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close-up of water color paint brush soaking in water bottle and face wipes

Effective and Safe Clean-up Tips and Tricks for the Crafty Mom

By Brenda Ponnay

When you’re a mom and an artist you are bound to make big beautiful artsy messes. It comes with the territory. However, there are tips and tricks to keeping the crafting mayhem managed. Before you start twitching because there is glitter all over your floor or you redecorate your entire house to match your kid’s finger paint palette, read on for a few effective and safe clean-up tips that might just save you a headache or two.

1. When you can craft outdoors, do craft outdoors.
This is helpful for so many reasons. Many paints and glues emit fumes that can be harmful if inhaled for long periods of time. I always make sure I use non-toxic water-based paints but I pretty much follow this rule: if you can smell it, then you need to get a breath of fresh air. That might mean moving closer to a window or moving the whole craft outdoors. When it comes to using products like paints, glues and markers (Sharpie even makes in water-based versions of its pens) I err on the side of being careful.  I always read and follow the directions for crafting materials and ventilate my apartment. But, if you can, you should work outdoors. Plus, it is so much easier to clean up when outside. It’s not like you can use a hose to spray down paint messes in your dining room!

close-up of paint brush soaking in water and cleaning wipes in background

2. Have your cleaning products handy.
I don’t know about you but I have an arsenal of cleaning products that I keep within arms’ distance when I’m crafting with kids. First and foremost are wipes. Wipes are a mother’s best friend. They wipe bottoms, they catch drips, they can even get paint out of a dry-clean-only designer blouse if you move fast enough. I swear wipes have some kind of magic formula in them that will clean things you never expect them to be tough enough to handle.

close-up of mom wiping face paint off a girl's face with face wipe

Plus they are super gentle on skin. Face painting is super popular with my daughter and her friends, so I always keep a pouch of wipes in my toolbox. They are gentle on the most sensitive of skin and a lot handier than carrying around a kitchen sink.  And, thinking about safety issues on the clean-up side of the crafting equation is as important. Look for non-toxic brands and companies who spend all day, every day making sure their personal and cleaning products are effective, eco-friendly,  affordable and best of all, safe.

3. Cover everything.
I keep a roll of butcher paper in my craft closet and roll it out on whatever surface we are crafting upon. It’s pretty cheap and it saves a lot of time when it comes to clean-up. When we’re done making messes we just wrap up the paper and throw it away or we cut it up and make recycled crafts with it. It’s amazing the beautiful creations you can come up with from messes from other crafts. How does that saying go? One man’s painting mess is another man’s masterpiece…or something like that?

4. Stock up on multi-surface cleaner.
Whatever can’t be wrapped up can usually be wiped away. I use cloth napkins and a quick squirt from my favorite non-toxic cleaning spray. If that doesn’t do it, my secret is to grab a credit card or a plastic bread tab and scrape it off. But usually, the cleaning spray does the trick. Which brings me to my fifth trick:

5. Act quick!
The sooner you can wipe up messes, the more likely you are to get them out. If you get paint on your clothes, take them off immediately, squirt them with stain treatment and let them soak, soak, soak in the washer. Pretend your clothes are having a day at the spa. Let them soak away their worries. You don’t have to do laundry right away but you do have to get that paint under water because once it’s dried it’s going to claim its territory like a Texan. I’ve ruined many a favorite outfit thinking I’d spot treat it later. There is no later when it comes to paint pigment. It has to come out right away or you might as well just consider your painting wardrobe expanded. Which brings me to my sixth trick!

6. Wear your Paint Clothes.
Whether it’s the last outfit you ruined with a red sock in the laundry or one of Dad’s big over-sized t-shirts, have an outfit that is designated for making messes in. I always say I’m going to be super careful but it never works out for me and it doesn’t work for kids either. You’re always careful until you’re not and then it’s bye bye to your favorite outfit.

picture of two young girls smiling and having fun with water color paints and dressed in messy painted shirts

Let the kids decorate their paint clothes with handprints and finger swipes. Play twister with paint and have the hose handy. Then launder your paint clothes (alone) and save them for the next crafting event. Kids will love that they have a special outfit just for crafting. Aprons are great but paint clothes are better.

7. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
My last tip and probably my most helpful tip is to just not worry too much about the mess and just use your common sense. The enjoyment of the process of art (not necessarily the end result) is what is important. Enjoy your time with your child and accept the messes. They’re only this little for so long but your house will need cleaning forever.

So stock up on those cleaning supplies. You’re gonna need them!

About the Author

Brenda Ponnay

Brenda Ponnay is an author and illustrator who loves to craft and make big messes when she’s not working on her books. Whether it’s painting, baking, drawing, making castles out of card...

Brenda Ponnay is an author and illustrator who loves to craft and make big messes when she’s not working on her books. Whether it’s painting, baking, drawing, making castles out of cardboard boxes or just doing the laundry with flair, Brenda Ponnay has learned that what really makes her happy is being creative every single day.

You can read about all her crazy adventures on her personal blog: Secret Agent Josephine.

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