Will Kneaded Erasers Dry Out?

How Long Do Kneaded Erasers Last?

If you are an artist that works with charcoal or graphite, then a kneaded eraser is an invaluable tool that can help you tremendously when working on a drawing. You may be wondering if a kneaded erasers dry out? 

That's a logical question, and we'll get to that in a few minutes. A more important question you should be asking is, what can a kneaded eraser do for me? A kneaded eraser is very different than a traditional eraser, and it should be employed as such. Do you have a large area on your drawing that you need to erase?

Well, don't reach for your kneaded eraser. Despite its name, kneaded erasers aren't that great and totally erasing anything. What they are great at is remove some charcoal or graphite from a drawing.

Why would you want an eraser that doesn't completely erase something? That's simple; you'd want it because it helps you blend, giving you the ability to create seamless transitions in value. Kneaded erasers can also be molded and shaped, giving you the type of precision that you can't hope to mimic with a traditional eraser. Since you can shape your kneaded erase to a fine point, you'll be able to erase as precisely as you would draw with a pencil.

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    Do Kneaded Erasers Dry Out?

    Can a Kneaded Eraser Dry Out
    Can a Kneaded Eraser Dry Out?

    Do kneaded erasers dry out? At some point, they probably do, but if they are well cared for, they can last practically forever. Kneaded erasers can be an artist's best friend, and once you learn how they can help you, they'll probably become a regular part of your regularly used supplies. 

    Since they are soft and pliable, it's only natural to wonder if they will eventually dry out. It's hard to answer this question because if abused, they can dry out, but it's unlikely they will ever dry out to the point where they can't be used. When an eraser dry's out, it becomes less pliable, but even when this happens, you can still usually restore your eraser so you can use it again. Abusing a kneaded eraser involves leaving it out in a hot, dry climate. But, if kept cool, cleaned regularly, and treated well, a kneaded eraser can end up lasting you a lifetime.

    Kneaded Eraser and Putty Rubber
    Kneaded Eraser and Putty Rubber

    Now for the good news. Kneaded erasers are not only a tremendous tool that you'll love using, but they're also cheap. You can usually pick up a kneaded eraser for a few dollars from most art supply stores. 

    That means that you can keep a few extras on hand if your current one is lost or needs to be replaced. As long as you leave your eraser in its plastic packaging, it should last for years before drying becomes any type of problem. Just make sure that you keep any unopened erasers in a cool, dry place, and you shouldn't have any problems.

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    Can Kneaded Erasers Get Wet?

    What happens if you accidentally get your eraser wet? Well, nothing. Kneaded erasers are made from a rubber-like material. That means that if you spill water on them, it won't do much of anything to your eraser. You could probably submerge your eraser in a cup of water for a few hours, pull it out, and once it dries, it will work just like it did before. 

    While water won't damage your kneaded eraser, it also won't help clean it as well as kneading it will. However, if you use soap and water, you may remove some exterior graphite or charcoal. If you try this, make sure that you wash the eraser, knead it, then rewash it. This will help to bring more charcoal and graphite to the surface where you can wash it. This may not be that effective, but it's worth a try if you are trying to salvage your eraser. But, don't worry, there are other methods that you can employ to clean up your eraser once it's been used a lot.

    How Long Does a Kneaded Eraser Last?

    One of the great things about a putty eraser is its longevity. Most erasers lose tiny amounts each time that they are used. This is normal, and those tiny bits that rub off don't seem like a big deal, and they aren't. That's how erasers work. But, each tiny amount that comes off of an eraser during each use adds up, and over time an eraser will start to shrink. 

    It may not be a fast process, but the cumulative effect of a lost eraser adds up to you needing to buy a new eraser at some point. Kneaded erasers are different than traditional erasers because they don't rub off when you use them. Since you don't lose bits of the eraser during each use, your eraser won't shrink, so you won't have to worry about replacing it because it becomes too small to use.

    You will have to be on the lookout for how saturated your erase is becoming with graphite and charcoal. When your eraser starts leaving dark marks behind after use, it's time to clean it. If cleaning it doesn't help, then it's time to replace it. So, how long will it take for your eraser to get to this point? 

    That all depends on how much you use it. It's hard to say how long before it becomes unusable, but for most artists, a kneaded eraser will last for years. The long life of these erasers, coupled with the low cost to replace them, should make their longevity a non-issue for most artists.

    Do Kneaded Erasers Last Forever?

    While kneaded erasers can be used for years if they are correctly cared for, this doesn't mean that they'll last forever. Most erasers leave behind little bits of rubber when they're used; kneaded erasers do the opposite. They absorb material from the surface of the paper. The problem with this is that the charcoal and graphite that the eraser absorbs will begin to saturate it over time. 

