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How to Clean
a Popcorn Ceiling

August 5, 2021

Homes can come with many types of ceiling finishes, from smooth to textured. Each finish has its advantages and disadvantages, like acoustics, looks, and even how they reflect interior lighting. But all ceiling finishes have one thing in common—they get dirty and dusty, and popcorn ceilings may be the worst. 

The raised bumps that look like cottage cheese provide a lot of surface area that attracts heaps of dirt and dust. The result is a dingy, dust-ridden ceiling that not only looks bad but can also increase asthma and other respiratory symptoms.

But most of us never give our ceilings a second thought, much less learn how to clean a popcorn ceiling. And unless we spot a stain or discoloration, we may not even realize how dirty the ceiling has become. But cleaning a popcorn ceiling or other finishes isn’t too challenging when you use the right method. 

Before you learn how to clean a popcorn ceiling, it’s important to understand potential risks:

Some popcorn ceilings may contain asbestos, which can cause respiratory illness. While asbestos was banned for use in popcorn ceilings by the Clean Air Act in the 1970s, some popcorn ceilings installed as late as the ’80s could contain this dangerous material. If you are unsure if your popcorn finish contains asbestos, skip the cleaning and have a professional test for asbestos first.

Cleaning a Popcorn Ceiling

One of the biggest challenges is keeping cobwebs, dust, and dirt from accumulating without damaging the popcorn texture. Add in the stains and spots that can come from cooking, and smoking and a popcorn ceiling can get pretty dirty fast. That means giving it a good cleaning each year can bring back its brilliance and cut down on pollutants. 

So how do you clean popcorn ceilings without damaging them? While these ceiling finishes can be delicate, if you take your time when cleaning a popcorn ceiling, you can bring it back to life safely. If your popcorn ceiling is safe for cleaning, here’s how to clean a popcorn ceiling and make it shine:

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Here’s what you’ll need:

Plastic sheeting or a tarp
Filtration mask
Protective eyewear
Vacuum with brush attachments
Paint roller
Lint brush with sticky paper
Liquid dish soap
Hydrogen Peroxide
Window fan

Preparation for Cleaning a Popcorn Ceiling

Cover your furniture and floors with a tarp or plastic sheet and gather all your supplies. Set up your ladder and put on your face mask and goggles. Set up the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner so it has the longest reach possible. 

How to Dust a Popcorn Ceiling

Use your vacuum cleaner brush attachment to (gently!) vacuum away cobwebs, dust, and dirt. If you can’t reach the ceiling with your vacuum, other dusting methods are safe for you and your ceiling. A lint brush with sticky paper or microfiber duster is ideal for removing dirt and dust from popcorn ceilings. Test a corner area of the ceiling first to make sure the adhesive on the roller isn’t too strong. To save time and avoid the danger of standing on a ladder, invest in an extension pole that allows you to use the lint roller or duster while standing on the floor. 

Cleaning a Popcorn Ceiling

To pre-treat stains and particularly dirty areas of your ceiling, pour hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle and spray the stained areas. Let the peroxide sit for about five minutes, then dab the stained areas with a damp sponge. 

Mix dish liquid and water in a spray bottle and test your cleaner on an out-of-the-way corner of the ceiling to make sure it doesn’t stain it. If it’s safe to proceed, spray an area you can easily reach with your cleaner and use a soft paint roller to scrub away dirt. When you’re done cleaning your popcorn ceiling, use a window or rotating fan to help the ceiling air-dry overnight. 

Painting a Popcorn Ceiling

If you’re not happy with your cleaning results, you can still save your ceiling by painting or decorating it. To avoid damaging your ceiling’s finish, don’t use a regular paintbrush. Instead, use a segmented foam roller for greater coverage and a more gentle application. For stubborn stains that won’t go away with cleaning, use a suitable primer before you paint. 

How to Clean Textured Ceilings

Textured ceilings come in a variety of patterns and materials that are considered more contemporary than traditional popcorn ceilings. Because textured ceilings are usually applied with material that creates a hardened finish, you can clean a textured ceiling with more elbow grease.

Here’s how to clean textured ceilings to get them whiter and brighter:

Preparation for Cleaning a Textured Ceiling

To clean a textured ceiling, you can use the same tools and supplies used for popcorn ceilings. Protect your furniture and floors with plastic sheeting or tarps and get your protective gear on. 

Dusting a Textured Ceiling

Use a broom or vacuum with a brush attachment to knock down cobwebs, remove dust, and loosen dirt. Because textured ceilings are typically more durable than popcorn ceilings, you can usually get most of the dirt and dust by sweeping the ceiling with medium pressure. 

Cleaning a Textured Ceiling

Since a textured ceiling can stand up to more vigorous cleaning and scrubbing than a traditional popcorn ceiling, you can usually complete the job more quickly. Start by using hydrogen peroxide to pre-treat stains and then use a clean paint roller dampened with soap and water to remove the dirt. Use a sponge to scrub away buildup and stains and move on to the next section. Keep the suds down so you don’t have to rinse and rinse the paint roller when it gets too dirty.  

Now that you know how to clean a popcorn ceiling and other ceiling finishes, tackle other cleaning projects with our professional cleaning guides. Whether you use our popular residential cleaning services or keep your home clean with our pro tips, The Maids wants every family to enjoy a cleaner home more often. Find out more about affordable and flexible residential cleaning services with a free online estimate.

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