It’s almost holiday break, and besides teacher burnout, our classrooms are showing major evidence of all the fun and learning that’s happened—the whiteboard with phantom markings of math problems past, sticky tape residue from hanging and re-hanging anchor charts on walls, and glitter glistening on floors months after the Halloween craft project has commenced. If your classroom can use a little pick-me-up, we’ve got you covered. We scoured (no pun intended!) the Web and consulted with teachers in our Facebook community to find the very best ways to keep the classroom clean. Here are 11 classroom cleaning conundrums along with our favorite fixes.
1. Permanent Marker Pandemonium
We’ve all been there. While trying not to take our eyes off the kid in the last row who, we’re pretty sure, is trying to sneak his phone out of the desk to start texting, we accidentally grab a permanent marker instead of a dry-erase one and write on the whiteboard with it! Don’t panic. Kate King says all you need to do is scribble over the permanent markings with a regular dry-erase marker, like your trusty old Expos, and then wipe it off.
2. Glitter Gone Wild
Glitter: the classroom gift that keeps on giving—even months after your last art project! Real Simple recommends using a lint roller to get rid of the sparkly stuff once and for all. As a cheaper alternative, we bet some heavy-duty masking tape would work just as well. If the thought of letting kids run wild with loose glitter gives you heart palpitations, ditch it altogether and invest in some glitter glue pens.
3. Germy Math Manipulatives
When we think about how many germy little hands touch our math manipulatives, it makes us feel kind of guilty that we don’t clean them more often. But let’s be real: Individually wiping down each of those tiny little objects would be another full-time job. Mary from the Adventures in Kindergarten blog, however, cleans hundreds of her classroom manipulatives in record time by tossing them in mesh laundry bags and running them through the dishwasher.
4. Phantom Whiteboard Markings
Mr. Clean Magic Erasers aren’t just for walls and bathtubs—they work on tough whiteboard stains too! In fact, Diane Renninger Meyers says they’re the only things she ever uses to clean her whiteboard. If you want to clean your whiteboard while simultaneously freshening the air in your classroom, try Deborah Brooks’ trick: Spray on Febreze and wipe away. For a budget-savvy solution, rub on 91 percent alcohol—Patricia Freeman says it makes her whiteboard look like new. And for those who want to avoid major whiteboard cleaning for as long as possible, try this tip from Tammara Berry-Glauz: Trade in your regular whiteboard eraser for a microfiber cloth.
5. Old-School Chalkboard Dust
We know you’re out there … some of us still love using our good ol’ chalkboards (chalk dust and all!) in favor of whiteboards. If you’re still kickin’ it old-school, Vicky Schoenhofen recommends wiping your board with Coca-Cola (just be sure it’s not diet) to lift the chalk dust off, making it like new!
6. Super-Stinky Trash Cans
From half-eaten tuna sandwiches to old banana peels, you never know what’s going to end up in your trash can. But one thing’s for sure—by midafternoon, the classroom can is never smelling its sweetest. Vanessa Levin, an early childhood teacher who writes the Pre-K Pages blog, puts a few drops of lemon essential oil on a cotton ball and places it at the bottom of the trash can to get rid of the smell.
7. iPad Prints
If it drives you crazy when you see hundreds of dirty little fingerprints plastered all over the iPad screens in your classroom, take a tip from Melissa Taylor of the Imagination Soup teaching blog. Use microfiber cloths to clean your screens—or, for a budget-friendly solution, give each kid a small piece of felt, which works just as well.
8. Disgustingly Dirty Desks
If your kids’ desks have seen better days, try using shaving cream to give them new life. Shannon D. even makes cleaning into a learning activity by letting her students trace their spelling words in the shaving cream.
9. Sharpie-Stained Desks
Whether you have graffiti artists on your hands or just some innocent note-taking mishaps, Sharpie and pen marks can be removed from desks. Patti Pendersen Mallin says hand sanitizer does the trick.
10. Sticky Tape Residue
It’s pretty much a fact: From anchor charts to inspirational posters, we love hanging stuff on our classroom walls. The only downside? All that sticky tape residue that’s left behind when we move on to a new unit or decide to redecorate. Vicky Hernandez has two solutions: For a cheap fix, she uses a hair dryer to melt gunk off her walls, and for really stubborn stickiness, she recommends spraying Goo Gone.
11. Daily Dirt
To do a quick, all-over classroom cleaning, get your entire class involved. Kaitlin, author of the blog Your Teacher’s Aide, lets her students play a game she calls Rockin’ Robin to dust and disinfect her classroom. First, she passes out Lysol cleaning wipes to each student. Then she plays the song “Rockin’ Robin,” and the kids start dancing around the room cleaning everything in sight.