to digress just a little bit here. I am interested in purchasing a few of the pencil shaped Faber Castell Grip erasers . The only color I see available is the grey one, I remember there being a red one, but I can’t find it for sale anywhere. Anybody know a good trustworthy merchant to buy it from? I live in Chicago but I am willing to buy online too if I can’t find it locally.
Are the Pentel Clic-Erase erasers the same composition as their Hi-Polymer? Since the clics came out in the late 80s, I have not bought any other kind of eraser. Oddly, the Pentel twist-erase pencils use a more abrasive (and IMHO inferior) eraser, whereas the Sanford Logo uses one that feels just like the Pentel clic erase. A Logo IV got me through engineering school, but the heavy use left it with brassing on the sliding conical sleeve and the rubber grip becoming hard.
FWIW, I think the ClicErase2 is a major step down in comfort from the original, without the grip. And what they did to the Quicker Clicker by adding that rubber grip is an outright crime.
Oh, the Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser…. I have one that my father bought in the early 1980s and it still works like a dream, even though it’s harder than it was when it was young. I used it while grading papers all the way through graduate school. Now I have a few of the little ones, and they are among my favorite tools. They can erase anything cleanly and quickly.
Do you know where I can find the “Red Ruby” eraser. It is just the right amount of abrasive.
More abrasive than pink pearl.
In one of those slightly strange internet moments, I just did a Google search for “red ruby eraser”, and found my own blog.
Sorry, I’m not otherwise familiar with this eraser.
Edward, are you possibly referring to the Faber-Castell Ruby eraser (112, or 212)?
It may not have survived changes in manufacturers over the years (previously, and also in context). (eBay seems to list some… vintage (i.e. collectable) items, as opposed to just usable new old stock.)
The closest things still manufactured by Sanford (purely guessing) may include the Union pencil-pen eraser… or possibly the more recent (softer) White Pearl (both listed at the bottom).
Good luck in your search.
I am wanting to buy Milan Kneadable Erasers but cannot find them.
Can anyone help please?
Jonathan, if you don’t mind the “elementary school” sort of specialization, there’s an online store that carries them. (There is another, but it appears to be the same company.)
I’ve always had a preference towards plastic erasers. The Gums are too crumbly, Pink Pearls too abrasive, and the kneadeds tend to smudge more than they erase.
However, Staedtler is far from my favorite for plastic erasers, although they do tend to be the easiest to find. I’ve been using Pentel Hi-polymers for the most part, but testing still continues:
Hello, I found this article looking up more information regarding Pink Pearl erasers. I am taking an Intro to Drawing class and it is one of the required erasers to have. While growing up and through college, I hated these types of erasers because I thought they erased terribly, and had a tendency — if I wasn’t too careful — to tear the paper. What’s with the popularity of these erasers? Ever since I found the Mars plastic style eraser, I haven’t used anything other than it and kneadable erasers. Of course, all of my experience is with writing and zilch with drawing.
A belated and deeply heartfelt defense of the Pink Pearl: For my work (copyediting) I use mostly Carmine Red Col-Erase colored pencils. I’ve tried all of the erasers you’ve tested and more, including the yellow Koh-i-noor model that’s “imbibed with erasing fluid,” and none of them is as effective as the Pink Pearl when you’re dealing with red pencil. (And that includes the eraser that’s included at the end of the pencil.) The greasy composition of these pencils — especially the newer, Prismacolor ones — requires more grit to remove, and besides, if you’re erasing red, a pink smudge isn’t noticeable.
Will, thank you for sharing that interesting information.
Maybe it’s just sentimental, but I do like the Dixon pink pearls. I don’t find them abrasive at all as long as they haven’t been sitting around for years and years. They’re just fine for my general writing purposes and they’re way better than most erasers that are attached to the end of pencils — the only exceptions being the inexpensive staedtlers (pretty much mini mars plastics) and the Dixon tri’s. I realize that the Staedtler is a better eraser, but perhaps it is just fond memories of my primary school years that brings me back to the good old pink pearl.
Mike, there’s nothing wrong with having a sentimental favorite! Thanks for commenting.
I have Mars Staedtler that is atleast 20 years old (it says made in W.Germany) and still erasers fine. I think for the price it is hands down one of the best erasers.
The Kneaded eraser is not for pure erasing, they are for shading, so it will smudge.
Anybody ever use a combination of erasing techniques? By which I mean dabbing with a kneaded eraser to lift off as much loose graphite particulate as possible, then using a Plastic, Foam, Ain or Boxy in the normal way to get into the surface cleanly and finish the job. Wouldn’t this approach obviate a lot of smearing (Victoria I do see your point that an artist kneads to shade)?
