Wands not required.  

By Meghan Overdeep
May 18, 2019
Walter McBride/Getty Images

Procter & Gamble revolutionized catch-all cleaning with the debut of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in 2003. All you need to do is dampen the "Durafoam" sponge to vanquish everything from scuffs and magic marker to soap scum without any added cleaning solution, and it will only set you back $1.

Simply add water and voila, like magic, the ultimate cleaning tool.

The magic in the Magic Eraser is actually an organic base called melamine, white crystals that transform into a foam when combined with other compounds. You can find nitrogen-rich melamine in everything from dry erase boards and Formica tables to fertilizer and flame retardants. In sponge form, its microscopic sandpaper texture is both delicate and abrasive, stronger than elbow grease, and perfect for stubborn stains.

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As P&G's scientific communications manager Morgan Brashear explained to The Kitchn, unlike a detergent, which breaks down stains, melamine utilizes teeny air pockets to scrape them off. "At a microscopic level, the air pockets look like tiny upside-down triangles," Brashear said. "When activated with water, the individual triangles become about as hard as glass. The ‘struts'—the points at the bottom of the triangle—catch on the soil and drag across the surface, similar to a windshield wiper."

This scraping action is why you should avoid using the Magic Eraser on delicate or glossy surfaces, and why you should wear gloves to protect your fingers.