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December 15, 2016

How to Clean Messy Desks Without Breaking a Nail

Written By: Brandi Jordan
Originally Published On: April 1, 2010
Category: The School Year

Scrape Your Cares Away - How to Clean Messy Desks

Maureen, a 1st Grade Teacher from Alpine, Utah, knows all about keeping her classroom clean.  She shares with us her personal experience trying to remove tape and debris from desks at the end of the year in the hopes of saving just one fingernail.  Our nails thank you, Maureen!

Clean Messy Desks

“Clearing desktops of a year’s worth of hardened glue and tape residue has never been my favorite job. For 18 years, I have had students attempt to scrub the grime and glue away with cleaners and rags. Out of sheer frustration, I would always resort to using my fingernails to loosen the most stubborn debris. More than once, I ended up breaking a nail, or cutting myself on the hardened glue.

It finally dawned on me to save my nails and to instead enlist the help of a plastic scraper like the one I use on my kitchen pans. Now I have my students spray their desktops with warm water and then scrape their desktops clean with very little effort. I only wish I discovered this when I started teaching all those many broken fingernails ago!”

What’s your best tip for cleaning messy desks at the end of the school year? Is there a tip or trick that works for you? Share it with us below or on the Really Good Teachers Forum!

How to Clean Messy Desks Without Breaking a Nail -
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  • Maureen Duffy
    July 2, 2012

    At the end of the year, we begin to take down all the posters and work they completed during the year. This year we began a tape ball. Each piece of tape we pealed away were place together until it formed a large ball. We measured the ball each day and kept a log. We then began to see how far we could toss this into the trash can.(lots of fun), next we estimated how much it could weigh. Again we tallied our answers.
    We also did best out of three throws into a basket, finally we tallied the best out of three blindfolded throws into a Hula hoop. We then placed the tape ball on to a trophy – the child with the most tally marks kept the trophy. The children cheered each other on, they were so engaged with the tape ball they wanted to continue with other challenges.

  • Emily Sheehan
    May 7, 2012

    As some others posted already, shaving cream works great to clean the tops of tables and/or desks. During the last week of school last year, I had my students practice writing spelling words in the shaving cream. Another idea is writing math facts or even just writing the alphabet.

  • Lori Archer
    August 24, 2011

    Shaving cream works wonders! I also have the kids wipe the tables after we complete our projects with bleach wipes or baby wipes. If it gets cleaned up right away it comes up much easier.

  • JWagner
    March 12, 2011

    Agreed! Goo Gone is amazing!

  • Leslie
    July 11, 2010

    I’ve used a cheap metal paint scraper for years. It also works well with getting hot glue glue off the walls. Every year, I get teachers and custodians asking to use it.

  • Laura
    July 10, 2010

    Good ideas!! Also, if that doesn’t manage to get it all off, Goo-Gone works great for really sticky “I wonder what that is…” messes.

  • Sue Zebelian
    May 6, 2010

    Having your students do a writing (sounds, words), drawing, or science project (color mixing in shaving cream) works well to soften all the hardened glue, tape dirt and grime. This works even better if you do centers and use a different table everyday. This makes learning fun and is a great project for students. If your students don’t have any allergies to odors use scented shaving cream and it makes your room will smell great, too.

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