How To Clean Your Walls And Why You Should Do It Now

We're taking spring cleaning to new heights.

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If you've forgotten to clean your walls, it's unlikely there's much evidence to give you away. In fact, the average houseguest won't notice if you haven't cleaned your walls unless they're covered from floor to ceiling with chocolate-smudged fingerprints. Cleaning the walls is not typically a top priority on people's spring cleaning lists—unless you have white walls.

Everyone cautioned me that white walls with children were a no-go, but with each warning, my resolve grew. The thing is, I like my dirt, grime, and whatever else right where I can see it. How else would I be able to wipe off the fingerprints and filth as soon as it appears?

If you want to take a walk on the wild side, come along with me on a wall-washing journey. Here's how to ensure your walls are sparkling—even when hidden by a layer of forgiving beige paint and an eggshell finish.

White and Blue Living Room
Laurey W. Glenn

What You'll Need

  • Soft rag
  • Optional: vacuum
  • Dropcloth
  • Dry duster
  • Multi-surface cleaner like Pine-Sol
  • Water
  • Sponge
  • Cloth
  • Optional: vacuum

Materials for walls with flat paint:

  • Mild detergent
  • Soft brush or sponge

Materials for walls with glossy paint:

  • Degreaser cleaning solution

Materials for walls with latex paint:

  • Mild dish soap or distilled white vinegar
Vinegar with Cleaning Supplies
Getty Images

How To Prepare Your Walls

First, prepare your walls by removing excess dust and possible stuck-on food or objects accumulated over the years. Use your soft rag or even your vacuum attachment to clean the dust.

Preparation provides a good opportunity to protect your cleaning area's surroundings by placing your dropcloth on the floor or sensitive furnishings to absorb any water.

Living room

ALISON GOOTEE; Styling by Dakota Willimon

How To Clean Walls

  1. Wipe down walls with your dry duster.
  2. Dilute a your multi-surface cleaner in a gallon of water. Consult the product instructions for the best cleaner-to-water ratio.
  3. Use your sponge, dampened (not soaking) with the solution to wipe down walls, using your dry cloth to wipe down clean areas as you go.
  4. Start at the top of the wall, and work your way down, gently moving your sponge in a circular motion to grab as much residue as possible.
  5. For stubborn stains, apply your cleaning product directly to the sponge (do not dilute) before gently rubbing on the smudge or mark. Be careful using this method because you don't want to remove the paint along with your smudge.
  6. Wipe down doors, moldings, and baseboards using the same process as above.
  7. Another crucial component to cleaning your walls is allowing time for them to dry. Remove water as soon as you wipe your walls, but avoid touching them until completely dry.

Specific paint types require slightly different care instructions. Here are suggestions for washing walls with flat, glossy, and latex paints.

Budget-Savvy Solution: Repurposed Paneling
Photo: Helen Norman

How To Clean Walls With Flat Paint

You'll want to quickly get spots, smudges, and dirt off walls with flat paint. Otherwise, stains can set in. Flat paint and eggshell or satin finishes need a gentler hand than other glossier finishes, so don't be too aggressive with your scrubbing. Add water to your cleaning solution to dilute the chemicals on walls painted with these types of finishes. Also, use a mild detergent and a soft brush or sponge so that you don't accidentally remove the paint along with the mess. One final word to the wise, test a small area first to see how your walls react to the cleaning solution.

How To Clean Walls With Glossy Paint

According to cleaning experts The Maids, glossy and semigloss finishes are less difficult to clean but are still susceptible to scratches. A degreaser cleaning solution can clean walls with these paints, typically in kitchens and bathrooms, and should not damage the surface. Still, scrub carefully to prevent damage.

How To Clean Walls With Latex Paint

Mild dish soap or distilled white vinegar combined with warm water can clean latex paint. Additional chemical cleansers are typically not required. Latex paints are water-based, so use a damp sponge and scrub gently.

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