Magic Sponge?

So after hearing me scream from 2 houses away over cleaning the acrylic tub in my bathroom, my friend Liz let me in on a little secret, the Scotch Magic Sponge/Mr Clean Magic Eraser. She said these got pretty much anything clean without even having to use any cleaning products. I might have looked at her with some skepticism, but I bought one, tried it, and she was right. My bathtub came sparkling clean with relatively minimal effort. There might have been a happy dance and celebratory cupcake.

I used it guilt-free for about 6 months, but little by little, a nagging feeling grew… what is in this thing anyway?

You see, ever since I looked at the ingredients list on my favorite non-dairy coffee creamer I have been unable to keep my head in the sand for long on what’s in the stuff I buy. The Magic Sponge has gotten a pass for longer than maybe it should have, simply because the package lists no ingredients. Instead, there is this product description:
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is an innovative cleaning material that penetrates surface grooves where dirt and grime get trapped. It easily and thoroughly breaks up tough dirt, lifting it away from surfaces. And, it does all this with just water alone!

oookaaaaayyyyy… so. What’s in this thing anyway?

A little digging has me discovering that this “innovative cleaning material” is a melamine foam product called “Basotect”, developed by BASF, which has been used for about 20 years in pipe insulation. The foam is extremely hard on the microscopic level, yet soft in larger scale. It’s structure allows it to act like sandpaper when moistened, removing otherwise difficult stains from most surfaces.
Apparently, the slight residue left behind washes away easily with water.

So what’s in this thing is… melamine, and it’s residue is going to wash down my drain. Hmm.
Well, the only question I really have left is what happens when that melamine residue gets into the water supply? I mean, melamine residue is what caused both the poisoned pet-food recall AND the tainted baby formula scandals of the past few years. Are these magic sponges contributing to our own home-grown disaster?

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find any answers to that question. The internet is full of reassurances that the foam does not contain formaldehyde and won’t burn your baby, but no one is really asking if products such as this could be contributing to the presence of melamine in so many unexpected places. I’d like to not jump to conclusions, but I’d be lying if I said I’d buy any more of these with any confidence.

And there lies the problem. These things work, and they do it without any obvious stinky chemicals. It really seems like they’re a great option on tubs like mine that laugh at both baking soda and scrubbing bubbles. I really wanted to believe they were magic… Guess it’s time to get that swear jar back out…
soft scrubber
soft scrubber recipe


10 thoughts on “Magic Sponge?

  1. Yes, it doesn’t sound like it’s so innocent after all… I just use bicarb and vinegar nowadays… Sometimes I use gumption but it has no ingredients list. Maybe I should dig up the dirt on gumption.

    I’m on a bender about sunscreens containing titanium dioxide at the moment. My mum works at the CSIRO where some of the scientists are investigating the effects of titanium dioxide on the skin. Apparently it’s quite bad for us, but it is one of the ingredients in the sunscreen I used to put on my little one.

  2. Oh man. Sunscreens are another complicated thing. I’d love to hear more about what your mum finds out.

    I use baking soda on just about everything else, but that stupid tub we bought (I can’t remember if it’s acrylic or fiberglass, but I do NOT recommend it) just will not come clean, and if you scrub too hard, it takes off the finish. I’m so angry we didn’t save the cast-iron one.

  3. It’s sad how much we poison our water supply and don’t realize it until it’s too late. :\ This is the very reason I avoid popping pills as much as I possibly can. It’s just not worth adding more crap to the water!

    Is there a decent scrub out there that can be homemade? I’ve had decent success with the vinegar/baking soda, but it does require a lot more scrubbing in the grout than I care to do. Let us know if you find a great option that really works without giving our arms the workout of their lives!

  4. well crap….those things are lifesavers around the house (or at least arm muscle savers at the minimum)…our tub is the same way Lori – NOTHING gets it clean: baking soda, vinegar, peroxide, bleach, nada…but use one of those little magic sponges and it’s *almost* gleaming white…

    Man….. 😦

    • I didn’t see that, but saw similar. I guess I’m worried because we tend to use a “recycled” water supply… as in water is treated and put back into the system. So, does the melamine eventually build up in a closed system?
      I mean, clearly there are far worse things to worry about, but I wanted to post this because the sponges seem at first glance to be so safe. However, there’s a 4x3x1 inch pad of that stuff that basically dissolves within 3 bathtub scrubbings… over time that seems like a LOT, especially if everyone starts using these things.

      • Exactly! I remember having the same fears when they came out with that fake fat. Remember it was a molecule so slick that stomach acid couldn’t break it down so you didn’t absorb the fat into your body. I started wondering what would happen if millions of people were eating and eliminating that…??? You’re right you can spin yourself into quite the tizzy worrying over things.

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