Organizational/Design

How to Clean Stubborn Back-to-School Stains

Grade-A tips for removing sticker residue, crayon stains and more

Shiny pens, perfectly sharpened pencils, pristine notebooks and more are waiting in backpacks. The first-day outfits are neatly laid out and shoes are spotless. In a few short hours, the buses will be rolling, back-to-school photos will be taken, and boys and girls will be whisked off to school.

Then the buses return that afternoon, dropping kids off with paint and markers all over their shirts, glue on their pants, and dirt rubbed into their backpacks. What is a parent to do?

It’s easy to clean many stains, smears and smudges kids bring home with them. Check out these tips and keep your kids in tip-top shape for school.

Cleaning school supply stains

Crayon: Waxy crayon residue washes out easily. Coat the area with liquid detergent and let the clothes rest overnight, then launder as usual.

Pencil: Just like on paper, lightly rub back and forth with a clean eraser. Then spread liquid detergent or an ammonia solution (one part ammonia to five parts water). Rinse the garment and machine wash.

White glue: Scrape as much glue off the clothing as possible using a plastic knife or other dull-edged implement. Don’t rub as the glue may sink in more deeply. Run cold water through from the opposite side of the fabric to flush out as much glue as possible. If the stain is old, scrape off any dry, crusty glue, then soak with detergent and color-safe bleach in cold water for at least 30 minutes (though longer is better). Wash in warm water with detergent. If a stain remains, repeat soaking and rewash.

Rubber cement: Like with white glue, scrape off as much rubber cement as possible with a dull-edged blade. Apply a prewash stain remover or laundry detergent, then wash in the hottest water the fabric can handle.

Ink: The bane of a parent’s existence. With a paper towel or terry towel, apply dry cleaning solvent or rubbing alcohol to the stain. Dab the stain with a clean, dry cloth until the ink is gone. Rinse thoroughly, rub in some liquid detergent, and wash in the hottest water acceptable for the garment.

Marker: To get permanent marker out of fabric, lay clothes stain-side-down on clean paper towels. Gently apply rubbing alcohol to the area around the stain, then apply it directly. Continue dabbing the stain with alcohol, changing the paper towels frequently so they absorb as much ink as possible. When the stain is gone, rinse thoroughly and machine wash.

Glitter: While not a stain, glitter gets absolutely EVERYWHERE! Clean up glitter quickly and easily by rolling glitter-infested clothes with a sticky lint brush.

How to clean a backpack

First, make sure the pack is completely empty, leaving every pocket unzipped or unfastened. Check tags for washing instructions. Most school backpacks are made of hand- or machine-washable fabric.

Next, take off any removable straps or metal parts. Wash straps by hand with a little detergent in warm water, and let them soak 30 minutes to loosen soil. Clean with a soft brush, rinse in cold water, and air dry.

Scrub any tough stains with an old toothbrush and a solution of equal parts water and liquid detergent. Put the backpack fastened in an old pillowcase or mesh laundry bag and, using the gentle cycle, wash in warm water and detergent. When done, wipe the inside of the pack and all pockets with a towel and air dry.

For hand washing, fill a sink with warm water and one tablespoon of laundry detergent. Soak for 15 minutes, agitate the bag in the water to remove dirt, drain the soapy water and rinse well. Hang the backpack to air dry.

If the backpack says it can’t be washed, spot clean with equal parts detergent and water, then blot with a damp, clean white cloth until the stain is gone and air dry.

With these tips on how to clean back-to-school stains, your kids will be ahead of the class. Enjoy the school year!

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