This Is How to Clean Painted Walls, According to Pros

green accent wall

Mocha Girl Place

Never underestimate the power of a fresh coat of paint. Whether you choose a pretty pastel or a dark, moody hue, the color on your walls can set the tone for your entire space. While we spend a lot of time thinking about how to choose the right shade, the truth is that we rarely talk about how to keep your walls looking as fresh as they did when they first dried.

Regardless of how well you maintain your home, scuffs, oil splashes, and soot from your candles are bound to leave a mark on your walls. And, unless you clean them on a regular basis, your once-beautiful walls will look unkempt and sloppy. To make matters even more complicated, using the wrong cleaning supplies on your paint can leave your walls look streaky or, even worse, faded. That's why we asked cleaning and paint experts, Rob Green, Abe Navas, and Kait Schulhof to share their tips and tricks.

Meet the Expert

  • Rob Green is the co-founder of COAT Paints, a direct-to-consumer, high-grade paint company.
  • Abe Navas is the general manager of Dallas-based cleaning company, Emily's Maids.
  • Kait Schulhof is the founder of the natural cleaning blog, A Clean Bee.

Want to know how to clean painted walls, once and for all? We're breaking down everything you need to know.

accent painted wall

Maite Granda

The Basics of Cleaning Painted Walls

Contrary to popular belief, cleaning your painted walls isn't a one-tactic-fits-all situation. There are many factors that go into how your walls need to be cleaned. First and foremost, it's important to consider the quality of your paint. Unlike cheaper options, which can have their coating rubbed off if you scrub too hard, COAT Paints co-founder Rob Green says higher-quality options are more durable.

"Paints should achieve ISO Class 1 for scrub testing, which allows you to be much more thorough in your cleaning without the worry of taking paint off," he shares.

Green adds that when it comes to paint finish, those with a subtle sheen are typically more durable and moisture-resistant than their matte counterparts. So, if you're thinking about giving your room a fresh, easy-to-clean coat, opt for a glossy finish.

Another thing to consider when cleaning your walls? How your paint is formulated in the first place.

"There are two types of paint: One is oil-based and the other one is not," says Abe Navas, the general manager of a Dallas-based cleaning service called Emily's Maids. "Oil-based paints are a little bit easier to clean, but a pain to maintain. Water paints are cleaned but at the cost of the paint itself."

Oil-based paints are a little bit easier to clean, but a pain to maintain. Water paints are cleaned but at the cost of the paint itself.

Fortunately, you don't have to look far to figure out your paint's finish or formula. A quick search — or chat with your favorite paint company's customer service team — will give you all the answers you need. That way, you can get down to cleaning.

green living room with sunlight

Sarah Fultz Interiors

How to Clean Painted Walls, Based on Paint Formula

Want to know how to clean painted walls with an oil-based formula? Navas recommends filling a bucket with water and adding a small amount of soap or detergent. Simply clean the affected area with a sponge, give it a good rub, and rinse with some more water. Depending on how dirty your walls are, you might need to repeat a few times. Oil-based paint might be durable, but Navas says you should never use a solvent like alcohol or acetone.

"It will ruin your wall and you will need to give it a new coat," he explains. "Oil paint hates to be given new coats."

If you paint isn't oil-based, it's likely considered a water-based (a.k.a. latex-based) option. So, where does that leave you? While you can gently apply warm water to your walls with a brush, it can wreak havoc on the paint itself.

"The best thing you can do is to give a new coat," Navas recommends. "The next time you are purchasing paint, buy an extra bucket, use it to give new coats when necessary."

How to Clean Painted Walls, Based on Paint Finish

Your paint's finish can play a major role in how it should be cleaned. But don't worry: Taking care of an option of option with an eggshell, velvet, semi-gloss, or glossy finish is fairly easy.

"In 90 percent of cases, you can clean wall scuffs and marks with a little soap, water, and a cleaning towel," explains Kait Schulhof, who runs a cleaning-centric website called A Clean Bee. "Dilute a teaspoon of dish soap with one to two cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray it on your cleaning cloth and scrub away whatever marks you're trying to remove."

Are your walls overdue for a deep, thorough cleaning? Schulhof recommends adding some baking soda to the mix for an extra oomph.

Since matte paint is more difficult to clean, you might need to call in some reinforcements. Don't worry, you can easily pick up Schulhof's secret weapon at your corner store.

"A Magic Eraser is a popular, effective tool for erasing scuffs from walls painted in a matte finish," she says. "With that said, use very gently and with caution as these can also wear away the paint if you are too rough!"

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