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How to properly wash your walls so they get clean but not damaged

Wall cleaning is a chore often neglected. Our walls take up a massive amount of space in our homes and can be a daunting task to try and complete. Also, you can even damage your walls if you don’t know what proper cleaning steps to take for your type of paint. But worry not! Keep reading to find out how to clean your walls properly so they get clean without any damage. 

Hand wearing yellow rubber glove cleaning white wall with a yellow sponge

What you will need to wash your walls

1. Long-handled duster or broom:

To easily remove dust, debris, and cobwebs from your walls, use a long-handled duster, a clean dry broom or mop, or a vacuum with a nozzle attachment to get into the wall corners. If you don’t have any of these are your disposal, you can use a dry clean, and soft cloth, like a microfiber or cotton cloth, or a soft sponge to remove dust. 

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2. Soft cloth or soft sponge

You’ll want to make sure you’re not using an abrasive sponge or cloth when cleaning your walls as they can leave scratches behind and even peel paint. Use a soft sponge, a soft cloth like a microfiber towel, or a soft cotton cloth when cleaning your walls. 

3. Mild dish soap

Washing your walls is as easy as doing the dishes. Simply mix a small amount of mild dish soap with water in a large bucket or bowl and dampen your sponge or cloth in it. You will just need a few drops of soap so you can save the rest for your other cleaning jobs.

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4. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

While this ingredient is completely necessary, a magic eraser is a great tool for removing oily fingerprints, dirt, and difficult stains from your walls. If you don’t have one on hand, you can simply do a few extra passes of the stain with your cloth or sponge with warm soapy water. 

How to properly wash your walls without damaging them 

Maid dusting a old sconce with blue feather duster
Dust wall features, and remove picture frames

Start by dusting your wall features. This could include built-in shelving, picture frames, sconces, light switches, etc. Once you’ve dusted these areas, remove any paintings or picture frames so you can easily clean behind them. Once your cleaning is done you can re-hang them knowing they’ll look even better up against your new clean canvas. 

Dusting your walls

Now that your walls are free of any obstacles you can more easily dry dust your entire wall. Use a long-handled duster, or a clean broom to wipe away any dust or cobwebs from the wall. Be careful not to rub the hard plastic of the broom or duster against the wall as this can scratch the paint. Pay close attention to the corners of the walls, and moldings, as dust dirt, and cobwebs can collect here. You can also use a vacuum attachment to get into hard-to-reach corners and suck up any dust and cobwebs. 

Determine what cleaning products you will need

Before you start cleaning your walls you’ll first need to determine what kind of paint is on your walls. Your walls will be painted with either latex or oil-based paint, and following improper cleaning instructions could damage the paint. You can check your paint can if you still have it, or conduct a spot test by following these steps:

  1. Gather a cotton ball or cotton swab and acetone, rubbing alcohol, or nail polish remover. 
  2. Find a space on your wall that is not easily visible, like behind a painting, or behind a piece of furniture that sits on the wall. Rub the acetone-soaked cotton ball or swab on a small patch of the wall. Use some elbow grease and really rub. 
  3. If your cotton ball or swab has paint residue on it from the wall, your paint is latex-based. If there is no color on the cotton, your paint is oil-based. [1]

How to clean walls with latex paint

You can use a mixture of water and all-purpose cleaner or mild dish soap to wash latex-painted walls. Using just a small amount of mild soap, and warm water in a bucket, soak a soft non-abrasive cloth, like a microfiber cloth, or a soft sponge. Always do a spot test in a hard-to-see area. Try a spot test behind where a painting or picture hangs, or in an area that is covered by furniture. If your walls have a matte finish, try just plain warm water first, and if that doesn’t do the trick you can slowly add a mild soap[1]. 

Use your soapy warm water and a soft sponge or non-abrasive cloth to gently wipe away any dirt and stains from your walls. Keep your sponge or cloth damp rather than soaking wet to avoid damaging the paint with too much water. Start from the top of your wall, slowly working your way down. This will make sure that you’re not doing any unnecessary extra work to clean up drips of dirty water that drip down to the lower walls as you’re cleaning

Hand wearing yellow rubber glove cleaning crayon from white wall with a magic eraser

How to clean walls with oil paint

Dust wall features, and remove picture frames

Just like you would with latex paint, start by dusting your wall features, including built-in shelving, picture frames, paintings, sconces, light switches, etc. Remove pictures and artwork from the wall to clean behind them and ensure you don’t damage them while cleaning your walls. 

Dusting your walls

Again like with latex paint, you will make the cleaning process easier by first dusting the walls. Use a long-handled duster, and a clean broom to wipe away dust and debris from the walls. Use a vacuum or duster to clear any spiderwebs or dust from your wall corners. 

How to clean walls with oil paint

Cleaning oil-based painted walls are practically the same as latex, but you can use a stronger cleaning solution. Mix the same solution with a small amount of gentle dish soap and warm water. Since oil paint is more difficult to strip, you can also use a stronger solution of warm water and vinegar. If your paint job is matte use plain water, or heavily diluted soapy water, even if your paint is oil-based. 

Always do a spot test in a hard-to-see place before you start cleaning the rest of the wall. Clean your wall from top to bottom with a soft cloth or soft sponge dampened by your cleaning solution. 

Removing tough stains from walls 

If your warm soapy water mixture isn’t removing the tough stains, you can bring in the big guns. A great solution for removing difficult stains is a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Simply damp the eraser with a splash of water and squeeze to get rid of any excess. Firmly wipe the stain a few times to remove any difficult grime or staining. 

Mans hand cleaning white baseboard with yellow cloth

Cleaning your baseboards

Your baseboards are the area of your walls that collects the most dust. It’s in a unique position where dust from the floor and dust in the air can both settle on it. Every time you sweep, do a quick sweep over your baseboard to remove any dust and dirt. When you’re cleaning your walls, save the baseboard for last. Use your soapy mixture and soft cloth or sponge to wipe down your wall trim and baseboards to finish the job. 

How to keep your walls clean longer

Cleaning your walls can be a monumental task. Luckily there are a few cleaning steps you can incorporate into your regular to-do list that can lengthen the amount of time between deep wall cleanings. 

  1. Dust often: Though your walls might not look dirty, they definitely collect a lot of dust. In combination with spider webs, this can make your home look and feel dirty. Dusting your walls often will keep dust at bay, and help keep your walls fresh between deep cleans. 
  2. Avoid touching walls, and keep furniture off of walls: The natural oils from our fingers can leave oily smudges on the walls. These oily spots look dark and dirty when they collect dust, not to mention if there is food on your hands. Your furniture when propped up against your walls can also rub away the paint. 
  3. Clean up messes as they happen: Dirty fingers and food spills can leave stains on your walls. If these messes are left to dry they can become harder to clean. If you scrub your walls too hard to remove the stains you could damage your paint job. Keep your paint job in its best condition by cleaning up messes as they happen. Use a damp rag or a magic eraser to gently rub away messes before they can leave a stain. 


Article Sources:

  1. Home Made Simple. “How To Clean Walls With Paint Or Wallpaper In 5 Easy Steps