Many artists invest in high-quality art materials like kneaded erasers to achieve the most desirable outcomes in their artwork. While rubber erasers cause smudges and dirt that may damage artwork, kneaded erasers can clean without creating dust, which has made them popular. But they still need to be cleaned, and you may be wondering how to go about it properly.
To clean a kneaded eraser, fold over the dirty parts, continuously kneading it until a clean surface emerges, a process that leaves your eraser looking new and ready for reuse. As you do it repeatedly, your eraser will soften, allowing for optimal use over time.
Kneaded erasers are sometimes called “gummy erasers” because of their texture and easy molding ability. You want to use these erasers on graphite, charcoal, and watercolor drawings. For more information on when to use kneaded erasers and how to clean them, read on.
How To Clean a Kneaded Eraser
1. Wash Your Hands Before Cleaning Your Eraser
Always wash and dry your hands first before attempting to clean your eraser. Any lotion, makeup, oil, or even water on your hands can interfere with the function and texture of your eraser and may reduce the effectiveness of the cleaning process.
2. Apply Mild Soap and Water
To protect your drawings from unwanted blemishes, use oil-free soap. As you wash, knead the eraser into the water and gently remove any material that it may have absorbed over time.
You may need to use your fingernail to etch out the debris, especially if you’ve created art with unconventional drawing techniques such as silverpoint and pastels.
3. Knead Until a Clean Surface Emerges
After washing your eraser, continue kneading it until a clean surface emerges.
As you use the eraser, the resulting airflow causes its divisions to soften and stretch. With a softer eraser, you can use more force while erasing without damaging your material.
4. Let It Dry on Its Own
Allow your eraser to air-dry after you’ve achieved a clean surface, which should not take more than a few minutes. Do not add heat to make it dry faster, as this may damage the eraser’s texture and interfere with its ability to function correctly.
5. Mold Your Eraser Into the Desired Shape
Once dried, mold your eraser into the desired shape. Note that the more often you stretch and knead your eraser, the softer and more malleable it will become.
Once your eraser is clean, you’ll be better able to sculpt it into different shapes that are better suited for your erasing needs. A popular shape is the teardrop, which allows the tip of the eraser to get into the small details of the pencil sketches you want to correct and change.
Conditioning Your Kneaded Eraser
You can condition your kneaded eraser into the shape and texture that works for you, but keep in mind that it will wear down over time. If you notice a ton of graphite on your eraser, stretch it, fold it in on itself, and continue kneading until you achieve a clean surface.
Tricks To Elongate the Lifespan of Your Eraser
You can use flour or powder to help remove some of the stickiness on your eraser. Depending on how slimy your eraser has become, the flour may help, but it may not work if your eraser is already dried out.
Also, remember to keep your eraser in a box to prevent dirt and debris from accumulating, which will help keep the eraser clean in between uses.
Does a Kneaded Eraser Dry Out?
A kneaded eraser doesn’t dry out since it doesn’t contain fluids that it can lose. The eraser maintains its consistency. However, the more you use it, the more it absorbs material like graphite, which hampers effectiveness. But you’ll be fine if you can still knead and expose fresh eraser material.
With a high-quality kneaded eraser, you won’t have to worry about it drying out. It will take extremely heavy usage to get to a point where the eraser is unusable because it has absorbed too much material.
Can You Wet Kneaded Erasers?
You can’t wet kneaded erasers as they’re meant to work without fluids. If your eraser feels dried out, you can clean the material it has absorbed, which will improve its efficacy. While you may use water, you must let the eraser dry, as leaving it with water may ruin your artwork.
Do Kneaded Erasers Last Forever?
Kneaded erasers don’t last forever, but they can last for more than a decade with moderate use. The lifetime of a kneaded eraser depends on how much material it has absorbed. With heavy use, it will become saturated and unusable within a few years, but you can extend this duration by cleaning it.
When To Replace Your Kneaded Eraser
If your eraser is clean but isn’t working properly, it’s probably too dry, and it’s time to get a new one.
If you open a new kneaded eraser and it’s too difficult to stretch or too soft to use without crumbling, return the product and look elsewhere for a higher-quality kneaded eraser.
What To Look for in a High-Quality Kneaded Eraser
You want to invest in a high-quality kneaded eraser to avoid issues with usability. A high-quality eraser will knead and stretch so that you can mold the eraser to meet the needs of your artwork.
If you’re not sure whether your eraser is of good quality, here are some signs that you’re working with a poor-quality product and should get a different one:
- You can’t easily press down on your paper to erase.
- You can’t knead the eraser without breaking it.
- The eraser is too hard or soft and creates crumbles as you use it.
By learning how to clean your kneaded eraser, you can continue using the same one for a long time. Make sure you’ve washed your hands before cleaning your eraser and be mindful about folding over the debris carefully until you’ve achieved a clean surface.
You may want to avoid soap and water for cleaning and instead knead and fold to achieve a clean surface. Some brands are more sensitive to water and cleaning agents.
- YouTube: How to clean your kneaded eraser
- YouTube: Will THIS Clean a Dirty and Sticky Kneaded Eraser?
- YouTube: My Kneaded Eraser Is Bad! What Can I Do About It?
- YouTube: Kneaded Eraser Tips
- T and F Online: Effects of Eraser Treatment on Paper
- Wiley Online Library: Observational Models of Graphite Pencil Materials
- JSTOR: Silverpoint and Pastel Dust