Need More Sinks? Try One of These 5 Practical Solutions

sink solutions title
My school was built in the 1980s, a decade where the idea of washing your hands after a messy art project must have slipped many architect’s minds. Since my art room was used as an elementary science lab for most of its existence, the need for multiple sinks just wasn’t necessary. Friends, that is no longer the case.

You can’t just give twenty-four Kindergarteners finger paint without the chance to clean their gummy hands. But what are you to do when you only have one sink? We’ve compiled a list of solutions to help solve that very problem.

1. Here are 5 practice sink solutions for art teachers.


1. Rags




Have you ever asked your custodian if they have any rags they can loan you? My custodians gladly give me all the rags I want because it helps save them from purchasing more paper towels. All you need to do is put a damp rag on each table and have the students wipe off their hands after a messy project. You can even see if your custodian would be willing to wash and replace the rags every day. If your school has a washing machine, this idea may be a solution for you.


2. Sponges




Take a damp sponge and cut it into four quarters. Then place these in containers that rest on your classroom tables. Students can use these to scrub their hands whenever they need to. The best part is you only have to send one student to the sink to rinse and replace the sponges at the end of the class.


3. Create New “Sinks”


new sink


One of the students from the AOE Class Managing the Art Room had her own one-sink solution. This art teacher placed containers filled with soapy water onto a few tables so her students could have multiple wash stations to choose from. Students would rinse their hands in the water and then dry them off. The water got replaced at the end of each class.


4. Have Classroom Teachers Take Them to the Bathroom




When art is over, let the classroom teacher know that they need to swing by the bathroom before returning to class. With multiple sinks in the bathroom, the students can breeze through at a much quicker pace than in your room. Teachers sometimes let their students have a bathroom break after art anyway, so it might be a good solution for everyone.


5. Just Skip It


A final solution to the one-sink debacle is not to let them wash their hands at all. The truth is, it is easier to have one student utilize your sink to help wash materials than to let everyone wash their hands. Classroom management can go downhill fast during the last five minute of class. So if you keep your students busy doing their clean-up jobs then you’ll be less likely to diffuse issues occurring at the sink area.




One other idea is to use hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes with students. However, there has been recent evidence to show that this may not be in the best interest of students. Check with your school nurse about your school’s policy regarding these products.


Do you suffer from the one-sink debacle? How do you cope?

What solutions do you have when it comes to washing hands?


Jennifer is an middle school art teacher in Kansas who is passionate about creating an organized, well-managed environment where students feel comfortable to learn and explore.


  • Nancy Prisuta Murphy

    Baby wipes are safer than clorax and germx, and clean hands quickly. Put it on your wish list for supplies or ask PTO, etc, Each kid gets one, wipes their hands, then lines up after they get the wipe, throwing it in the trash on the way out

    • Absolutely. I’ve even cut them in half to make them go further for the classes that have so many students in them.

    • Dawn Kruger

      If you read the label for disinfectant wipes it says to wash hands after use. Baby wipes are better, or Wet Wipes. Both have skin softening ingredients that gently dissolve oil crayon, oil clay, etc.
      Another tip if you use hand sanitizer–it is mostly alcohol and works pretty well to dissolve permanent marker on hard surfaces.

    • Leah

      I do the same! I also encourage kiddos to wipe their hands on their aprons!

  • Shari Sysol-Alongi

    A few years ago my district decided on putting in new sinks. I got this tiny 2 feet off the ground sink with a drinking faucet! (yuck) It’s so unpractical. I begged to keep my old one. Nope. Now we make a watery mess all over. Drives me nuts!
    I use sponges, rags and whatever I can. Sometimes I just say wash up in your classroom!

    • That a huge bummer. Did they replace a perfectly good sink with a no-good one? That seems like a bad decision on their part.

      • Shari Sysol-Alongi

        The old sink was fine, it was an art sink…grungy and all that. New one needs to be caulked all the time. Just frustrating and a waste of money!

    • I’m so sorry to hear this, Shari! I simply do not understand districts. They think they know how to do everybody’s job when simple communication would suffice to make sure a solution is really going to work for ALL staff members. I bet a full-sized sink would have hardly been any more money for them.

      When I was relocated to the basement the other year, they removed the old sink from my old room. If I had listened to the Principal I would not had known that the old sink could be salvaged. I spoke to the maintenance guys and they reinstalled the old sink — with all of the cabinets under it that also served as important storage! The sink that was already in the room I was moved to was a preschool sink; small and 2′ off the ground.

      The only headache I deal with now is that my sinks are tied to a pump. If that pump goes, I’m stuck without BOTH sinks. I have also asked for a trap to be installed since paints clogging the pipes is a concern for me too. We’ll see what happens this year. I’m hopeful!

      • Shari Sysol-Alongi

        I tried to keep it. They were doing an asbestos abatement at the time so we were told everything “old” went….they bought cheap “new”.

  • Sarah Blonstein

    What about sink solutions for art making? A sink has several uses. 3 out of 4 rooms that is teach in have no sink. I have tried the sponge technique with q-tips and paint and a single bucket with a clean sponge to moisten the others. After that I’m stumped, having students run to the bathroom takes too much time.
    Any suggestions

    • Sarah, are you teaching on a cart? I know teachers who have carried a jug of water on their cart, a funnel, and an empty jug. They simply pour when they need water and at the end of class they funnel the dirty water back into the empty jug.

