How to Clean Painted Walls Without Damage

Evelyn Long

Dec 5, 2022

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Cleaning your walls seems like a straightforward task, but the paint complicates things. Improper cleaning might lead to faded marks or discolored patches. You need to be gentle and choose your cleaning products carefully. Follow these steps to learn how to clean painted walls without causing damage.

1. Gather Paint-Friendly Cleaning Supplies

House paints have a plethora of colors and chemical ingredients that might lead to different results during the cleaning process. Steer clear of anything ammonium-based, as it can eat right through the paint. Other abrasive cleaners can also create unsavory stains. It’s important that you gather paint-friendly cleaning supplies and other tools:

  • Dust brush
  • Clear liquid hand or dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Sponge
  • Microfiber towels
  • Two buckets
  • Step ladder
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Foam craft brush
  • Hydrogen peroxide

These supplies are mild enough to use on most paint surfaces. However, some matt paints are non washable, so make sure your specific brand is safe to wash. Look on the side of the paint bucket or check the brand’s website.

2. Safeguard the Floors

Before you begin, cover the floors with a canvas tarp or protective plastic sheet. You don’t want to stain your floors with cleaning products or cause water damage. Make sure the covering goes up to the edge of the wall and gives you enough room to maneuver. Keep an eye on the covering during the cleaning process to ensure it doesn’t move out of place.

3. Start With a Dusting

Start by removing the surface layer of dirt with the dust brush. This step is crucial because it prevents you from scrubbing the surface dirt into the paint. It will also make the upcoming steps easier because you won’t have to put as much elbow grease into the scrubbing. 

While we’re on the subject, you should dust your walls on a regular basis. Even a thin layer of dust can make the paint appear dull and faded. Maintaining a clean surface brings out the paint’s full coloring and keeps the room looking fresh. It also makes the environment more comfortable for people with allergies.

4. Apply the Cleaning Solution

Once the dust is gone, you can add your cleaning solution. Clear liquid soap and warm water are basic enough to cut through grime without staining the paint. The soap technically doesn’t have to be clear, but it’s a surefire way to make sure the solution doesn’t cause discoloration. If you want to know how to clean painted walls, you need to know your soaps.

Fill one of the buckets with the soap and water. Soak one of the cloths in the solution and wring it out. Test it out on a small spot in the least visible part of the room to be 100% sure it doesn’t ruin the paint. Once you determine the solution is safe, it’s time to start scrubbing.

5. Wash in a Circular Motion

Start scrubbing in gentle circular motions at the top of the wall and work your way downward. The cloth should leave behind minimal moisture – just enough to cut through debris. Too much moisture leads to paint bubbles and might wash out the color. You might have noticed by now that paint is extremely sensitive. Many things can damage it, so you need to be cautious from beginning to end.

6. Spot-Treat Stains With a Variety of Methods

You might think that tough wall mold and other stains require an abrasive cleaning solution, but that’s not the case. You have several organic options for spot-treating the most problematic areas:

  • Baking soda: mix ½ cup of baking soda with 1 cup of water until it achieves a paste-like texture. Apply the paste to the stain and scrub gently. Wipe it clean with a rag after a few minutes.

  • Vinegar: mix white vinegar with warm water and scrub out the stain with a sponge. Since vinegar is clear, you don’t have to rinse it off.

  • Hydrogen peroxide: add a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to your soap/water solution. Gently press it into the stain for five minutes, then wash over the spot again with just soap and water.

7. Rinse With a Damp Towel

Once you’ve gone over the whole wall, let the soap/water solution sit for a few minutes. Many people start the rinsing process too early before the solution can lift all of the debris. As a result, they just end up moving around the dirt instead of actually cleaning it. Once a few minutes have passed, remove the cleaning solution with a damp towel. The towel should only have a small amount of moisture, just as before.

8. Hand-Dry and Air-Dry

You can use air-drying and hand-drying methods to make this final step go faster. Open the nearest windows or turn on a fan to create some air circulation. Along with a light breeze, a quick once-over with a new towel should dry the walls in no time. Leave the windows open to let the soap, vinegar and other smells dissipate.

Take Each Step With Caution

Paint is one of the most fragile things in the house. Learning how to clean painted walls requires close attention to detail. Follow every step to completion before moving on to the next one. You only get one chance to successfully complete the project, so take your time and double-check everything. 


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