10 Ways to Clean Scribbled-On, Germ-Ridden, Chewed-Gum Desks

The 411 on getting EVERYTHING off desks.

The innocent-looking school desk—seemingly just a simple piece of classroom furniture. But think about it. Kids work on them, lie on them, sit on them, sneeze on them, and apparently cover them with unspeakable amounts of bacteria and fungi. In fact,one study found that 70–80 percent of the microbes found on school desks were of human origin. Specifically from the skin, mouth, and gut. Blech! Bottom line: Desks can be super gross. But fear not, we’ve rounded up ten ways, including highly rated products, to vanquish dirty desks in your classroom. 

Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!

1. When nasty viruses are going around, try Lysol Disinfecting Wipes.

The gold standard for most classrooms, often at the very top of back-to-school supply lists. Lysol wipes kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria and are a good solution when flu season is in full swing. 

2. When you’ve got some unsavory graffiti to deal with, try Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

clean desks

Many teachers swear by the Magic Eraser for getting even the worst permanent-marker-drawn private parts off their desks. 😉 A word of warning: Try the eraser on a small patch before tackling the entire desk, as it could impact the varnish or paint.


3. When you want to combine cleaning with sensory play, try shaving cream.

clean desks

Your students will love this cleaning method! Spray a blob of shaving cream on students’ dirty desks and let them draw, rub, and scribble to their heart’s content! After about half an hour, the shaving cream evaporates, leaving the desks spotless. Wipe down with a wet rag and let the surface dry. Read all about one teacher’s experience using shaving cream here.

4. When you’re channeling your inner Martha Stewart, try brewing your own cleaning solution.


clean desks

Mix up your own hardworking home brew to tackle dirty desks for a fraction of the cost of store-bought products. Get step-by-step directions here. Pro tip: Ammonia softens and whitens the finish on wood.

5. When you want to go the all-natural route, try Meliora Gentle Home Cleaning Scrub  

clean desks

This is a dye-free, preservative-free, and fragrance-free cleaner that’s also tough on dirt and grease. Plus with peppermint and tea tree oil in the formula, it will make your class smell delightful! 

6. When you want to be good to Mother Earth, try A-Ben-A-Qui All Purpose Environmentally Safe Cleaning Paste.

clean desks

This environmentally safe product cleans and scrubs without scratching. It’s also non-toxic, non-hazardous, non-poisonous, and non-fuming. In addition, it meets or exceeds federal child-safety guidelines. 

7. If you’re into essential oils, try Thieves Household Cleaner  

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The best thing about this product (besides being an awesome cleanser) is you only need a small amount to do a big job. Warning: It’s infused with the essential oils clove, lemon, and cinnamon bark, so your classroom may end up smelling like a bakery.

8. If you want to clean like your grandma would have, try Aunt Fannie’s Cleaning Vinegar.

clean desks

Vinegar is the ultimate natural cleaning product. It’s safe, effective, and inexpensive. Try this eucalyptus-scented version. Bonus: Aunt Fannie’s has been awarded the highest health and safety rating for cleaning products by the Environmental Working Group.

9. If you’re ready to break out the big guns, try Campanelli Cleaning Paste Professional Formula.

clean desks

This cleaner gets the grease off the grimiest of desks. Made with no bleaches or solvents, it is non-toxic and completely biodegradable. 

10. If you want a clean, fresh scent, try Shadazzle Natural Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Polish.

This lemony-fresh cleaner and polish is made with simple ingredients: clay, soap, vegetable oil, and glycerin.

Teachers in our WeAreTeachers Deals group on Facebook also swear by nail polish remover, spray-on sunscreen, hairspray, and Expo markers for cleaning dirty desks! Come join us to see and share your own recommendations. 

Plus, classroom cleaning hacks you don’t want to miss.

10 Ways to Clean Scribbled-On, Germ-Ridden, Chewed-Gum Desks