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How to Clean Walls: 10 Tips
to Keep Your Walls Looking Beautiful

November 6, 2020

If you take pride in keeping your home neat and clean, then you know a trick or two for housekeeping. From scrubbing and mopping to hardwood floor care and carpet cleaning, you want to keep your home looking beautiful. But do you know the best way to clean walls? If “wall washing” hasn’t made it to your cleaning checklist, you’re not alone. Most of us don’t even notice our walls like we do horizontal surfaces like floors, counters, and furniture.

But considering how much we touch our walls, especially areas around switch plates and doorways, learning how to wash walls is a skill worth learning. Dust, dirt, and germs can easily build up without regular cleaning. Keeping your walls clean cuts down on the dust that can aggravate asthma and allergies, and washing away dirt and grime makes your home look and feel cleaner. This minimizes the spread of germs and viruses, allowing you to create a healthier environment for your family.

Learn how to clean walls with these 10 tips and make them a part of your regular housekeeping routine for a more beautiful and healthy home.

1. Go easy on flat, satin, and eggshell finishes.

Many wall paint finishes are less durable than the paint typically used for window trim, doors, and baseboards. Never use harsh chemicals or commercial degreasers on walls with flat paint finishes. Wash these walls with a soft sponge dampened with a cleaning solution. Don’t scrub too hard or you could remove some paint.

2. Gloss and semi-gloss finishes are tough.

Because these paint finishes are so durable, they’re sometimes used in high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms. It is safe to use a mild degreaser on glossy walls as long as you scrub carefully. Even though glossy paints are tough, use a soft sponge to prevent scratches.

3. Use warm water and an all-purpose cleaner for walls with latex paint.

Wash this type of paint with a soft sponge and a safe, all-purpose cleaning solution like water, dish soap, and distilled white vinegar. Dip a clean sponge in your wall cleaner, wring it dry, and gently clean your wall. The vinegar odor should go away after the wall dries, but you can hasten its departure by wiping the wall with a damp cloth.

4. Wash walls with oil-based paint using warm water and dish soap.

Skip the white vinegar for walls with oil-based paint. The acid in vinegar can dull and damage oil-based finishes. Use dish soap, baking soda, and warm water, but keep your sponge a little damp while you’re scrubbing the dirt away. The dish soap should give you enough dirt-busting power for oil-based paint, while the baking soda acts as a mild abrasive.

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5. Clean safely.

While you should clean wall areas around outlets, light switches, and thermostats to get rid of built-up grime, don’t get these areas wet. If your switch plates and outlet covers are dirty, turn off the breaker before cleaning them with anything liquid. To protect your floors, use towels along the base of the walls while you clean them.

6. Dust your walls before you clean them.

Dust your walls from the top down. A broom is good for getting up near the top molding and for removing cobwebs. An unused paint brush or dry microfiber cloth makes dusting chair rails and wall corners easier. If your walls are really dusty, use your vacuum and its brush attachment.

7. Spot-test your cleaning solution first.

The cleaning ingredients we recommend are gentle and safe, but it’s always best to spot-test an out of the way spot on your walls first. This is especially important for flat or matte finishes; if the cleaning solution is too harsh, it could leave light-colored streaks and stains.

8. Use the right technique.

When you’re learning how to clean painted walls, it’s vital to use an appropriate technique. Get two buckets, some soft sponges, and dry microfiber cloths. Fill one bucket with warm water for rinsing and the other with your wall cleaner. Start at the top of the wall and work your way down using light, circular motions. Work in sections to prevent spotting and discoloration. Wash the wall with your cleaning solution and then wipe off the residue with a sponge dipped in your rinse bucket. Dry the wall with your microfiber cloth and move on to the next section.

9. Work on stubborn stains after you wash your walls.

When you’re cleaning painted walls, save yourself some time and work by focusing on stains after you wash the walls. This way, you give your cleaning solution a chance to work on the stain and possibly get rid of it altogether. If you still see stains on your walls after you wash them, you can concoct a safe, homemade stain remover.

For stubborn stains like crayons, shoe scuffs, and grease, make a paste with baking soda and water. Gently rub the paste onto the stain using a non-abrasive pad or sponge and work in a circular motion. For fruit drinks and red wine, hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent that’s typically safe for painted finishes. Use a clean, damp cloth and dab a small amount of hydrogen peroxide directly to the stain. Wait about five minutes. Next, wipe the stained area with a damp cloth.

10. Keep Walls Clean with Regular Cleaning Maintenance

Dusting your walls regularly and spot-cleaning will keep them clean and looking good. Regularly clean high-traffic areas of walls like around switch plates and door frames. You can remove most scuffs and surface stains with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe chair rails and the wall area near them.

How to Clean Wood Walls

Textured walls like wood require a different approach for cleaning and maintenance. To deep clean and condition your wood walls, you can mix your own gentle wall cleaner with one cup of water, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup mineral oil, and about 15 drops of lemon oil. Mix your ingredients thoroughly and use a clean cloth to work the cleaner into the wood going with the grain.

For stubborn stains, use more pressure and a circular motion to lift more of the stain from the grain. There’s no need to rinse; just let the wood air dry. The cleaner described above will leave the wood with a warm shine and a pleasant lemon aroma. For spot-cleaning and regular cleaning maintenance, use a cloth dampened with lemon oil.

How to Wash Walls Made with Brick and Concrete

The wall cleaner you’ll use is safe, effective, and readily available—all you need is dish soap and salt. The dish soap cuts through grease and dirt while the salt acts as an abrasive to remove stains and grime. Combine one cup of dish soap and one cup of salt to mix a thick, gritty paste.

Cover nearby floors and furniture with a tarp or plastic sheeting to protect them from your cleaning solution and debris. Remove dirt and dust from the wall using your vacuum and the brush attachment. Use a soft-bristled brush to get into nooks and crannies, but avoid using a wire brush, as that could damage the finish or the mortar.

Because brick and other textured walls absorb liquids, use a spray bottle filled with water to saturate the wall. This step will keep the wall from absorbing your cleaning solution and let it do its job breaking down dirt and grime.

Work in sections that are about 3×3, moving from the top of the wall to the bottom.
Spread the paste onto a section with a clean cloth. Gently scrub the section using a brush with stiff nylon bristles. Allow the paste to work on the dirty wall for 10 minutes. Remove excess paste from the section with a wet, clean cloth. Once the remaining paste has dried, use a vacuum with a brush attachment to remove the rest of it.

Washing walls, especially ones that haven’t been cleaned in a while, isn’t the easiest housekeeping chore. But if you follow these safe and effective wall cleaning tips, you can make your walls look fresh and new again.

If you need help washing your walls, floors, or windows, or if you need a whole-house deep cleaning, The Maids is ready to get to work. Find a location near your neighborhood and get a free, customized estimate for all your cleaning needs.

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