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Project Guide

How to Remove Stains from Walls and Ceilings

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Clean Stains with Detergent
Person cleans a window sill.

One way to clean stains is with warm water and a mild detergent or soap mixture. Simply mix the ingredients together, apply them to a rag, sponge or even paper towel, and rub at the stain. Make sure to rub firmly but not enough to damage your paint. For stubborn stains, we recommend using a rag or soft sponge. If the stain persists, try rubbing at it again once dry. If it still remains, try other methods of removal.

Cover Difficult Stains with Primer
Person covering a stain with primer.
  • For stains you are unable to remove, a pigmented primer may be necessary. Multipurpose water-based primers have stain blockers to help cover light imperfections. These are especially useful to cover water stains.
  • For darker stains, a shellac-based primer may be necessary to cover the stain and stop it from bleeding through your topcoat. 
  • Once dry, paint over the area with your paint of choice.
Use Cleaning Erasers
Person cleaning a stain with a cleaning eraser.

When soap and water can't do the trick, try a cleaning eraser. Simply apply water to the cleaning eraser and rub it over the stain or stains. There's a reason these erasers are sometimes referred to as magic erasers, as they can take difficult stains and remove them with ease. Before long, the stain should be gone. However, if the eraser is unable to remove the stain, look into other methods of cleaning the stains.

Tip: Before using the eraser, refer to the instructions on the package. Make sure the eraser will not damage your paint or wood.

Use Wall Cleaners
A basket filled with cleaning supplies.

Sometimes, the only way to remove difficult stains is by using all-purpose cleaners. These sorts of cleaners can be found in any store, and are specifically made for the removal of hard-to-remove stains, such as permanent marker, grease stains and general grime. Simply get a rag or soft sponge, apply the cleaner to the surface of the rag or sponge and then wipe liberally. Refer to the instructions on the sprayer or bottle as well to make sure you're using the correct amount on the correct surface.

Tip: Scrub your wall or ceiling as directed by what type of cleaning method you're using. If you're using a detergent or soap and water, scrub firmly but not too rough, so as to not peel the paint.

If you're looking for more ways to remove stains from walls and ceilings, The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them. You can also rent a ladder for those hard to reach stains from your local Home Depot.