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

Bright and airy living room.

Burchard Design Co.

Of all the things on your regular cleaning checklist—from sweeping floors to wiping down kitchen counters—there’s one major spot you may have missed: your walls. Over time, dust, stains, and marks can build up, making your walls look dull and less than ideal. By adding wall washing to your cleanup routine, you can make your walls look nice and fresh, almost like you just got a fresh coat of paint. 

Don’t know where to start? Here's a complete guide for how to clean your walls.

Supplies:

  • Towels, newspaper, or drop cloth
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Cloth, rag, or soft sponge 
  • Two buckets
  • Water
  • Liquid soap
  • Magic Eraser
  • Ammonia

How to Clean Your Walls

stairs with light green walls

Desiree Burns Interiors

Step 1: Prep the Room and Supplies 

First, you’re going to want to clear out your space. Remove any wall art, lamps, or objects and move furniture out of the way so you have more than enough room to clean. Then lay out towels, newspaper, or a drop cloth on the floor by the base of the wall to catch any excess water or dust while you clean. 

As for cleaning supplies, 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 Ryan Daniel Santos, Operations Manager at the home cleaning service Spekless, you can mix a quarter-teaspoon of liquid soap with water to make an easy, at-home wall cleaner.

You can also use a non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner to clean your walls instead of homemade mixtures. 

Step 2: Dust the Surfaces

Next up is dry-dusting the wall from the bottom-up. Kadi Dulude, the founder of New York City-based home cleaning service Wizard of Homes, 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, which is where dust is bound to collect since your last cleaning. 

Step 3: Spot Clean the Wall

After dusting, turn your attention to any stains, discolorations, or scuff marks. Both Dulude and Santos recommend using the 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. But make sure the space is well-ventilated and be sure to spot test with this solution, too. 

Step 4: Wash with Water or a Cleaning Solution

Now that you’ve dusted and spot cleaned, it’s time to thoroughly wash your walls with a damp cloth, rag, or sponge, a bucket of clean water, and a bucket of cleaning solution, whether it’s a soap and water mixture or non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner.

“Start at the bottom of a wall and work up to the ceiling, overlapping areas as you clean and using a circular motion,” Jessica Ek, the director of digital communications at the American Cleaning Institute, says. “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. The last thing you want is to get your walls dirty again right after you cleaned them.

Step 5: Dry Walls with a Cloth

Wipe down the walls with a dry microfiber cloth. Or if the weather permits, you can open up your windows to let the walls air dry.

How to Clean Your Walls Without Stripping Paint

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

Flat, eggshell, or satin paint finishes aren’t as durable, so try to avoid harsh chemicals and cleaning solutions. Opt for cleaning with only water or a mix of water and soap so you don’t scrub off any paint. 

To avoid stripping paint, try to not scrub the walls too hard or use abrasive sponges.

How to Clean Walls With Wallpaper

bathroom with blue botanical wallpaper

Desiree Burns Interiors

Cleaning walls with wallpaper? Check your wallpaper’s specific cleaning instructions if you have access to them, otherwise, you can dry-dust your walls, according to Dulude. You can also use wallpaper cleaner to remove any marks, Ek says.

FAQ's:

Is There a Quicker Way to Clean Walls?

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for a solid wall cleaning, since a deep clean can be time consuming, according to Dulude. But spot cleaning and dusting frequently can help maintain surfaces in between thorough cleanings.

How Often Should I Clean My Walls?

At the minimum, set enough time to clean your walls at least once a year, but there are a few factors to consider. “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 always open and if you live in a high-traffic home with pets, kids, or roommates running around, you may need to clean your walls more frequently.

Are There Any Tips or Tricks for Cleaning Walls?

If there’s one tip that was unanimous among the experts we spoke to, it’s spot-testing an area before attempting to clean the entire wall. Whether you’re using only water, an at-home mix, or an all-purpose cleaner, you’re going to want to see how your walls respond to your cleaning 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.

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