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Top of the class: cleaning school uniform

We’re not sure how this statement will be received… if you’ve had the kids at home all summer, you might be ready for a break and them return to school…?

If you work in education, you may be dismayed. The reality is that the end of the summer is nigh, and with it, it’s time to re-establish a routine!

Before waving your little darlings off with misty eyes, you’ve got to them them well turned out. It can involve a lot of expense and effort to ensure your children have everything they need for the new term, and so you want their uniform to remain in great condition for the school year.

Particularly if they’re young, they often return home with paint-stained cardigan, grass-stained trousers and looking altogether dishevelled, which can be dispiriting after getting such beautiful photos of their first day!

However, you needn’t throw in the towel the moment they come back sporting all manner of grime! We have the lowdown on how to remove stains from crisp white shirts and scuffed shoes so that you too can tackle any laundry the kids might bring back with them and remain top of the class!

Scuffed shoes

One of the keys to shoes looking smart is keeping them clean, clear and scuff-free. Utilising the same technology as baking soda, toothpaste can be used to achieve similar results.

Avoiding chemical-heavy, whitening, or gel toothpaste, apply a small amount of toothpaste to a clean cloth, then use this to polish the scuff marks. Follow up with a second, damp cloth to wipe away the marks and toothpaste, and allow the shoes to air-dry.

Sticker residue

The beams of pride from seeing a ‘You’re A Star’ sticker on a school jumper can be short-lived when you realise you forgot to remove it before putting a wash on, and sticky, difficult-to-remove adhesive on the material just won’t budge.

This is easily remedied. Grab some distilled white vinegar and heat it up in the microwave until it’s warm. Soak the stain in the vinegar for about ten minutes. Once removing the jumper from the vinegar, you’ll see that the adhesive can be lifted with a knife or spatula.

Rinse away the vinegar with cold water and then gently rub in some dish soap into the area and throw it back in the wash basket for another go in the washing machine, avoiding the dryer until the stain has completely gone.

Ink stains

This one may fill you with dread now, but with the right process, the sight of your child’s trawlings on their lovely new uniform won’t cause such a panic. Get some rubbing alcohol and set to work. Test the rubbing alcohol on an inside seam first to check that you’re not causing any damage.

Apply it to a cotton bud (or several, depending on the severity of the graffiti!) and dab at the stain from the outer edges. Keep using a new cotton bud, or you’ll end up spreading the stain more. If the marks won’t budge, get some oxygen-based bleach and soak the shirt in the bleach and cool water for at least eight hours, before washing as normal.


Seeing our children express themselves creatively is a joy that shouldn’t be dampened by them being covered in it when they come home. If your child is primary school age, paint should be a doddle to get off – it tends to be water-based. If they’re teens using oil-based paints, well, we weep with you. Wet paint is much easier to clean, so treat stains as soon as you can.

Flush the garment with a strong jet of water, and from them, it’s a waiting game. With dish soap, lather up the affected area, rinse and repeat as many times as necessary until it’s gone. It can be a lengthy process, but is the safest option to keep the uniform intact.

If the paint has already completely dried, follow the process taken to remove ink as it’ll take a more delicate hand and a stronger cleaning agent.


Eventually, the kids will learn the pleasure of getting covered in glue and peeling it all off. Once that happens, don’t fret – glue is actually one of the easiest stains to clean! Cold water is your friend here.

As glue is a protein, it can be removed quite easily by a good soak in cold water. The temptation is perhaps to use warm water, but 100% this – glue stains can cook, making them a nightmare to wash off. After the affected clothing has soaked, scrape off as much of the glue as you can using the edge of a knife before washing on a cool cycle.

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