Why you should care
Because these are not those gloopy, strange-scented pens of the ’90s.
One side had bleed-prone blue ink; on the other sat a chunky white “eraser” nib. These old-school, blue-plastic-barreled erasable pens were certainly all the rage in the ’90s — only the cool girls in my class had them — but they were smudgy, funny-smelling and not all that effective. Why did I covet them? Oh, yes … the cool girls, yada, yada.
But while erasables were something of a school status symbol decades ago (and one that left an ironically indelible impression on me), nowadays they’re back in the mainstream thanks predominantly to one brand: Pilot FriXion, with its smoother-writing, thermosensitive ink formula. And using them, whether to organize your thoughts or be more environmentally friendly, might just change your life.
First launched in 1979 by Paper Mate, the Erasermate was popular throughout the ’80s. By the ’90s, I was using the aforementioned blue Bics, while FriXion — the current holy grail for diehard erasable-pen fans — brought erasable pens back in 2006 (although its popular technicolor range wouldn’t launch until 2015). And now, those are the best-sellers: FriXion holds an 88 percent share of the U.S. erasable pen market.
… these pens can liberate you from the guilt of not having Done Enough. (Mostly.)
There are myriad reasons to love erasable pens — I currently favor a sharp-tipped, borderline gray-inked Muji 0.4mm erasable — but mostly, they can soothe an anxious soul. For big believers in Writing Things Down and having the ability to erase the things on that to-do list, these pens can liberate you from the guilt of not having Done Enough. (Mostly.)
More concretely, they keep your diary pristine. Never a bad thing when you’ve got a million and one constantly shifting obligations and deadlines, and a penchant for canceling plans. Turning to an erasable pen instead of a Tipp-Ex bottle is just … easier. Emmanuella Grace, a voice and performance coach in Melbourne, Australia, sympathizes: “Being able to erase a change rather than scribble it out means the schedule or list stays tidy in my head.” But the diverse appeal of the humble erasable pen spans the career spectrum.
The wide variety of colors “makes them fantastic for pattern work,” says Cisa Kubley of Sew Fitting in New Albany, Indiana, who started using them during a bra-making master class. Plus, “a quick press with an iron generates just the right amount of heat to remove any markings immediately.” Of course, leave your to-do list out on an extremely hot day and you might come back to find the ink has inadvertently faded. Similarly, if the weather dips below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, old notes might make an unwanted reappearance.
Because that’s how FriXion and most other erasable pens work: with heat. While old-school erasables left visible shadows on the page, new versions use heat-sensitive — or color-changing — ink, which “disappears” thanks to the friction-generated heat of the eraser.
This especially appeals to Mimi Mendoza, pastry chef at Senia, in Honolulu. She figured out that you could also bake off the ink — she left a butane torch a bit close to a Post-it of to-dos and noticed the ink had disappeared. She now uses the oven though, “because it’s really easy to burn paper with an open flame,” noting that her team “actually uses [FriXion’s] erasable highlighters the most, so we can reuse our printed prep lists.”
There’s a reduce, reuse, recycle aspect to all of this paper-baking. But one company has especially upped the eco-friendly potential of the erasable pen: When used in combination with FriXion erasables, Rocketbook, reusable digital notebook pioneers, allows users to digitize — and obliterate — their handwritten notes. How, exactly? The ink bonds (after about 15 seconds) with the Rocketbook Everlast’s (about $30) synthetic pages in a way that it “can be erased with water,” explains the company’s “happiness manager,” T.Y. Kim. With Rocketbook Wave (about $27), you can even erase using the microwave. Cool.
Al Bingham, a yoga teacher based in Croton, New York, swears by Rocketbook for “creating practices on the fly” and sketching in real time “without worrying about being the next Picasso.” He also suggests that erasable pens can be beneficial for people with movement disorders — “activities like writing or making notes on documents are less stressful knowing that if they make errors it’s correctable.”
Whatever you’re doing with an erasable pen — reusing paper, bringing calm to an anxious brain, enjoying a new spin on old tech — just remember this: These days, it’s not only the cool girls who have them.