How Does an Eraser Work?
When you rub an eraser across a pencil mark, the abrasives in the eraser gently scratch the surface fibers of the paper to loosen the graphite particles. The softeners in the eraser help to prevent the paper from tearing. The sticky rubber in the eraser grabs and holds on to the graphite particles.
Erasers work because of friction. As the abrasives in your eraser are rubbed against paper, friction produces heat, which helps the rubber become sticky enough to hold onto the graphite particles. As the rubber grabs the graphite particles, small pieces of combined rubber and graphite get left behind. That’s the “stuff” you brush off of your paper when you’re finished erasing.
An English engineer named Edward Naime invented the eraser in 1770. Up until that time, people usually used rolled-up pieces of white bread to erase pencil marks. Legend has it that Naime accidentally picked up a piece of rubber instead of bread and discovered that it would “rub” out pencil marks. That’s where the name “rubber” comes from.