Correct me if I am wrong, but it is my belief that the eraser at the end of a Dixon Ticonderoga is the same compound as the Pink Pearl. Herewith my defense of the Pink Pearl. I have found that in applications involving the repeated entry and removal of graphite marks from an exact spot on a sheet of paper (and this can be literally dozens of times repeated in dozens of places all over one’s worksheet), the compound at the tip of a Dixon Ticonderoga is up to the heaviest workload providing that one’s purpose is merely to reliably record data pending further revision and not to achieve beauty of line–think incompetent mathematician not great artist. I make a fetish of pencils and erasers, but in the heat of battle when the most important thing is to memorialize fleeting thoughts on a crowded and confused palimpsest before they fly the coop the eraser at the end of a Ticonderoga permits one to proceed apace. Doubtlessly a Lumograph tipped with a Mars Plastic eraser plug would be ideal (I’m not sure this exists though), but a Pink Pearl-tipped 1388-1/B Ex-Soft Dixon Ticonderoga is a very affordable and easy to find pencil. (Elsewhere I have said I would never buy Mexican or Chinese made Ticonderogas because of their slapdash appearance. Well I won’t buy anymore :>))). Actually because they are so inexpensive and cheap looking I find I treat non-American Ticonderogas as everyday tools I can use without a second thought unlike my precious Mitsu-Bishi Hi-Unis which I handle with kid gloves and hate to use up. Of course the heavy workload I am talking about literally turns the eraser black with graphite, but it just mucks along right to the end.
By the way, the ovoid jet black PaperMate Black Pearl is a great eraser in absolute terms. I wonder what it’s made out of.
Your website was the only site that actually helped my partner Ryan and I get an A+ on our science experiment
Wow, that’s a new one to me. Congratulations.
I remember back in the day I used to HATE Staedtler erasers, mainly cuz they would always leave the most rubbings. I had no other choice of eraser in my drafting classes, but it ended up getting the job done. Now anytime I work somewhere that has Staedtlers, I try to sneak some away ;)
I know this is an old post, but I ran across it and had to put my $.02 in. I recently did a similar test, though the test started out as a pencil test. I bought several brands of drawing pencils and wanted to see which I would like the best. Since I already had all the scribbling part done, I tested my erasers. I came up with very similar results. The Staedtler erasers was the best on every pencil I tried it on. The gum eraser was surprising good on the darker shaded areas and the kneadable eraser was great for the lighter pencil marks and lightening the darker shaded areas. The Pink Pearl was by far the worst of the ones I tried. Another fantastic eraser is the MOO eraser. I would compare it favorably with the Staedtler in most tests and it actually beat the Staedtler in a few. It is, however, very soft and not as comfortable to use on a regular bases.
Other erasers I tried were the Pentel Clic Eraser, ProArt plastic, a very coarse Faber-Castell and a couple no-name erasers I had accumulated during with the pencils. The Pentels went into an office drawer, but all of the rest got thrown out. I ended up keeping the Staedtler, MOO, gum, kneadable and Pink Pearl in my drawing kit. Each has an area where it is the best eraser to use. The Pearl, I ended up using to clean accumulated graphite from the Staedtler eraser. I wouldn’t use it on paper anymore, but for dressing another eraser it works great.
Jeff, thanks very much for sharing the results of your tests!
Thank you for your eraser report!! I am not only a Mom of two grade school kids, but I also tutor other children in the evenings. I’ve had the dilemma of what erasers are the best ones to use and you have just confirmed what I have discovered throught trial and error. The Pink Pearl is something I have really wasted money on. For the eraser and the papers that it has torn up. I love the Staedtler Mars plastic…a little expensive, but worth it.
p.s I find the eraser on the end of the yellow ticonderoga pencils very good too. Why is this?
Thanks for your comments. I can’t claim to have any definitive answers. Plywood is considered to be a third rate in many implementations, yet can make museum worthy furniture in the right hands. Eraser materials may be the same.
have you ever heard of the “INC Pink Eraser” ??
I have been searching for the manufacturer of this for a spell now and can’t find who makes it. We did this same test in science and want to share our results with the manufacturers, but I can’t find an address.
The pink eraser/pearl isnt that bad. While not the best(i like hi polymers), they are the cheapest. Some are just too crumbly, but the harder ones are pretty good.
When it comes to pencil drawings, I’ve found that the Faber Castell, and the Staedtler Mars erasers are the best.
I’ve tried the black ovoid erasers made by papermate are great. Especially if you have to do fine detail erasing.
I also use mechanical pencils filled with blue ‘lead’, and I’ve found that staedler is best for erasing them.
However, for very soft lead drawings, it’s the Faber Castell that wins. The slightly harder Staedtler just pushes the lead around when it comes to soft pencil, especally if it’s layed down rather thick. The only problem is that the Faber doesn’t last as long as the Staedtler.
Think of the Faber Castel as somewhere between a Staedtler polymer, and a kneadable eraser, when it comes to softness. In fact, you actually can take the ‘crumbs’ left by the Faber Castell, and knead them together. However, don’t try that as a kneadable eraser. You can, but it’ll be already loaded with graphite. Plus, it will be too soft.
