Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Soap in the Art Room: A Cheap Recipe for Success

First, let's take a look at my hands at the end of today:

Over the course of school today I washed my hands at least 15 times and attempted to salve them with lotion just as often. We painted in the first two class periods, dyed our batiks in the middle two periods, and worked on watercolors in the last two periods.

Does your school buy, like, the cheapest soap ever for the dispensers?  Ours is this weird pink goo that reminds me of the ectoplasm ooze from one of the Ghostbuster's movies. I don't know about its antibacterial qualities, but the school soap is really ineffective against Art grime. The kids have to get more than several pumps of it and really work it into a lather for it to have any effect. I thought at first they were being wasteful. . . but no, I had the same issue.

And, y'all, my kids really like to be clean. Oh, the drama we have over Art dirt.

So, there are 2 problems I have with the school soap:
1) it doesn't clean Art grime
2) it constantly needs to be replenished because we have to use so much for it to have any effect.

I long ago started buying my own soap and lotion for the Art room. I know a lot of you do this too because I've never been in an Art classroom that didn't have super grimy bottles of soap milling about. I added the lotion because my students have severe aversions to being "ashy" and make fun others for any perceived "ashy-ness." The lotion is an easy (and cheap), $2.99 for economy size, way of avoiding all of that hassle.

Even though I bought/buy good quality soap, the kids still take too many pumps when it comes time to clean up (habit? teenagers? I don't know). It is frustrating because I'm now buying the soap (and in some case Fast Orange for super Art messes) and they are wasting money.  I've also noticed the students don't always take time to lather up the soap and instead expect the soap touching their skin will cause some miraculous cleaning miracle. Ha. Sooo, I decided to purchase foaming soap.

FOAMING SOAP! It is the only way to go! It seems to clean faster, the kids are more likely to rub it around, and the kids perceive they are getting more product per pump because of the way the foam expands when pumped. It also rinses away quicker than regular soap which cuts down on sink time; a huge bonus. My students love, love, love the foaming soap.
I had to include this picture because I am SOOO proud of how well my 8th graders cleaned up after painting today. Lookit! All the palettes are washed and put away. All the water jars are in the bins. The paintbrushes are stored correctly and according to size. So, So, So, proud!!

The only issue I have with foaming soap is that we go through the bottles (just like we would with regular soap) fast. I toyed around with a few foaming soap recipes I found on Pinterest and modified them until they are perfect for my Art room use. I now make my own foaming soap liquid for about $0.20 per bottle!

Here is my recipe.

You will need:
foaming soap bottle (just buy a bottle, use the product, and when done use this recipe to replenish)
1 tblsp of liquid dish-washing soap (like Dawn etc.)
a few drops of an essential oil of choice (optional)
a few drops of tea tree oil for added homeopathic antibacterial qualities (optional)
a few drops of an emulsifier, like polysorbate 80 (optional). This helps the oils mix with the water. But, this isn't necessary; you will just have to give the bottle as shake before use for the oils to be "present." I only have polysorbate 80 on hand because I make my own body oils, lotions, and body sprays.

1. Add liquid dish-washing soap to empty foaming soap bottle. 
2. Fill the remaining bottle with plain water. 
3. Add 4-5 drops of essential oils of choice -optional step (I like lemon, mint, grapefruit, and lavender)
4. Add 4-5 drops of tea tree oil - optional step (this adds a little extra ooph against bacteria)
5. Add 8-10 drops of emulsifier  -optional (you can still use the oil w/o this step; just shake before use)
6. Place on cap. Shake. 
7. Voila! Foaming soap!  



  1. Thanks for posting this - anything that makes the budget stretch a little bit further is always welcome!!

  2. I can understand that you had to put so much efforts in this but I am sure you liked this work as painting and water coloring of classes. I just wish I could see the paintings along with this paint brushes and colors.