House Looking a Little Dusty? Here's Your Complete Guide to Cleaning Your Walls

how to clean walls - bright white walls in open hallway

Jenn Pablo Studio

While sweeping floors and wiping down kitchen counters might dominate your regular cleaning checklist, there's one major spot you might be missing—your walls. Over time, dust, stains, and marks can build up on the surface of the paint, making your walls look dull and less than ideal. A large amount of dust on the walls can also increase the allergens in your home, but a quick cleaning will also ensure your ceiling fans aren't picking up excess debris to spread around your rooms.

Thankfully, all it takes is a few simple steps to refresh your walls for that sleek, clean look. So instead of pulling out a can of paint for a fresh coat, add regular wall washes to your cleaning schedule to keep your space dust-free. We asked cleaning experts Ryan Daniel Santos, Kadi Dulude, and Jessica Ek to share their best tips to get started.

Meet the Expert

  • Ryan Daniel Santos is the Operations Manager at the home cleaning service Spekless.
  • Kadi Dulude is the founder of New York City-based home cleaning service Wizard of Homes.
  • Jessica Ek is the Director of Digital Communications at the American Cleaning Institute.

Below, read on to learn how to clean your walls for an orderly, spotless home.

How Often Should You Clean Your Walls?

how to clean walls - stairs with light green walls

Desiree Burns Interiors

At minimum, plan to clean your walls at least once per year, or more often depending on your household. “It really depends on the home’s location, how much the windows are kept open, and who lives in the house,” Dulude says. If your windows are open often or you live in a high-traffic home with pets, kids, or roommates, you may need to clean your walls more frequently.

For homes in areas with a high amount of pollen each spring or excess dust, it's best to clean the walls every six months. Schedule your first wall cleaning after the spring's pollen season has ended and plan the second cleaning six months later on your calendar. If you or another member of your household is especially susceptible to allergens, you can clean your walls three times per year to help the air in your home stay fresh.

Things You'll Need

  • Towels, newspaper, or drop cloth
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Washcloth or soft sponge 
  • Two gallon-sized buckets
  • Water
  • Liquid soap
  • Magic Eraser (optional)
  • Ammonia (optional)
how to keep walls clean - white walls in modern living room

Design: Denham Interior Design; Photo: Amy Bartlam

Step 1: Prep the Room and Supplies 

First, clear out your space. Remove any wall art, lamps, or objects, then move your furniture out of the way. Next, lay out towels, newspaper, or a drop cloth on the floor by the base of the wall to catch any excess water or dust that may fall while you clean. 

Prepare two buckets of water: one with a cleaning solution and another with warm water to rinse your cloth or sponge between uses. According to Santos, you can mix a quarter-teaspoon of liquid soap with a gallon of warm water to make a simple cleaning solution or use a non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner.

Step 2: Determine Your Wall Paint Type

For cleaning painted walls, you need to know what type of paint you’re working with. Semigloss and glossy paint finishes tend to be more durable and may handle tougher cleaners better.

Flat, eggshell, and satin paint finishes aren’t as durable, so opt for a gentler clean with only water or a mix of water and soap to keep your paint intact. To avoid stripping paint, try not to scrub the walls too hard and use a soft sponge or microfiber towel.

If you have wallpaper, check your wallpaper’s specific cleaning instructions if you have access to them. Otherwise, you can dry-dust your walls or use wallpaper cleaner, according to the experts.

Step 3: Dust the Surfaces

Next, dry-dust each wall from the top to the bottom. Dulude recommends using either a microfiber cloth or dust mop like a Swiffer Sweeper to help you reach those high-up places. And don’t forget the corners: Dust is likely to collect at the intersections of walls between cleanings. 

Step 4: Spot Clean the Wall

After dusting, turn your attention to any stains, discolorations, or scuff marks. Both Dulude and Santos recommend using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for spot removal. “Just be careful and test it first,” Dulude says. “It takes some paint brands off or dulls the cleaned spot very easily.”

For more stubborn stains, you can use a combination of two cups of ammonia and one gallon of water, according to Santos. Make sure the space is well-ventilated and be sure to do a spot test before cleaning any spaces in your home (walls or otherwise) with ammonia.

Step 5: Wash With Water or a Cleaning Solution

Once you’ve dusted and spot cleaned, it’s time to thoroughly wash your walls. Gather a damp washcloth or sponge, a bucket of clean water, and a bucket of cleaning solution. Whether you’re using only water, an at-home mix, or an all-purpose cleaner, start with a spot test to see how your walls respond to the solution. 

“We’ve had instances where wall washing actually makes them look worse than before, or it takes so long that just dry-dusting and then painting would have made more sense,” Dulude says. After the spot test, begin cleaning your walls at the baseboards.

“Start at the bottom of a wall and work up to the ceiling, overlapping areas as you clean and using a circular motion,” says Ek. “In this way, any dirty streaks can be wiped off the clean areas and will not leave marks that are hard to remove.”

Swap out your clean water bucket frequently as you rinse throughout washing—this helps prevent leaving streaks from dirty water on freshly cleaned walls.

Step 6: Dry Walls with a Cloth

Wipe down your walls with a clean microfiber cloth to dry them. If the weather permits, you can open up your windows to let the walls air dry. It's also helpful to turn on your ceiling fans or place fans on the floor of your room—just be sure you've cleaned the ceiling fan blades and vacuumed the floors first to prevent fans from blowing dust onto wet walls.

Tips for Keeping Walls Clean Longer

how to clean walls - bathroom with blue botanical wallpaper

Desiree Burns Interiors

There’s no quick fix for wall cleaning, Dulude notes, since deep cleans can be time-consuming. To keep your walls looking fresh between annual or bi-annual scrubs, plan to spot-clean and dust your walls every few months to maintain clean surfaces. It's also helpful to vacuum and clean your ceiling fans regularly to prevent the buildup of dust on walls in rooms with high traffic.

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