Faber Castell’s are also great for Charcoal drawings.
Pentel Foam erasers are fantastic. I really recommend trying them.
Sanford Erasers are ‘meh’.
I’ve been doing my own tests lately across a different cross-section of erasers, and my findings were as follows:
The Faber-Castell #18-71-20 strictly dominated the Mars Plastic. They’re basically equivalent for hard graphite, but for soft graphite, the Mars erased less well and was smeary. They were comparable in number and size of particles produced. It is possible that the Mars will last longer, due to being harder.
The Art Gum eraser I tried performed very similarly to the Faber-Castell, but is more annoying to use because of all crumbs.
The Maped Epure was the worst of the lot I tried, but I like it anyway because of the convenient and useful shape (I have the triangular one and love it). Although it did not erase soft graphite well, neither was it smeary like the Mars.
The Factis 18 black was middle-of-the-road. I originally bought it because the smaller size made it fit in a box I had; it doesn’t seem to have any other advantages.
I tried on both smooth and rough papers, with no significant differences.
Thanks, terran. That “18 71 20” has been previously mentioned by other commentators. I’m curious about a product that you say surpasses the famous Mars Plastic (at least at some tasks).
Are the Faber-Castells available where you are? If not, send me your address and I’ll send you one if you want to compare against the Mars. I was also surprised by this result, since I generally hold Staedtler in higher esteem than Faber-Castell.
A scan of my test is here: http://www.consistent.org/terran/2010/erasers.jpg
Note especially the smearing between the 6B and 4B column with the Mars. I also saw that in a second independent test.
Terran, thanks for sharing those results, and the kind offer. But, I believe there is already one in transit headed here.
Was wondering if you have tested the Hi-polymer eraser that has been getting very high rated reviews on Staples etc. This is by Pentel?
Wow, I was hoping I wouldn’t be resurrecting this entry, but it seems this is still quite popular!
I recently discovered the Staedtler Mars Plastic, and had been so impressed by it, I wondered if it was a legit brand since the 4pk was being sold for $0.99 at a store here. A quick Google search led me here, confirming its greatness. It reminds me much of the Pentel Hi-Polymer eraser, which is why I bought it, although I wonder which is better. C: Definitely clearing the shelves when I go back.
Just some more information: Magic Rub (made by Sanford) is the only art product on the market that has an exemption to use whale oil as a component. They are allowed to use their supply of whale oil until it is depleted. Therefore it will have different properties than any other eraser on the market that uses synthetic oils.
Have you tried the Pentel Hi Polymer erasers? In my day to day usage I have confirmed that they are superior to the Staedtler erasers. Try them!
Anyone have an opinion on Rotring Rapid-eraser? They look really nice & professional. I found them on my trip to Berlin and bought lots. At home they still looked nice BUT, they are rather too soft. Some softness is obviously good but they just go too far. They don´t last very long. Plus, the red colour on the wrapping smudges and the great style is ruined after a while. So, Staedtler remained my favourite. I havent tried Tombow erasers yet though. Im a big fan of their Mono 100 pencils so they might just have a chance of luring me away from Staedtler.
There´s something really engineery about Staedtler which is why I tend to lean towards the more artsy Tombow.
About Berlin: Zeichencenter Ebeling is the place to go, it´s heaven, I spent 3 hours there on one day and went back the next – the person behind the counter was so friendly, let me try electrical sharpeners and didn´t mind my endless questions. There is something about the atmosphere there that was different from most stores.
Thank you everyone for this site. Knowing that there are grown ups who like to discuss erasers makes the world seem like a better (more harmless) place.
Dose anyone know why erasers stop erasing when they get about 6 months old? When they are new they erase very well but once they get to a certain age they just start smearing the graphite instead of erasing it. I have tried taking a sharp knife and cutting off the end, hoping that the part of the eraser closer to the center will work well again and no. Once it starts smearing it smears and needs to be thrown away and a new eraser purchased. This phenomenon baffles me. Any ideas?
I did a lot of looking (still off work for the holidays) and really could not find much conclusive information, even from reviewing “The Pencil” by Henry Petroski.
I was able to find the follow link with a lot of detail:
From the summary, I speculate that the outer layer of vegetable oil evaporates away. I wonder why some large pink erasers such as my old Eberhard-Faber “Pink Pearl” still work fine all of these years later, but similar “pink” erasers on old pencils seem to dry out.
I recently bought “Sanford Paper Mate Tuff Stuff Eraser Sticks” from Jerrys Artarama and found it excellent while applying to tight corners and best solution to clean up tiny highlights and erase specific mistakes.I even got 2 refills with the pack. Has any one tried that ??
I also always use the Vanish eraser.. That eraser is totally awesome. Can’t live without it!!! try it and let me know what you all think of it.