How to Clean Walls

Get tips for effectively removing dirt, stains and smudges from painted walls without causing streaking or water damage.

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Wiping a wall

Wiping a wall

Woman wiping a wall, rear view

Walls get dirty, especially at kid- and dog-level. Cleaning them regularly is key to keeping your house looking sparkling. Here’s how to clean painted walls without damaging them.

Before you clean, determine what kind of paint is on the wall. Semi-gloss or enamel paint will stand up to washing. Flat, stain or eggshell finishes are not as durable and may rub off if you scrub too hard or use an abrasive cleaner. No matter what type of paint is on your walls, you need to dust them before washing them. Put the brush attachment on your vacuum and run it over walls to remove surface dust and dirt.

Next, lay towels on the floor along the baseboards to catch any excess water that drips off the walls while you clean. 

You’ll need a liquid cleaner to remove stains and smudges. To keep from damaging your walls, start with the mildest cleaner you can and step it up to a tougher cleaner if needed. The gentlest cleaner is water. Wipe it on the wall and see if that does the trick. If not, your next option is a mixture of warm water and dishwashing soap. If that still doesn’t get it done, mix a cup of ammonia, ½ cup of vinegar and ¼ cup of baking soda in one gallon of warm water. Wipe on the wall with a sponge. Be sure to dry the wall thoroughly with a towel to prevent streaking and water damage. 

To clean a stubborn stain, mix a paste of baking soda and water and rub over the stain. Rinse with clean water and a cloth. 

Start at the top of the wall when cleaning, and work your way down. Wipe the wall with the cleaner and then wipe it with just water to rinse. Use two buckets, one for the cleaning solution and one for the water. Be sure you wring out your sponges before using them on the wall. You want a damp sponge, not a wet one. Work in sections. Once you have finished washing a section, dry the wall with a cloth or towel. 

Knowing how to clean painted walls is especially vital if you have kids in your house. You probably have crayon marks on the wall. Scrub them with a sponge of cleaner and then rinse with clean water. Dry the wall and rub it with a gum eraser. Knowing how to clean grease off walls is key, too. Use a commercial degreaser to clean spatters off kitchen walls.

Knowing how to clean a painted wall will keep your house looking fresh and stain-free.

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