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How to Clean Drywall (Stains, Mold etc.)

A collage of different ways of cleaning a drywall.

There are many reasons to clean drywall, from coffee stains, to palm prints, and sometimes dust accumulation. While we often clean our floors, our walls go un-touched: here is a guide to help you keep your drywall sparkling, while not damaging it.

Drywall is the last piece to go on your structure before painting, or putting up wallpaper. It’s what creates the smooth finish on your walls, and was invented in 1916.

The United States Gypsum Corporation, a company that vertically integrated 30 different gypsum and plaster manufacturing companies 14 years prior, created it to protect homes from urban fires, and marketed it as the poor man’s answer to plaster walls.

There is a lot behind drywalls that you don’t want exposure to on a daily basis, not as much anymore, but at a certain point asbestos was hidden back there. It is no longer a solution, but the predominant way of finishing walls, especially in residential buildings.

Drywall is a panel made of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with or without additives, typically extruded between thick sheets of facer and backer paper, used in the construction of interior walls and ceilings. An entire house can be drywalled in one or two days by two experienced drywallers, and drywall is easy enough to be installed by many amateur home carpenters.

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It’s quick and easy to install, incredibly durable, and requires only simple repairs when damaged. In the commercial building world, drywall is used to wrap columns to conceal steel beams: an easy way to top off any masonry work. Drywall is also used to add fire-resistance into walls and ceilings: so it can also be a life-saver.

Related To: Drywall Accessories | Can You Paint Drywall? | How Can I Keep Bubbles Out of My Drywall Mud? | Can Drywall Be Recycled? | Should You Prime Drywall Before Painting? | Types of Drywall Texture | Can Mice Chew Through Drywall?

Reasons to Clean Drywall

We’ll walk you through each possible reason to clean drywall, and accordingly what type of approach you should take, including the materials you’ll need.

1. How to get stains out of drywall

Dirty Drywall

Especially on drywall that is painted white, any scuffs, splatters, or stains will really show. Eventually, it can really degrade the quality of your spaces, making them look older and much dirtier than they could.

It’s usually better to address these marks as soon as they happen, as they’ll wipe away a lot easier, but you can definitely also take on the project of wiping away long-existing stains. If you have kids, splattering of food are probably inevitable. We’ll explain the right way to get these gone for good!

Quick n’ Dirty Method

Use a stain sealing paint such as:

Zinnser 03688 Covers Up Stain Sealing Ceiling Paint, White

Materials Needed

  1. Bucket
  2. Spray Bottle of Cleaner/Stain remover
  3. Sponge
  4. Step Ladder
  5. Microfibre cloth
  6. Gloves


  1. Use a dry cloth to just dust the area before cleaning it. This approach can be more of a spot treatment than the other approaches, so you can focus on the area that has the marks.
  2. Either using a dish-soap, vinegar and water solution, or cleaning spray, apply the sponge to the affected area, rubbing it in circular motions until the stain is gone. You can apply force if need be, and if the rubbing is not having an effect, spraying a solution on the spot and letting it sit can be an effective solution. Leave the solution on for 20 min- 1 hour, then return and use the sponge to wipe it away.
  3. If in an unlikely scenario, where an errant piece of spaghetti went flying from someone’s plate, the stain is high up on the wall, use the step ladder, or another stable surface(like a sturdy chair) to reach the height. You want something steady enough that you can not only stand on it, but apply force while you do the job.
  4. Once the stain is gone, use a dry cloth to wipe away any excess liquid.

2. How to clean drywall before painting

Man cleaning drywall

If you have unpainted drywall, you are also going to want to clean it. This step is extremely important, as it ensures the paint will go on smoothly, and nothing gets caught underneath. Sometimes there is invisible residue on the wall, so even if the wall doesn’t look too dirty, it’s worth cleaning it before painting.

Materials Needed

  1. Bucket
  2. White Vinegar
  3. Cellulose sponge
  4. step ladder
  5. microfibre cloth – clean!
  6. Gloves


  1. Put on your gloves! Mix together a cup of white vinegar with a gallon of water. Use a bucket, or a bowl if you don’y have a bucket on hand.  Stir to combine. This solution is all natural, and a really effective cleaning solution.
  2. Dip a cellulose sponge into the vinegar solution and wring it out well. Cellulose sponges won’t tear on the drywall and will not ooze water onto the drywall, which can be a problem as drywall absorbs moisture rapidly. Therefore, be sure not to have excessive water in the sponge when you use it – it should be more damp than wet.
  3. Now you can begin wiping over the walls with the damp sponge, using a step ladder to get to the higher parts of the wall. Work from the top of the walls down, so you wash off drips as you go down.
  4. Once you’ve gone over the entire area you want to paint, wipe over the wall with a clean, dry lint-free cloth.

