bolded summary for tl;dr-
I am putting this out here for anyone on the internet land who finds themselves with the same dilemma as me and chooses to resort to Google for help. I did not find much help, but at least I was able to understand what was going on.
MY PENCILS MYSTERIOUSLY MELTED
WHY ARE MY PENCILS STICKY
WHY ARE MY PENCILS STUCK TO MY ERASER
WHY DID MY ERASER MELT MY RULER
HOW DO I CLEAN MY STICKY PENCILS
MY PENCIL CASE MELTED WITH MY ERASER
...getting an idea here? lol...
So, first, here's the answer... Erasers have a substance called plasticizer which makes plastics malleable. I found this information in these places.
When erasers sit next to your plastic coated pencils (all of them basically), or your ruler, or just your plastic pencil case, having them touch will "melt" some of your plastics.
I tried just washing that off of my pencils and letting them dry out, but that didn't work, because the stickiness was not just something on the surface of my pencils, it is the surface of my pencils. I thought maybe because of something I read on the Wikipedia site (about antiplasticizers) that if I raised the temperature, the plastic would harden (unmelt?) ... that didn't work, it fumed all over my kitchen from just 7 seconds in the microwave, and after that, I didn't bother to try freezing it. Um... don't put your graphite pencils in the microwave.
What I am trying right now, is coating them in clear nail polish (one that isn't good anymore for a nice manicure but could work for this) and right now I'm waiting for it to dry. It did work on half of my pencils, but I'm doing a wider coat on the most damaged ones to see if the stickiness will get completely stuck under the layer of polish. I think it will work and I'll update this post with pictures if it does.
What can we do to prevent this from happening in the future? I think if you just keep your eraser in it's wrapper, it won't happen, but I can't be sure. My pencils were stored there without being used for a while, maybe months or years, and while googling I found people who had this happen with just some weeks... in fact, my new Prismacolor shading pencils came with a melted plastic thing inside. sooooo I don't know at which rate this nasty chemical reaction happens. But it seems like rotating things and using them keeps it from happening, I think I will also try making some paper sleeves for my erasers, because I do have lots of supplies that just sit there. I can't seem to go through them fast enough because I keep changing media, and I love to just have lots of art supplies. I would have never thought erasers were something to take special care of.
I have no intention of throwing out my still functional shading pencils I bought when I was in college, about 14 years ago, and much less my dead grandfather's old drafting pencils.
Comments? Questions? More answers? Leave them below or contact me through your preferred method of communication.