Getting Rid of Paint Spills, Stains, and Those Greasy Oil Pastels

Lets talk about stains! Back in this article of yore, we got on the topic of all things “clothing related” including shoes (you said the best were Danskos, and I agree) and we even talked a bit about clothing stains. Many of you know I am an avid thriftier… I don’t like to pay full price for clothing that might get ruined in the art room.  There are so many opportunities for stains to happen in the art room, I thought we could dive a little deeper into the topic.


Two of the best things I have found to get stains out of my own clothing are Tide to Go sticks (for stains on the run and in a pinch) and Oxy Clean (for that tough stain that needs longer soaking). This also works well on baby clothes!

But how do you handle it when a student gets paint on themselves? Do you require them to wear art aprons? I recommend giving students a choice at the beginning of the lesson. I tell them not to come crying to their parents, or send their parents to me, if they do get a stain, since they had the choice to wear an apron. Ironically, the part that usually gets clobbered with paint is the ARMS of their shirt, which an apron doesn’t cover. Rats. Don’t forget to remind them to roll up their sleeves. Even high schoolers, with their trendy brands of clothing will not be pleased with a permanent paint stain on their Hollister shirt. The slide below is taken from my beginning of the year Power Point. I also wear an apron myself on messy art days.

 I also switched to 100% washable tempera to try and avoid the problem completely, but this took years of using up old paint and slowly ordering new colors in all my paints. Well worth it, in my opinion. Another unlikely stain culprit is your art room floor.  White tiles are a disaster zone when it comes to stains. We all know what happens when a dropped oil pastel gets a student sneaker to latch onto and go for a ride – all. over. the. floor. You can see the little breadcrumb trail of oil pastel in various places around the room. No matter how much I scrubbed, that color liked to stay embedded into the tile until I had the custodian bring me something a little more powerful.

Stains happen. We can avoid them, and we can manage them. So help out your colleagues, and share your best tricks in this “dirty” little issue in the art room.

What is your best method for getting stains out of yours – and your students – clothing?

Any other unlikely stain culprits in your art room? 


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Jessica F.

    Kiss Off Stain stick is amazing! (Although I dread to think what it’s made out of)

    I had dark blue acrylic paint splatter all over a new light grey shirt…thankfully I had a cardigan and a tank top on under my shirt so I could take off my grey shirt, wipe of the blobs of paint and apply Kiss Off. At the end of the day I tossed my shirt in my bag and went home. I intended on washing it right away but got distracted and the shirt didn’t get washed for two days…oops! I pulled the shirt out of the washer convinced it was ruined but to my surprise the paint was completely gone. Hooray!

    Since Kiss Off is available from Sax it is always in my supply order!

    • I agree, Jessica. That Kiss Off stick really works! 

    • I didn’t know art catalogs carried stain removers- That’s smart! 

  • n cahill

    Shout works good for most of my stains. Of course, rubbing alcohol for any marker or ink stains. I have paint shirts (donated T-shirts) that I may use for kinder/first on extremely messy days but with back to back classes, they get pretty soaked & not of much use to person #2 or #3 wearing it…
    We have a variety of uniform shirts to choose from at our school so I usually recommend to students and parents for the kids to wear the darkest color shirt on art days. With only washable paints used in the Art room, most stuff washes out.

    • Great to see I am not the only one who went to 100% washable paint. With all the choices in the catalog I felt like I was “cheating” on all the other paints! 

      • Emily Owens

        What brand of washable tempera paint do you use? I am always disappointed by the quality whenever I find a random bottle of washable paint on a shelf. It seems very thin or transparent. I have avoided ordering it for that reason.

        • Emily,

          I used Crayola’s Washable (same as the photo in this article) and found it worked just fine for my needs. I didn’t notice the transparency issue, it still seemed thick, at least to me. Hope it helps!

  • Francie

    I made 30+ paint shirts out of old t-shirts by curring them up the back & sewing velcro on each side of the neck.  Still have to remind my elementary students to roll up their sleeves, and to be careful, but it does help.

    • Francie

      That’s “cutting” (not “curring”).  Sorry!

    • What a great idea!

  • Maria

    For many stains I have used Avon’s Skin So Soft Spray oil….miracle stain lifter.
    Big black trash bags turned upside down and cut a large half circle for the head and then two on the sides for arms….cheap way to have a smock.

  • Tldgmitchell

    I am a believer in a non-smock world!  The smocks tend to flop around and get in the paint which in turn gets paint everywhere.  Just teach the kids proper ways to use the brushes and how to manage the paint and their area.  I teach them to keep their papers away from their shirts…pushed more to the center of the table. I teach about 500 kids and rarely have anyone with paint on their clothes.

  • Michele Seegert

    For oil pastels smeared on the floor I have found that using burlap sack cloth works well. Use it dry and scrub over the oil pastel. The abrasive material lifts the oil pastel with ease. I give it to my early finishers to find smears and prevent new ones. I also use burlap cloth on top of tables instead of sponges or rags that drip across the floor or create puddles on the table. I have a lot of burlap material so I don’t feel bad throwing out the used pieces. 

    • What an amazing and affordable tip! Thank you for saving many art teachers out there who I know deal with this on a daily basis!

  • Claudia Pitchford

    I too use Kiss Off! I keep a stick in my art cart and share it with my students as needed. I once had a student come to me with a green ink stain all over the front of his shirt. He told me his pen exploded in another class and he knew I kept a stain stick. 

    He had on two shirts so I took the stained shirt and used Kiss Off on it. He came to my room at the end of the day to retrieve his shirt, only for us to discover it had soaked through to the back of the shirt as I left it lay on the sink all day! I told him to let his mom know it had been treated and hopefully would come out. The next day his grandma came to my room and exclaimed “What did you use on his shirt?!” I thought I was about to be reamed!!!!! 

    I told her  I used Kiss Off, and she said it took 100% of the stain out. She wanted to know where she could order some for herself and keep it on hand. She had never seen anything work so well. :) Whew! I was scared for a moment, and in the end everything turned out fine.

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  • Emilie

    Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

  • Melissa Stephenson

    My mentor teacher taught me years ago to keep some “Pink Soap,” a paintbrush cleaning soap, around for paint stains. When my high schoolers (or me) get paint on their clothes or the carpet (yes, my art room has carpet! The joys!), I immediately rub some pink soap into the paint and have the student rinse it out. It does a good job of getting the paint out/preventing staining until the student can go home and wash it out.