3. How to clean drywall after sanding

Man polishing drywall

This type of cleaning requires a little more attention, because the remnants of drywall sanding can be hazardous. Drywall sanding releases particulate dust from the joint compound into the air. According to the Centers for Disease Control, some joint compounds contain silica.

Inhaling silica can cause silicosis or lung cancer, obviously not in very small amounts, but it’s something you want to be cautious around.  You should not inhale drywall dust in general anyway; it can cause breathing problems and aggravate pre-existing asthma.

Avoid breathing joint compound dust during removal by wearing a particle face mask covering the nose and mouth. Then, get started cleaning to ensure all the remaining dust is gone.

Materials Needed

  1.  Air compressor or shop vacuum.
  2.  Clean, Dry Cloth.
  3. Bucket
  4. Sponge
  5. Dry cloth


  1. Vacuum or Blow Off Dust. Start by blowing off the bulk of the sawdust and sanding residue t using an air compressor fitted with a blower nozzle. Even better is vacuuming every surface and crevice of your project with a shop vacuum fitted with a filter designed to trap the microscopic dust.
  2. Using water is the best way to clean drywall dust because the dust absorbs the water and becomes too heavy to float through the air.  Wipe down the walls with a damp cloth or sponge.
  3. Once done, use the shop vacuum, or just your regular vacuum to go over once more. This should take care of any extra liquid as well. Now your drywall should be ready to paint !

4. How to remove mold from drywall

Mold on drywall

If you have mold on your drywall, it’s definitely something you want to take care of as quickly as possible. Mold can be a health hazard, especially long term, and can indicate a larger problem of water damage in your house. While you want to fix the immediate problem, this is definitely an issue to investigate and have professionally dealt with.

If the drywall has been compromised, is crumbling or bowed out and covered with black or bluish splotches, it will need to be replaced. If the wall is structurally sound but still covered with mold, you should be able to remove the spots with a cleaner and a bit of scrubbing.

First, to clean the mold from your wall,  you need to control moisture and kill the mold. In the longterm, you can buy a dehumidifier and put it in your basement to control the moisture levels in your structure.

Find out how to remove drywall here.

Quick n’ dirty method

Get a mold-killing primer and paint over it.  Check it out:

Rust-Oleum 276087 Mold Killing Primer Quart White 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)

Materials Needed

  1. Bleach
  2. Bucket
  3. Rubber gloves
  4. Sponge
  5. Dry Cloth
  6. Safety mask


  1. Prepare the area. Because you’ll be using bleach or commercial mold-killing chemicals to remove the mold, you’ll need to protect surrounding surfaces, such as flooring, from any kind of spills that might cause damage. You also want to protect yourself with gloves and a mask. Cover the floor with plastic drop cloths and tape them into place with painter’s tape so they don’t move around. It doesn’t hurt to keep some old towels handy to catch any spills.
  2. Use the bleach/water solution: one part bleach to three parts water, and then apply it to a sponge or cloth.  There are also a number of commercial solutions available at your local True Value hardware store, these do tend to be pretty toxic as well.
  3. When you’ve finished cleaning away the splotches of mold, there still may be stains left on wall surfaces. Wipe down the wall with a moist sponge to clear any dust or particles, then prime the wall with a sealer, and the apply a top coat.
  4.  Stay vigilant and look for potential signs of mold by keeping in mind where and how it can grow.

Drywall is most likely the material that makes up most of the walls in your home. Like every surface, it will acquire dust and dirt over time. There are some forms of dirt that you may not notice for a while until they get really bad, so if you want to keep your home looking ship-shape, you should invest in cleaning your walls regularly.

You will eliminate a lot of dust in your home, a plus for anyone with allergies, and it will look sharp and new.

As a regular cleaning regimen, I recommend just using a damp cloth and wiping down the surface, especially in areas like the kitchen, mudroom, or bathroom. Otherwise, these guide to cleaning your drywall should leave you prepared for whatever is thrown at you: be it mud or mold.

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