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How to Clean School Uniforms

Unfortunately, kids' school uniforms can get really messy! But don't fear, this guide will help make washing & removing stains from school uniforms easy.


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How to Clean School Uniforms

It’s that time of year when you’re preparing your little ones for going back to school after the holidays, and that means buying new school uniforms. As a parent, buying a new pair of trousers or a shirt can be quite an emotional experience – not because it reminds you that your kids are growing up, but because you know that those bright, clean uniforms will soon be covered in paint, glue, and pen, and that’s just on the first day!

When buying uniforms, you’re reminded that your relaxing evenings are a thing of the past, replaced by standing over the tub scraping and scrubbing all manner of stains out of your children’s clothes, including the dried-on remains of their school dinner – yuk. Don’t worry – stain removal doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. In fact, if you follow these great pieces of advice, you could be finished washing in time for reruns of Noor on the TV.

The simplest way to clean school uniforms is to put them in a washing machine with a quality laundry detergent, like OMO Powder. This will help to ensure that any nasty stains from falling over in the playground, or from an art lesson will be removed. For extra help with banishing stains, see the section of this article on stain removers.

Try a Stain Remover on Tough Stains

One of the quickest ways to ruin a school uniform is to be rough with it. You might think that vigorously scrubbing away at stains is the most effective and quickest way to remove dirty marks, but what this is likely to do is spread the stain over a larger area of the clothing, and also cause the material to thin, making it more likely to snag and tear on a tree branch while your kids are playing with their friends. To protect your clothes, and make stain removal easy work, pre-treat the stain before washing. Stain removers soak down deep into the fabric to loosen dirt particles from the fibres so they come out easily when washed. If you don’t have a stain remover to hand, apply a small amount of liquid detergent, or create a thick paste from a powdered detergent mixed with water.

Use Cool Temperatures if Possible

Unless your kids’ uniforms are very heavily soiled try to use cooler temperatures when running water into the washing tub, or when using your washing machine. Cooler temperatures of 30 degrees celsius or less will reduce the amount of colour that bleeds from the fabric, helping to keep the uniforms looking bright and vibrant for longer. If your kids wear a coloured sweater that is very heavily dyed, you could try soaking the garment in white vinegar before its first wash as vinegar is said to help set the colours. If you absolutely must use a higher temperature, such as if you need to sanitise your kids’ clothing for example, be sure to wash with similar colours to avoid discolouring your whites.

Dry Naturally if Time Allows

Kids grow all the time, and sometimes it seems like you put them to bed as a baby and they wake up looking like a teenager. As kids are constantly growing, the last thing you want is for their school uniform to shrink. Drying using a machine can increase the risk of shrinking, as the high heats break down the fibres in the material causing it to shrivel up. If you’ve got the time to do so, always allow your kids’ uniforms to dry naturally, either on a clothes horse inside, or on a washing line outside (but take care not to leave in direct sunlight as this could have a bleaching effect and fade the colours). If you must dry uniforms using the machine, set the temperature to the lowest possible, and don’t leave in the machine for longer than necessary.

Take Extra Care with Embroidery / Patches

If you’ve had to embroider your children’s names into their school uniform, or if they wear a patch on their sweater that has been sewed on, take a little extra care if you’re washing using a washing machine. Sometimes, embroidery and stitches can snag on the internal workings of the machine, causing them to unravel. It’s a good idea to turn the sweater inside out before washing, which helps to safeguard the embroidery, and you can also use a washing bag, too, for a little extra protection. A washing bag is made from netting, or mesh, and allows water and detergent to penetrate the clothing, but acts as a barrier between the drum and the delicate stitching.

Next year, you can buy your childrens’ new school uniforms with confidence, knowing that whatever they throw at you, whether it be dried hummus and kofta grease from lunch, brightly coloured paints from art class, or grass stains from playing outside after school, you can handle it without hassle.

  • Pre-treat any stains before washing.

  • Dry clothes naturally – this will prevent shrinkage.

  • Turn embroidered sweaters inside out before washing to help protect the needlework.

Frequently asked questions on cleaning school uniforms

How often should I wash my child's school uniform?

It's recommended to wash your child's school uniform after each use to remove dirt, stains, and bacteria. This helps to keep the uniform looking clean and fresh, and prevents the buildup of odors and germs.

How can I prevent my child's school uniform from fading or shrinking in the wash?

To prevent fading and shrinking, always wash school uniforms in cold water and use a gentle laundry detergent. Avoid using bleach or fabric softener, as these can damage the fabric and cause colors to fade. Hang the uniform to air dry, rather than using a dryer, to prevent shrinkage.

Can I iron my child's school uniform?

Yes, you can iron your child's school uniform to remove wrinkles and ensure a crisp, clean look. Just be sure to follow the care instructions on the garment label, as some fabrics may require a lower heat setting or special ironing techniques.

Originally published