Tidy Up Time: Arts and Crafts

While there can be little to match the pleasure you can get from some creative handicrafts or some expressive painting, there can also be little to match the horror you feel as you survey the unfortunate side-effects of all that creative energy, such as the paint-splattered clothes. But don’t panic – here is a list of how to tackle common annoying stains from artistic pursuits so you can enjoy your creative time with a guilt-free conscience:


Wax that has dripped onto clothes and carpets is actually quite simple to remove, although it does require some patience. The first step is to leave it until it has cooled and hardened. This process can be speeded up by placing any stained garments in the freezer. Then, scrape off as much wax as you can with the blunt side of a knife or a spoon and then lay a sheet of kitchen towel paper (or blotting paper) over the stain. Gently press a warm iron (not hot or you will burn the paper!) onto the area so that the wax soaks onto the paper. You may need to move the iron around and repeat if the stain is large. Then wash the fabric according to normal instructions. In the case of loosely-woven fabrics or carpets, some wax may still remain after this process. In this case, use some dilute methylated spirit to remove the remaining wax, taking care as the spirit can fade the colour of the fabric.


Anyone with toddlers will be familiar with this stubborn stain. Again, dab some methylated spirit onto the area to help loosen the stain, and then wash as normal. However, be very careful if the fabric is synthetic or contains a high proportion of man-made fibres. Alternatively, you can treat the marks with grease solvent or dry cleaning fluid. You can also try the iron and paper towel method (as outlined for ‘Wax’ above), although this may not remove the entire colour.

A good idea may be to check the brand of crayons and then consult the manufacturer’s website; Crayola, for example, has an extensive section on their website for stain removal of a range of different products, from a variety of surfaces.


If the dye has stained light-coloured or white fabrics, then just soak in a weak solution of household bleach and water (according to the bleach manufacturer’s instructions). For other fabrics, it may be better to find specially designed commercial products which were created to deal with the problem of dye runs. Always check though that the product is suitable for your fabric.


The best thing to do when you have a glue stain is to check the glue container as it will often carry instructions on how to remove the product. Most glues created for children’s use these days are actually washable (which is fortunate!) but if the spill is a large one, then it may not wash out easily. In these cases, you’re best to remove as much excess glue as possible first, using your fingers. This can be a bit tricky if the fabric is loosely-woven, such as knitted fabrics (something to keep in mind when dressing little ones before their ‘arts & crafts’ session!).

You can soften the glue with some warm water and detergent, dabbed on the reverse side of the garment, and then wash as usual. If the glue is non-washable, you may need to obtain a special solvent from the manufacturers to tackle the stain. If this is not possible, try a little methylated spirit, amyl acetate or white spirit.

As a last resort, you can try using paint-brush cleaner or stripper but these are extremely powerful chemicals that could easily damage your fabric.

Felt-tip Pens

Again, many felt-tip pens and markers produced for the children’s market are thankfully washable and will respond quite well to a soak in detergent and warm water, followed by washing with biological washing powder. However, if you’re not sure if the ink is washable or not – or if the mark has been made by the notoriously stubborn red ink, you can try dabbing a bit of mentholated spirit or dry-cleaning solution onto the mark, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure first that your fabric can withstand treatment by these chemicals. Unfortunately, if the stain has been made by a permanent marker, it will be impossible to remove and you will have to be resigned to disposing the garment, unless you can find an effective way of camouflaging the mark.


All paint stains are best removed if caught fresh. If the paint is acrylic and you catch it while it is still wet, first flush through with cold water and the stain will rinse out easily. However, if the paint has dried, then you may need to use paintbrush cleaner, although this can seriously damage your fabric.

If the stain is from poster paint, this is generally washable, although red colours can be very persistent. In this case (and if the fabric is washable) soak the stained fabric in a solution of 20% volume strength hydrogen peroxide, diluted with the same amount of water, for at least 15 minutes before washing as normal. Because hydrogen peroxide can bleach colours, always spot test first.

Emulsion paint stains can be tackled by sponging with warm water and detergent while the stain is still wet, then washing as usual. It is vital to get to this stain while wet as once it dries, it will be impossible to remove.

Lastly, oil-based paint stains should be dabbed with white cloths soaked in white spirit or turpentine, using as little as possible in order to avoid damaging the fabric. Remember to be very careful when using these solvents, keeping the area well-ventilated and never smoking in the vicinity.

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