    While you can stretch and knead the eraser to remove some of the graphite and charcoal stored in it, it's impossible to remove all of it. Once you notice that your eraser is leaving behind dark marks on the paper, and stretching and kneading it doesn't seem to help, it's most likely time to replace it.

    Do Kneaded Erasers Go Bad?

    If you're wondering if kneaded erasers go bad, that depends on what you mean by going bad. If you're asking if kneaded erasers have an expiration date, they don't. Do they reach a point where they aren't usable anymore? They do, but when properly cared for, this should take a long time to happen. 

    Kneaded erasers are only considered to be bad once they no longer erase without leaving behind black marks. When this happens, it means that your kneaded eraser has served you well, but it's now time to retire it and replace it since it's become saturated with charcoal and/or graphite.

    How Can I Make my Kneaded Eraser Soft Again?

    While exposing your eraser to excessive heat is bad for it, a moderate amount of heat will actually help to keep it pliant and usable. How do you warm up a kneaded eraser safely? Well, using a microwave, an oven, or any other external heat source like this is out of the question. What you can do is begin to knead your eraser. 

    Stretch it out over and over again and knead it together. You'll have to be patient because a hard, brittle eraser will take some time to become pliant again, but it will happen. Once your eraser begins to become more pliant, you'll also notice that it's getting warmer. This is because you are imparting mechanical energy into it by working it, which helps it become softer and more flexible.

    What happens if your kneaded eraser is so hard that it breaks when you try to knead it? That's no problem; you can simply push the two broken pieces back together again and start the process of kneading them until they become pliable. 

    But, what do you do if your kneaded eraser is so hard that you can't bend or break it? In this case, you can use a sharp knife and cut the eraser into pieces. Be careful when doing this, so you don't slip and cut yourself. The best way to do this is to put the erase down on a hard surface and then use a heavy knife while applying steady downward pressure. Once it breaks, you can start to try to knead the pieces back together again. If all else fails, don't forget, you can always buy a replacement for a few dollars.

    How Do you Preserve a Kneaded Eraser?

    The best way to preserve a putty rubber is to regularly clean it. No, you can't use soap and water. But, what you can do is stretch and knead the eraser in your hands. When you do this, you'll notice that your hands are getting dirty. 

    Trapped graphite or charcoal particles are being worked out of the eraser and end up on your hands. All you have to do is stretch the eraser, then knead it back together again. After a while, you should notice that the dark color of the eraser is lighter. That's how you know that it's cleaner. The longevity of your eraser needs to clean it this way regularly. It's also important because a dirty eraser will leave marks behind on your paper, which is not what you want an eraser to do.

    The other key to preserving an eraser is to avoid exposing it to heat. Kneaded erasers are made of a soft, pliant, rubber-like material. If they become too hot and dry, they will become more brittle and begin to crack. Can you save an eraser once it's gotten to this point? Most of the time, you can. But it's a lot easier to avoid drying out your eraser than it is to try to restore one that's become too hard and brittle.

    Taking care of a kneaded eraser is all about common sense. You want your eraser to remain soft and pliant, right? Well, then store it in a cool, dry place. You should also stretch and knead it regularly; this keeps the erase from stiffening up and cracking. Pay attention to your eraser. When it looks dirty, stretch and knead it. If it looks like it's cracking, stretches and knead it. In other words, if you're not sure what to do, stretch and knead it.

    How to Fix a Dried-Out Kneaded Eraser?

    Fixing a dried-out kneaded eraser isn't rocket science. If it's dry, start by bending it a little, then stretch it and knead it. Kneaded erasers rarely reach a point where they are too dry to come back to life, so be patient and just start working with it. 

    If it remains unusable and continues to crack, you could try several fixes, but nothing has been guaranteed to work. The good news is that you can simply replace a worn-out kneaded eraser for a few bucks, so this is your best option when an eraser appears unsalvagable.

    Kneaded Erasers Are Great Tools For Every Artist

    If you work in graphite or charcoal, a kneaded eraser is a must-have. There's simply no other eraser that will give you the versatility and precision of a kneaded eraser. You can easily change its shape to get into small areas, and it's also ideal for lifting off some graphite or charcoal to facilitate blending. The bottom line is that a kneaded eraser is inexpensive, so there's no reason not to buy a handful of them at a time so you can replace them when they dry out or become too saturated with graphite or charcoal to use.

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      Ian Walsh is the creator and author of improvedrawing.com and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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