NEW uniforms, stationery, bags and shoes – preparing for the return to school can be costly and time-consuming.
Keeping kit clean and in one piece is then the next challenge.
Fortunately, parents are sharing their tried-and-tested tips online to make life easier.
Here, Rebecca Pascoe and Abby McHale pick out 20 of the best suggestions . . .
1) REMOVE PEN STAINS WITH HAIRSPRAY: Spray a generous amount on to the ink then rub it with a damp cloth until it disappears. Or dab the stain with milk, let it soak for a few hours and put in the washing machine as normal.
2) DYE FADED UNIFORMS: Refresh clothes with inexpensive dyes in your washing machine. Cotton and nylon show the best results, whereas polyester and acetate are more difficult to colour.
3) CLEAN TUPPERWARE WITH BAKING SODA: This magical household essential removes yellow stains from plastic lunchboxes.
Add water to make a thick paste and rub it into the Tupperware, leave overnight, then rinse.
4) FRESHEN SMELLY BOOTS WITH TEABAGS: Place a dry teabag into shoes then leave them in a warm place overnight.
Put one at the bottom of a school bag to absorb any odours. Change weekly. Or try cleaning the bag with a mix of baking soda, vinegar and water.
5) TRACE AROUND KIDS’ FEET TO MEASURE FOR NEW SHOES: You can then take the drawings with you to the shoe shop to get the right pair – and may not even need your child with you.
6) USE VELCRO TO TEMPORARILY REPAIR A DROPPED HEM: If you are in a rush, use double-sided sticky velcro pads to hold the hem in place until you have time to repair it fully.
7) FREEZE AWAY CHEWING GUM: It’s always a whole lot easier to remove gum from uniforms when it has set hard so you are best to put the item of clothing into the freezer in a plastic bag, or apply ice cubes to the gum. Then you can chip it off.
8) SHINE SHOES WITH VASELINE: Apply the vaseline with a cloth, over the front of the shoes, the night before your little one heads out to school. ou can also paint patent shoes with clear nail varnish to prevent scuffs and scrapes.
9) USE TOOTHPASTE TO REMOVE SCUFF MARKS: For white trainers, rub some white, non-gel toothpaste into the marks using an old toothbrush, then wipe with a damp cloth and leave to sit in the sunlight.
For black shoes, raid your kids’ craft box and find a crayon to match the shoes – then just draw over the marks before carefully dabbing away excess crayon with a tissue.
10) MAKE AN ICE PACK WITH A SPONGE: Soak a clean sponge in water, then pop it in the freezer overnight. In the morning, put it into your child’s lunchbox. When it starts to defrost, the sponge will retain the water.
11) WEAR IN NEW SHOES IN WITH HAIRDRYER: To help stretch the shoes, get your child to put them on while wearing a pair of thick socks, then gently heat them with a hairdryer as your child wiggles their feet and toes.
Make sure the shoes have cooled down before your child removes them.
12) TREAT LICE WITH TEA-TREE OIL: Cover your child’s head with a thick coat of conditioner, mixed with around ten drops of tea-tree oil. Leave on for 20 minutes, then comb out the lice and nits.
13) REMOVE GRASS STAINS WITH VINEGAR: Apply a paste of baking soda and water to the stains, then scrub with a brush dipped in vinegar. The products will fizz and the bubbles should tackle the stain.
14) BAKING SODA CAN BRIGHTEN WHITES: Give shirts a new lease of life by soaking in soda crystals and hanging them to dry in sunlight. Or pop a dishwasher tablet in with the dirty white shirts on a hot wash and they’ll come out stain-free.
For really pesky stains, crumble a dishwasher tablet in hot water with the clothing for an hour then put into the washing machine.
15) SEPARATE CLOTHES FOR EACH DAY: Use hanging storage compartments to organise all the uniform and sports kit your children will need for the week. The dividers will help you get at what you need quickly and easily.
16) NAIL VARNISH STOPS BUTTONS PINGING OFF: Put away your sewing kit and instead dab clear nail varnish over the front of the buttons to strengthen the thread. Let the varnish harden overnight.
17) WRITE INITIALS ON CLOTHES’ LABELS, USING A SHARPIE: Or just tie a recognisable piece of material or ribbon to the hanging hoop on the item of clothing.
18) WRAP BOOKS TO PROTECT THEM: Use old wrapping paper to cover books and prevent them from getting damaged. The books will last longer, and making them identifiable could also stop them from getting lost.
19) BUY OVERSIZED UNIFORMS AND HEM UP: Buy trousers and skirts longer than your children need and hem them yourself.
It’s not at all as tricky as it may sound – hemming tape helps – and the trousers and skirts can be let down when a child has a growth spurt.
20) STICKERS TO IDENTIFY LEFT AND RIGHT SHOE: Help your child to put their shoes on the correct feet all by themselves by taking a large sticker of their favourite TV or book character, cutting it in half and placing one part on each shoe.
When the shoes are the right way round, the sticker will look whole.
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