Magic Eraser Original
Mr. Clean’s Durafoam Magic Eraser looks like a sponge and can be helpful cleaning dirt around skimmers and scum lines on pools. Questions often arise if the Magic Eraser is safe to use around pools.
The Magic Eraser is melamine foam. Basically they work as an extremely mild abrasive to remove the top layer of whatever they rub against when they're wet. Think super-fine sandpaper.
Where to Use a Magic Eraser to clean a pool
- Black marks and scum/tanning lotion ring out of the inside of skimmers
- Fiberglass stairs
- Scum lines on vinyl pools (Test first on liner)
- Cleaning tiles below coping
Magic Eraser History
Magic Eraser wasn't originally made to clean, it was made as an "insulator/fire retardant" that just happened to end up also being an excellent cleaning tool too. There is no active ingredient on the box because there is none in the Magic Eraser itself. The "active ingredient" if you want to call it that is merely your "elbow grease."
Magic Eraser is a formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfitecopolymer foam made by the German company BASF.
Test in a small area
If you are going to use the Magic Eraser on a vinyl liner it should be tested in a small out of the way spot to make sure it doesn't damage the liner.
Concerns about Chlorine
The Magic Eraser box says not to use it with chlorine. The concern seems to be with the mixing of formaldehyde in the Magic Eraser with concentrated chlorine.
Bleach is chemically reactive with formaldehyde and generates several gases when mixed. Chlorine gas in addition to formic acid are formed during reaction -- both evolving considerable noxious fumes. Chlorine oxides are formed and BCME (bis-chloromethylether) which is a very neurotoxic gas is possible also. In fact, the typical lab synthesis of BCME involves formaldehyde reacting with a bleach type chlorine species. Phosgene (Cl2CO) is not produced, as has been occasionally reported elsewhere.
Note, however, that formaldehyde in the Magic Eraser is not a separate chemical but one component of a polymer so will not be nearly as reactive with chlorine. Also, the above description of problems with chlorine and formaldehyde is talking about the mixing of concentrated solutions. Nevertheless, in some polymers there are often found small quantities of unreacted monomers (individual ingredients) though how much depends on the specifics of the chemical manufacturing process. The patent, for example, describes formation of a formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite resin (copolymer) that outgases less formaldehyde.
The MSDS for Magic Eraser says the following under Stability and Reactivity:
- Possible Hazardous Reactions/Conditions: Stable at normal temperatures and pressure.
- Conditions to Avoid: Avoid heat, flames, sparks and other sources of ignition. Avoid contact with incompactible [sic] materials.
- Materials to Avoid: Oxidizing materials.
- Hazardous Decomposition Products: Oxides of carbon, oxides of nitrogen, oxides of sulfur, aromatic compounds, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide.
- Other Recommendations:
The bottom line is that the active chlorine concentration in our swimming pools is equivalent to less than 0.1 ppm FC with no CYA. You should not be worrying about reactions of chlorine with the Magic Eraser. Not only are such reactions minimal due to the polymer itself, but the very low chlorine concentration makes any such reactions occur very slowly.
Adding concentrated bleach to a Magic Eraser would be more of a problem, though even then the reaction rate would be fairly slow. An acidic chlorine solution such as from Trichlor or the use of chlorine gas or use of a stronger oxidizer (e.g. ammonium permanganate, chromic acid, fluorine) would be more of a problem.
Chlorine at dilution amounts in swimming pools should not be an issue.
- Use a light wipe on vinyl liners. Not a hard scrub.
- Magic Eraser may remove color from older liners.
- Cut them into thirds or halves because for some reason they break down really quickly when they get in contact with chlorine. Plus the halves fit nicely in one's hand and less waste.