How To: Clean Painted Walls

How to Clean Painted Walls

Cleaning your painted walls may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple (though somewhat time-consuming). Whether you’re doing regular yearly cleaning or hoping to say goodbye to a stain, the first step in cleaning your walls is to assess what type of paint you have. Semi-gloss and glossy enamel paints tend to stand up best to washing. Flat, satin, and eggshell latex paints, on the other hand, may fade or rub off with overly abrasive cleaning.

Regardless of paint type, regular dusting is in order. Before you do any washing, run the dust brush attachment of your vacuum over ceilings and walls. Often, this is enough wall-cleaning for the year.

Related: 5 Easy Steps to a Successful Paint Makeover

Stains and smudges require a bit more elbow grease. Before diving in, test a patch of wall in an unobtrusive area with your intended cleaning solution. If the paint still looks bright and there are no water marks left after drying, you’re good to go. Otherwise proceed with caution. A sloppy attempt could make things look worse than before you started. If you know from the outset that you have flat or eggshell latex paint and the patch test doesn’t go well, consider instead a fresh coat of paint or professional cleaning.

Clean Painted Walls

If no water marks remain after drying and the paint holds up well, it’s time to choose which cleaning solution is best for your needs. To preserve the quality of your paint job, always start with the gentlest materials possible—in this case, water on a cellulose sponge. Step it up a notch, if necessary, with a mixture of warm water and mild detergent soap.

If that still doesn’t seem like enough firepower, try experimenting with other homemade solutions, such as 1 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 1/4 cup baking soda to one gallon of warm water.

For spot-cleaning, try a paste of baking soda and water gently rubbed over the stain, then rinsed with clean water and dried with a soft cloth.

You may want to lay towels, newspaper, or another absorbent material on the floor under your workspace to catch drips. Also, wear rubber gloves to avoid dirty water dripping down your arms. Begin at the top of the wall and work your way down, alternating between the wet, soapy sponge and a wet, clear sponge to rinse; each sponge should have its own bucket. Rinsing with clean water is essential to ensure that dirt and grime won’t cling to soapy residue; do not skip this step.

Rub in a gentle, circular motion to avoid damaging paint and make sure to wring out the sponges well to avoid drips. Work in sections, and once you’ve completed a section, dry the area with a clean, soft cloth.

For particularly hard-to-remove stains (e.g., grease splatters on kitchen walls), try a specialty product like Siege Premium Kitchen Degreaser, a solvent-free degreaser. The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is a good bet for removing crayon and fingerprints, making it an especially useful product for homes with children.

For more on house cleaning and maintenance, consider:

How To: Clean Power Tools
Top Tips for Keeping Countertops Like New
Bob Vila Radio: Maintenance Checklist

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.

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Walls & Ceilings