Melamine Foam Sponge Facts: Is Melamine Toxic? What Is Melamine Sponge Made Of? How Does A Melamine Sponge Work?

by Lynnette

Cleaning Sponges, kids, Magic Erasers, Pets, Stains

I’ve shared my experiences using many different types of sponges over the past several years. Of all the different sponges I’ve used, the melamine foam sponge is the one that I use most often in our house with 3 dogs.

But I still get questions from curious readers:

  • Are melamine sponges safe? 
  • Is melamine toxic? 
  • How does a melamine sponge work? 
  • What is melamine sponge made of?

So I thought I’d share some important facts about melamine sponges, to calm some fears and help you feel more comfortable about using melamine sponge around the house… around your kids… and around your pets.

Here’s what you need to know about the safety of melamine sponges and how they work… 

Melamine Foam Sponge Facts

#1 – Are melamine sponges safe to use on skin?

Melamine is safe to hold, handle, and scrub things with — just don’t rub your skin, the paint of a car, or any delicate/glossy surface with a melamine foam sponge.

Specifically, some of our readers have asked about using a melamine sponge or Magic Eraser to remove makeup, a Koolaid mustache, permanent marker, hair dye, and other substances from the skin.

My advice… don’t do it. Here’s why:

The open-cell foam is microporous and its polymeric substance is very hard, so that when used for cleaning it works like extremely fine sandpaper — getting into tiny grooves and pits in the object being cleaned.


You wouldn’t use a fine sandpaper on your skin — so don’t use a melamine foam sponge that acts like a fine sandpaper on your skin either!

It’s just common sense not to use something that feels like sandpaper on delicate skin.

No matter how tempting it may be to use a Magic Eraser to clean ground-in dirt from your child’s fingers, never use it on bare skin. The eraser’s abrasiveness can damage skin and cause irritation.

~Family Handyman

#2 – Is formaldehyde in melamine sponges?

Wondering about the use of formaldehyde in melamine sponges and Magic Erasers?

I like how the folks at Mr. Clean clarify the use of formaldehyde as an ingredient:

Formaldehyde is not and has never been an ingredient in Magic Eraser. One ingredient in Magic Eraser (formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer) contains the word “formaldehyde” in its chemical name. However, this ingredient is not formaldehyde and poses no health or safety risks. (Think of this name like “sodium chloride”, which is table salt. Sodium by itself can be dangerous, but sodium chloride – salt – is safe.)

~Procter & Gamble

By the way… generic melamine sponges and the original Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are made of the exact same ingredients. And yes, a generic melamine foam sponge works just as well as a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser melamine foam sponge does!

#3 – Is melamine toxic? What if a child or a pet swallows part of a melamine sponge?

While the ingredients in a melamine foam sponge are non-toxic, it’s important to note:

  • Any item that fits inside a child’s mouth (or a pet’s mouth) can become a choking hazard if swallowed.
  • Any foreign substance inside the stomach can cause stomach upset.

Magic Eraser is considered non-toxic. As with any sponge-like product, when swallowed this product may block the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, we do advise to keep this product out of the reach of children and pets to avoid accidental ingestion — it is not a toy.

~Proctor & Gamble

Again, it’s common sense. Do not allow your children or your pets to play with melamine sponges… or any of your cleaning supplies! If they put such items in their mouth, they could choke and/or get an upset stomach.

#4 – How does a melamine sponge work?

Since there are no cleaning chemicals used with melamine sponges (you simply dampen the sponge with water before using it each time), the melamine foam itself is doing all the work.

The cleaning power behind a melamine foam sponge is best seen at the microscopic level:

  • Melamine foam acts like a porous, super-fine sandpaper — with lots of tiny little holes all throughout.
  • When combined with water, the foam grabs onto micro-particles of dirt and debris. (A melamine sponge works best when it is damp… not wet!)
  • Since melamine is an open-cell foam, it is incredibly flexible and can get into small spaces, cracks, and crevices much more easily than a traditional sponge can.

Types of closed-cell foam are usually the more rigid because they retain most of their air pockets intact, like a bunch of balls all crammed together. For open-cell foam (typically the more flexible) imagine that those balls have burst, but that some sections of their casings still remain. You can picture a squishy sea sponge as an example. In airy melamine foam, only a very limited amount of casing stays in place, and the strands that do are located where the edges of several air pockets overlapped. The foam is flexible because each tiny strand is so slender and small that bending the entire eraser is easy.

~How Stuff Works