Here it is, mid-July, and apparently it’s already Back to School season. As anxiety-provoking is that is for me — back to school means back to winter, back to carting everyone around to hockey practice, back to hassling the kids to do their homework — one nice thing is that it’s a good time to pick up office supplies. As part of their efforts to capture some of the rush to stock up, stores are discounting — and sometimes even augmenting! — their inventory with the type of gear that students might need.
One product that went on deep discount at my favorite office supply super store is the Staedtler Mars plastic eraser. I feel like Staedtler makes some pretty solid products, and I’ve just been waiting for an opportune time to try out their eraser. A four pack hit the sale shelves for something like $2, and it’s been a minute since I’ve performed and written up an eraser review. So, earlier this week I picked up a pack and thought I’d see how good they are at getting rid of my mistakes!
Form and Function
At first glance, the Staedtler Mars plastic eraser appears to be a simple rectangular block of white, rubbery plastic, partially sheathed in a cardstock holder and wrapped up in cellophane to keep it fresh and clean until ready to use. It shares all of these traits in common with the Pentel Hi-Polymer eraser, although closer examination reveals a few differences. First, the manufacturer of the Mars plastic eraser has textured the surface of its product with little “Staedtler head” logos, giving it a bit of distinction as well as something to grip. Second, the Mars plastic eraser is ever so slightly smaller than the Hi-Polymer.
Otherwise, it’s just your basic block eraser in a rectangular format. There’s not much to write about its form or its function: you hold it in your hand and rub a surface of the eraser against a surface from which you’d like to remove a pencil mark.
I picked up the Mars plastic erasers in a four-pack, which also included a plastic eraser case that is pretty neat. It is designed to look similar to a fresh, new Mars eraser itself, but it has a flip-open design that keeps the actual eraser covered…well, for the most part anyway. I think it would be really good if it were more protected, because the “top” side of the eraser is mostly exposed. I really appreciate the inclusion of a carrying case, because I’ve found that tossing a naked block eraser into my pencil bag will cause it to soak up a whole mess of graphite dust in a big hurry and come out looking like someone found it laying in the middle of a dirt road. Sadly, this may all be a moot point, as it looks like the new four-packs that the store ordered no longer contain the plastic case.
On the toothy paper test, the Mars plastic eraser did better at erasing harder pencils than softer ones. It outperformed the Pink Pearl, and the Hi-Polymer eraser cap; it was about on par with the Tombow Mono Zero. The Hi Polymer block eraser proved itself to still be the undisputed champion among plastic block erasers, with the Mars block falling just short of matching it. It was close, though. The photograph below looks like the two are about equivalent, but my eyes tell me slightly different in person. I also perceived the Mars eraser to leave behind a lot more of a mess, and smear softer pencils more.
On smooth paper, the results were a little bit different. I did the same type of test, with the same procedure and “control” erasers, but on cheap Walgreens graph paper instead of coarse journal paper. In that environment, I couldn’t really discern a difference between the Mars and the Hi-Polymer, except that the Staedtler eraser, again, tended to smear the graphite a little bit more. Also, The core softness of the pencil it was erasing didn’t seem to make much difference in this context. Finally, I didn’t perceive it to be quite so messy regarding eraser crumbs and such. All in all, for smooth-paper purposes, I consider the Mars and Hi-Polymer to be equivalent except for smudging.
My impression is that the Staedtler Mars is a little more soft and supple than the Hi-Polymer. The consequence may be that toothier, more abrasive paper tends to chew up the Mars a little bit, making it harder for it to absorb graphite out of the nooks and crannies of the paper, and causing more debris to be strewn about. This is just wild speculation, though.
Overall, the Staedtler Mars plastic eraser is a solid product. In terms of pure erasing performance, it is almost as good as the Pentel Hi-Polymer (the “gold standard” for plastic erasers, in my book). The Mars is a little bit smudgy, and on particularly toothy paper it has a little more trouble erasing marks than the Hi-Polymer. But otherwise, it’s an excellent correction device. It’s definitely a high-end product and an upgrade over erasers like the Pink Pearl.
Mars plastic erasers typically run about $4.50 for a four-pack, and I think they’re definitely worth the money. That’s about what you’d pay for any other block eraser. If they’re on sale, even better! I also really like the included plastic flip-case, although I suspect it’s going away. If you see one with the carrying case included, grab it! If you can’t find one, though, the erasers alone are still worth a buck-something a pop, so don’t let that be the deciding factor. Finally, for what it’s worth, the Mars plastic eraser is actually made in Germany — Staedtler’s home country.
The Staedtler Mars plastic eraser is definitely a worthy acquisition for any writer’s desk.