You know you’ve reached the end of the year when you’re ready to scrub and clean. Be sure to capture some of the end-of-the-year excitement by having students clean. The phrase, “Many hands make light work,” also applies to end-of-the-year cleaning. One year, my students requested I buy shaving cream to clean the table tops. Many of my students had fond memories of cleaning desks with shaving cream during elementary school. Besides being good, clean fun, my room smelled great because the shaving cream I bought was made with aloe vera.

We all have our miracle products that we reach for for certain jobs. It’s time to share those products with each other. Always be careful of chemicals when used in the classroom. I use only the mildest of cleaners with students and save the heavier-duty cleaning products until after school when I open windows and get a fan operating.

General Cleaning Supplies Good to Have on Hand

  • Be sure to get some buckets. You want some nice large buckets.
  • Totes are also handy. They can be used for various cleaning tasks, including soaking palettes. If space is tight, use a collapsible tote.
  • Ask your custodial team for a few full-size garbage cans and extra recycling containers if they can spare them. Better yet, ask for ones that roll. You can put products like this at the bottom of many styles to convert them into rolling styles.
  • Sponges. I like different sponges for different tasks. I like giant car wash sponges for anything clay; they want to pick up the clay dust. (remember always wet clean with clay!) Otherwise, I like your basic sponge with the green scouring side for general cleaning.
  • Dawn detergent is a good cleaning staple to have on hand.
  • Simple Green is another product that art teachers have on their must-have cleaning product list.
  • Mr Clean Magic Erasers are another well-loved, even the cheaper knockoff style ones.
  • Scrubbing brushes, a multipack like this one can’t be beat.
  • I can’t live without Shamwow towels, which I now use regularly. Is there an art teacher who hasn’t had a spill and couldn’t use a super-absorbent towel? I think not.
  • Buy a box of latex-free disposable gloves. It’s great for anyone sensitive to cleaning products but also helpful when a student has sensory issues. For example, I do not like the feel of charcoal and chalk pastels. For others, it might be clay or paper mâché.

For cleaning tables

Brush Cleaning

  • Murphy’s Oil is a well-loved favorite among art teachers for reviving brushes that might otherwise be headed for the garbage can. Fill a cup, leave the hopeless paintbrushes to soak overnight or even longer, and then clean as usual.
    The above picture is the result of art teacher Vasia Katsanou using this tried-and-true method of cleaning brushes with Murphy’s Oil.
  • Awesome Orange! You can buy it inexpensively at Dolar Tree Stores. Pour into a container, let the brushes soak overnight, and watch it earn its name.
  • Fabric softeners are another product some art teachers use to clean brushes.
  • Lava soap

Palette cleaning

  • Use a bucket or palette with warm, soapy water and let it sit overnight. That was my tried-and-true method. After soaking, the paint slides off.
  • Some teachers use the above method and a few tablespoons of Murphy Oil soap.
  • A spritz of Windex is another suggestion.

Sink Cleaning

I can’t help myself and want to insert a public service message here. If you don’t already have one, talk to your custodial staff about buying a sludge filter. What’s a sludge filter? It’s a large attachment (like a storage tank) that you affix to the plumbing pipes into which the sink drains. It allows clay, paints, etc., that might find its way into the sink without clogging it. The tank is removable and can be emptied as often as needed.
Also, get a sink strainer! It will keep brushes and other items from going down the drain.

Do you have a favorite product you use? Please add your tips and tricks in the comments below.