Project Guide

How to Clean Painted Walls

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Determine the Type of Paint
Samples of different colors of paint adhere to a surface.

Choose the best cleaning method based on the type of finish on the wall.


  • Flat, eggshell or stain finishes tend to be less durable and are more likely to rub off if scrubbed too hard or washed with too abrasive a cleaner. Avoid harsh chemicals and use a mix of mild detergent and water. 
  • Semigloss or glossy finishes, popular on kitchen walls, tend to be durable enough to stand up to degreasing cleaners but are also susceptible to scratches. 
  • Latex paint finishes can be cleaned with warm water mixed with a nonabrasive cleaner. 

Tip: Give newly-painted walls at least two weeks to fully dry before their first wash. 

Prepare the Room and Dust the Walls
A person wipes a baseboard with a cloth.
  • Remove any paintings, lamps and other objects hanging from the walls. 
  • Move furniture out of the way to give yourself plenty of room. 
  • Dust the walls by wiping with a tack cloth or cheese cloth. 

Tip: Place newspaper, drop cloth or towels on the floor against the baseboards to catch water that may drip from the walls during cleaning. 

Wash the Walls
A person washes a wall with a sponge while holding a bucket.

You may be able to adequately wash the wall using plain warm water. If the wall has stains or marks, use soapy water (especially if crayon-happy children live in the house) made with a mixture of water and a small amount of mild detergent. Wear kitchen gloves.

  • Fill a bucket with mild soapy water. Have a second bucket of clean water for rinsing. Thoroughly wring out a soft cleaning sponge
  • When using any kind of cleaning product on a painted wall, test it by applying a small amount to a remote part of the wall, such as behind a piece of furniture or wall art, to make sure it won’t streak or discolor the paint. 
  • Start at the wall’s top, left-hand side and gently wash the walls, applying the mildly damp sponge in a circular motion. 
  • When cleaning walls in large rooms or ones with particularly high walls, consider using a sponge mop with a long handle. 
  • Avoid colored soaps or dyed sponges, which can cause stains. 

Tip: Consider washing walls on a warm, dry day so you can open the windows afterwards, which will help the excess water to dry faster. 

Stains and Spot Cleaning
A person wearing gloves uses an erasing pad to clean a crayon drawing from a wall.

The sooner you address a scratch, spot or wall discoloration, the easier it will be to remove. 

  • First, gently dab a stain with a damp rag or non-abrasive sponge, as it may come off without the need of soap or a cleaner. 
  • If that doesn’t work, dip a damp cloth in dry baking soda or a solution of baking soda and water, then gently scrub the mark. 
  • Use a stronger chemical cleaner if needed, but only after testing. 
  • On completion, wipe the area with a cloth or sponge to remove any cleaner residue. 
Touch Up with Paint if Needed
A person uses a small paintbrush to touch up a wall.

If the wall has stubborn stains or marks that can’t be removed by cleaning, you may need to conceal it with touch-up paint. 

  • If possible, use paint from the original can that painted the walls, and the same means of application: a small brush if it was brushed on, a roller if it was rolled on, etc. If you need to buy more paint, make sure you purchase the same color and the same sheen. 
  • Gently roll or feather the area with a small amount of touch-up paint and let dry. 

Remember how to clean painted walls when planning a new paint job, as it’s good to give the walls a good cleaning before applying a new coat. Whenever you clean painted walls, feel free to take it easy, as in most cases a mild soap and gentle washing will be enough to get the job done.