If your painted walls are losing some of their luster, instead of adding a fresh coat of paint, try giving them a thorough cleaning. Deep cleaning your walls about once a year can significantly brighten up a room. Just take care to clean the walls enough to improve their appearance, but not so much to streak or damage the paint.
When learning how to clean painted walls, the key is matching the kind of paint that’s been used to the right cleaning method, whether washing an entire wall or spot-cleaning a conspicuous stain or scuff mark.
Determine the Type of Paint
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
- 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
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
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
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.