Cleaning a kneaded eraser is pretty simple and you don’t need much to do it. You can do it by simply stretching out and kneading the eraser repeatedly. You can also follow some tips on how to keep your kneaded eraser clean.
A kneaded eraser is like a self-cleaning eraser that can last with an artist for years and years. It absorbs the medium it erases such as graphite, charcoal, oil pastel, and other foreign particles which makes it dirtier the longer it is used.
Here’s a detailed explanation of how to clean your kneaded eraser.
When I say repeated kneading, I mean it literally. You knead it again and again up to the point that it appears to have a solid plain color again and is free of any spots or areas where graphite is accumulated.
However, some kneaded erasers might be harder to knead than others so here are some steps to take to make your kneading more efficient.
Step 1: Pull apart your kneaded eraser into smaller portions to make it easier to knead.
Step 2: Stretch out areas or spots that are significantly dirtier to distribute the accumulated graphite or particles.
Step 3: Knead one portion after another until all of them appear to be plain and free of spots.
Step 4: Combine two portions, and knead them together until they are fully incorporated.
Step 5: Start adding the other portions while kneading them all together up to the point that your kneaded eraser is fully completed.
What I like to do is to knead my eraser with my vacant hand while I’m drawing with the other. It’s super effortless and relaxing to just knead it on my other hand.
Manually Pick Out Or Separate Foreign Objects
If there are foreign objects in your kneaded eraser such as pencil shavings or a piece of lead that broke out, just use your fingers to manually separate them. Obviously, these will not be absorbed by the kneaded eraser so you need to get rid of them.
To make it easier, you can stretch out the kneaded eraser to expose the foreign objects and make them easier to pick out. You don’t have to be bothered if some portion of your kneaded eraser comes off with it. You can even just take out a chunk of the kneaded eraser where the foreign object is sticking to make it easier.
Can I Clean My Kneaded Eraser In Water And Soap?
Not really, I’ve seen some articles say that you can clean your kneaded eraser in water and soap, but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t do anything for your kneaded eraser.
I’ve tried to do it personally, and it doesn’t budge any of the accumulated graphite, charcoal, or dust on the eraser. You’ll still end up kneading your eraser in the water, which is the only way that makes it clean.
Maybe it could work with regular erasers, but not kneaded erasers.
How To Keep Your Kneaded Eraser Clean
Aside from its intended use to erase graphite, charcoal, etc., a lot of foreign particles and objects may stick to kneaded erasers unintentionally. Here are some tips to follow to keep your kneaded eraser clean.
#1 Store Your Kneaded Eraser In A Separate Container
Don’t put your kneaded eraser directly in a case with other pencils and pens. In my experience, putting it directly with other pencils and pens makes it unintentionally dirty, especially if your container has pencil lead and pencil shavings in its crevices. It also sticks to your pens and pencils and may even get separated into chunks which may be a hassle to unstick.
Personally, I store mine in a small plastic case that was originally a push-pin container. It protects my kneaded eraser from foreign particles and objects sticking to it and making it dirtier.
#2 Keep Your Kneaded Eraser In A Coaster Or Container While Drawing
It’s important not to just leave your kneaded eraser lying around your table openly for the same reason that it might get unintentionally dirty with foreign objects around your table. It’s best to keep it inside its container when not in use to keep it clean.
#3 Use Smaller Chunks To Erase Small Details
One of the beauties of a kneaded eraser is that you can tear it and shape it into whichever size you prefer. To preserve your kneaded eraser for a long time, you can always just use a smaller chunk to erase details and just leave the rest of the kneaded eraser in its container.
#4 Knead Your Eraser After Erasing Something
After you erase a portion of your drawing, it’s best to immediately tuck away that part and knead your eraser. This way, the graphite is not accumulated into a spot or a patch that might potentially stain your drawing and is absorbed into the eraser immediately.
Don’t get me wrong, kneaded erasers aren’t anything high maintenance and it’s a very straightforward art material that can last for years and years. These are just some of my tips on maintaining a kneaded eraser and keeping it clean.
Why Should You Clean Your Kneaded Eraser?
A dirty kneaded eraser is a disaster waiting to happen to your artwork. Accumulated graphite and/or charcoal on a kneaded eraser can actually stain your drawing once it touches the paper. The graphite may transfer onto your drawing so instead of erasing mistakes, you might end up making more.
To keep your drawings flawless, always make sure to use a clean kneaded eraser.
Can Kneaded Erasers Dry Out?
Yes, kneaded erasers can dry out and become a bit brittle if left under certain circumstances. It might dry out or get a bit harder if left untouched for a long period of time. It might also get a bit brittle if left in the open air for a long period of time. However, it doesn’t really dry out to the point where it’s rock hard or completely unsalvageable.
How Can I Make My Kneaded Eraser Soft Again?
Most of the time, you can just restore a kneaded eraser back to its original glory through repeated kneading. It might take some patience, but after you restore it, you can use it like it’s brand new.
Another one of the beauties of a kneaded eraser is that it almost seems to last forever. You can follow the tips I’ve provided above to make kneading even on a dried-out kneaded eraser easy.
When To Throw Away Kneaded Eraser
With all the tips I’ve provided, you already know how to clean, keep clean, and soften a kneaded eraser. You might even be convinced that a kneaded eraser can last forever, but really, how do we know if it’s time to throw away our kneaded eraser?
There’s no definite answer for this. I guess if it doesn’t pick up any graphite or charcoal anymore even after kneading it again and again, then that should be a good sign to replace your kneaded eraser.
It could be if you’re too lazy to knead a dried-out kneaded eraser, or if you just want one that’s brand new and free of any dirt. Anyway, most kneaded erasers are affordable and accessible in most art stores.
If you want to learn more about kneaded erasers, here’s an interesting video by art teacher Darrel Tank where he narrates and shares tips based on his extensive experience using kneaded erasers.