Everyday Mystery: Erasers

How Does It Wipe Away Mistakes


Felix Rodriguez, Staff Writer

Have you ever wondered how an eraser works? Erasers only work because of friction.

When you rub an eraser across a pencil mark, the abrasives in the eraser gently scratch the surface fibers of the paper to loosen the graphite particles. The sticky rubber in the eraser grabs a hold of the graphite particles and holds on to it. Without friction, an eraser would not be able to erase graphite marks. 



The History of Erasers 

Before the eraser was invented, you could use a rolled-up piece of white bread (crusts cut off) to remove pencil marks (some artists still use bread to lighten charcoal or pastel marks). An eraser, called a rubber in some places, is an item used to remove the marks left by pencils and some types of pens. Modern erasers come in all colors and may be made of rubber, vinyl, plastic, gum, or similar materials. 

Roman scribes wrote on papyrus with a thin rod made of lead, called a stylus. Lead is a soft metal, so the stylus left a light, legible mark. In 1564 a large graphite deposit was discovered in England and it began to be used for pencils rather than lead. Graphite leaves a darker mark than lead, plus it’s safer. When you erase a pencil mark, it’s graphite (carbon) You are removing, not lead.