Cleaning Tips for Your Painted Walls

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Your home’s walls often get dirty especially at kid and dog-level. Fingerprints, stains, dirt, grime and dust are just a few factors that can make painted walls look unsightly. Cleaning your walls regularly is the key to keeping your house looking sparkly and your painted walls looking refreshing. However how to clean walls depend on what type of paint you’ve used to coat them. Semi-gloss and glossy enamel paints tend to stand up best to washing; flat, satin and eggshell finishes, on the other hand, may fade or rub off with overly abrasive cleaning.

Cleaning your painted walls may seem daunting, but surprisingly cleaning up a painted wall is easier than many people thing, if somewhat time consuming.

Here’s how to clean painted walls without damaging them

  • Before we begin our washing of painted wall, no matter what type of paint coated, you need to dust them. Use brush attachment on your vacuum, run over all the surfaces (walls and ceilings) to remove loose dust and dirt.
  • Protect your floors by laying drop cloth or plastic to prevent damage from excess water or spills.

Cleaning walls depends primarily on whether the paint is oil-based or latex.

Wall painted with latex paints

Begin with making a solution of dish detergent (3 or 4 drops) in a half-filled bucket of water. Or you can also use 2 or 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar to a gallon of water.

Use undyed sponge or lint free wash cloth to scrub your walls. Wet a clean sponge in the mixture and wring it dry. This way you can prevent dripping water messing your walls. Rub the wall gently in circular motion to dry off the dirt. Rinse the sponge and repeat. Be sure to change the dirty water so you aren’t making the walls dirtier! Rinse the walls with clean water about 5 minutes after the solution has been applied.

Stay away from using colored soaps or dyed sponges so as not to stain your walls. Stay away from degreaser or any other harsh chemical cleaners on latex painted walls.

For stubborn spots, such as fingerprints, or scuffs, make your own spot cleanser with baking soda and water. Add ½ cup baking soda to a gallon of warm water.  Rub the area with non-abrasive pad or spray the mixture onto a soft towel and wipe over the stains and spots. Then rinse the area with clean water and wipe it dry with a separate towel.

You’ll have to repaint if above solutions don’t remove the stains and dirt.

Walls painted with oil-based paints

Oil-based paints are harder so you can use mild degreaser in addition to white vinegar/ detergent and water solution to clean walls, especially kitchen walls. Like with latex painted walls, stay away from scrubby sponge, Teflon pad or harsh chemicals to clean walls or you will leave permanent streak marks, every place you wipe.

Wring the sponge till it’s slightly damp. Rub gently in circular motion to wipe off dirt and rinse the walls, just like with latex painted walls.

To clean your oil painted walls, use the following solution to make homemade wall –washing soap.

  • Mix a cup of borax and 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in a gallon of warm water.
  • Mix a cup of ammonia and 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid in a gallon of warm water.

Cleaning flat painted walls

Flat painted walls are harder to clean than semi-gloss or enamel painted walls. Its porous texture clings to dirt, making your job a real headache. And if you ignore the stains, they just get worse and worse. Here are some methods to clean flat painted walls. Start with gentlest solution and move up a notch until you find the one that works.

  • Start with clean, soft rag soaked in warm water. If this doesn’t clean up smudges, move up a notch.
  • Next step, use melamine-foam-based product, like Magic Eraser, on your stains. Your dark walls may have white residue so blot the area gently with absorbent white towel.
  • If this doesn’t work, use a foam cleanser, but test it on an out-of-sight area first to see if your wall can handle it.
  • Moving up a notch in strength, try a solution of 1 tablespoon of laundry soap mixed with a gallon of warm water. Test in an inconspicuous area before washing.
  • Try a mixture of 1 cup of ammonia, 1/2 cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup of baking soda with one gallon of warm water, and use a soft sponge.

If none of these solutions work, you may need to repaint your wall.


  • Turn off electricity before cleaning electrical outlets, light switches and telephone connections. Wring the sponge dry when cleaning around electrical outlets.
  • Test any chemical cleaning product or solution in an inconspicuous area of the wall before cleaning stain off to make sure cleanser won’t remove paint work. Make sure to read the directions first and apply carefully.
  • Never wash with trisodium phosphate (TSP) except when you are about to repaint; it dulls the finish.
  • Avoid using products that contain alcohol because this compound can break down paint, leaving marks on your walls.

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