Magic Eraser and Game Console Cleaning
Ah, the Magic Eraser! Console cleaning friend, or finish stripping no-no? If you are into household deep cleaning you are probably familiar with these little miracle-working sponges. But cleaning soap scum from your porcelain sink or tub can be a very different thing from cleaning and restoring video game consoles. Still, there is no denying the cleaning power, so I have used a Magic Eraser many times when working on Restorish YouTube projects.
What have I learned? Do they deserve a spot on the forbidden list? Are there any risks? Is there ever an appropriate time to use them? First, let’s address the potential problem.
Concerns with Using Magic Erasers on Game Consoles
Magic Erasers are basically a very low grade sand paper. This is to a large degree the secret of their cleaning power. They are abrasive. This greatly helps provide that extra oomph when working with dirt stains, soap scum or dried soda pop residue. But the obvious concern is that this abrasive quality, while perfectly fine when scrubbing porcelain, could theoretically be damaging to the finishes of plastics or paint. Which I have discovered to be true. Painfully.
This Game Boy had been near a fire, and was half-covered in thick, sooty smoke staining. Soap and water wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I brought in the bulging biceps of Mr. Clean. And it worked…a little too well. Unfortunately smoke stain wasn’t the only casualty. The painted button indicator letters also couldn’t stand up to the brawny Eraser.
A similar price was paid on this PS2 I worked on.
So yes, Magic Erasers are abrasive, and can cause damage. But is that only a result of over scrubbing? How much scrubbing is enough to cause damage?
Experimenting on Glossy Surfaces
Most of the projects I had worked on prior to this Game Boy project were plastics with a rougher, matte finish. So when the comment responses came in that I should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever EVER use the Magic Eraser on console restoration, I was a bit skeptical that this may be a community overreaction to the aggressive, intentional over-sanding some refurbishing stores use on their consoles. I hadn’t seen any problems in most normal cases. But it also occurred to me that I had almost exclusively been working on matte finishes. There are systems with plastics containing a shinier glossy finish. It was experiment time!
The above video shows three areas on a glossy PS4 cover, separated during the experiment with painter’s tape. The section on the far left serves as the control. No scrubbing. The section in the middle is where I used VERY light pressure. The section to the far right is where I scrubbed as I normally would do when cleaning a matte surface.
I went into this experiment expecting to prove that with light pressure and carefulness, the Magic Eraser was not the villain it is made out to be. But I was proven wrong! Even with very light careful wiping, visible light scratches were made that essentially fogged the gloss finish on my PS4 case.
The Verdict on Magic Erasers and Game Console Cleaning
Case closed, right? Well, perhaps. Based upon the two examples I provided, It wouldn’t be a bad thing to just completely avoid Magic Erasers when cleaning console plastics. But I still find myself using them on some projects, even though I have seen firsthand the damage they can do. I recently cleaned a PS5 with such bad dirt staining that soaking, soaping and scrubbing alone wasn’t cutting through. The Magic Eraser did the trick, and the white matte finish looks amazing.
In spite of these good results on a matte surface with no painted lettering, I have become more aware of the damage the Magic Eraser can do to shiny, glossy surfaces, and will avoid such applications going forward.
My Final Thoughts
On the right parts (matte plastics), in the right circumstances (when more than soap, hot water and a brush are needed), and with the right amount of pressure (don’t overdo it!) the Magic Eraser does a phenomenal job with no discernible damage. But It is up to you to weigh the risks versus potential benefits of using it. My personal takeaways and guiding thoughts when I approach future projects are:
- Avoid glossy surfaces (shiny surface plastics and screens)
- Keep in mind the potential risks
- Test small on a non front-facing surface.
About the Author
Robert Carlson is a content creator and video editor for Restorish and writer for TronicsFix who loves rejuvenating the items and spaces around him. In his free time you will find him playing games, reading, and spending time with his family.