  • Beth Townsend

    I love this article! Most of the classrooms I go to have sinks, but I don’t know what
    I’d do without jugs for water, ice cream pails and paper towel! I’m going to have to remember to stock up on wipes, too!

  • Tara Monrose

    I have no sink :(

    • Sherwoodartroom

      I had no sink for my first 5 years of teaching. I used an old ice cream bucket to hold water for doing water colors. To clean our hands I used baby wipes. Sometimes I would have kids bring in the wipes, the PTA and my principal were also good resources. I now have a sink but I find myself still using wipes because it’s such a quick way to clean up.

    • Vonnie

      Hi Tara,
      I had that problem once too – I was told to haul buckets out to the trailer!!….really???? Being the ‘squeaky wheel’ that I can be when put into that position, I told my principal that I was going to have to notify the Health department about the possibility of a serious problem of not having clean water to work with…also, that I was a teacher with credentials and no where in my job description did it list that I was to haul in water from inside the building out to the ‘burbs’. Of course, I wasn’t the favorite after that, but central office had the plumbing department out the next morning, hooking up a sink!!

      • Tara Monrose

        Unfortunately I am just a specials teacher at a Title 1 campus, they have so many more priorities before me. I will use the wipes and buckets method until I can twist a few arms for a sink. My school has done great things for me in the 2 years ive been here. So far we’ve increased our musical instruments, I got an interactive smart board and projector with an Elmo this simmer and an abundance of art supplies for my K-3 kiddo’s.

  • Helpful article, Jennifer! Since I was moved and now have a full-sized sink and a pre-school sink, I have forgotten about a couple of these solutions.

    Having the classroom teacher take them was a hit-or-miss solution for me, though. Some of the non-specialist teachers were visibly perturbed to have to use their class time to take kids for another bathroom break. So, I do my best to manage my time so they either can go to the bathroom on their own to supplement the use of my two sinks. What compounds matters is that some kids have this fetish with cleaning their hands and have to get off EVERY little bit of paint from their bodies. It’s almost like they are taking a sponge bath using my sink!

    I’ve not tried rags before. How do you clean them? I would be concerned if I took them home to launder them my washer would get stained from paint. I’m K-3 but, still, some of the colors are staining.

    I tried wipes before when I was on a cart. It was challenging because my “I have to be completely free of all marks on my hands and forearms therefore I need to take a sponge bath in your sink” kinda of kids would sneak up and use 4-5 wipes when I turned my back! LOL! I may ask parents for some baby wipes because they really are helpful for small clean up jobs like watercolor and oil pastels.

    • We have a washer and dryer in my school building, so they clean the rags for me! Woohoo!

    • Laura

      The janitor in my school washes them little by little and returns them to me. We can easily tell mine from his, because his are white and mine are tiedye. (LOL!)Seriously, having a good relationship with the janitors is critical as an art teacher, not only will he save the best boxes/cardboard/tubes for you, BUT he will help in your quest for a clean room :-)

  • ellentie

    METHOD #1 – I use dry paper towels and spray/mister bottles with water only. I spray the student’s hands and then they take a paper towel and wipe off the paint. As needed, students spray their tables and wipe up.
    METHOD #2 – For printmaking clean up I make my own “wipes.” I pace a pile of those folded paper towels (used in restroom dispensers) in a plastic “shoe box” size container. I added water until the paper towels absorbed the water and are all dampened. Students take a paper towel from the top of the pile, wipe their hands and then wipe the table.

  • Jill Fariss

    Baby wipes!

  • Laura

    I don’t have a sink in my room, I have to use the janitor’s closet (close but not in my room) and I’ve managed by doing the following for 5 years…

    1) I use a bucket of soapy water and four washcloths. For the younger classes (prek4-3) at the end of class, I bring the bucket to each table and the students wipe off their hands and the table at the same time. Takes probably one minute per table. The only issue I ever have is with kids who ring out the darn cloth, which makes a mess, but I have been firm with them not to do this. At the end of class I take a quick look and if the water is gross I’ll change it, if not I’ll use it again for the next class. For the older classes, I use two buckets and it is one table’s job, in pairs, to go around with buckets for the rest, they monitor the situation and I can focus on other things.

    2) I have students who clean the brushes/jars (using a cart) and I ask them to return them clean with new water for the next class.

    3) If their hands are dirty during class I won’t let them wash up unless they are REALLY dirty, because they are just going to get dirty again and once I have one child making a special trip to the bucket, all the kids want to do it and it becomes a production. :-p

  • Ms. F

    I used to not have a sink in my room so I had two buckets in a corner. One was full of “clean” water to grab paint water from and another was the “dirty” bucket where we would dump out water at the end of class. I’d usually have one student in charge of cups, and one in charge of brushes to send to the bathroom to clean materials.

    As for the kiddos that just wanted to wash their hands, i wouldn’t let them go. I’d either have someone walk around with hand sanitizer.

  • Linda Lea Evans

    I have them apply a pearl-size squirt of hand cream before we start a messy project. Helps with the cleaning up of hands. Oil pastels, chalk, and other media don’t absorb/stick as easily to their fingers. Saves loads of time scrubbing and rinsing.

  • Michael Robertson

    Great article. Here is a self-contained, running-water sink that several schools use –

  • Pingback: Ideas for a Sinkless Art Room - The Funky Art TeacherThe Funky Art Teacher()