Tips for Cleaning Your Painted Walls

Posted on Apr 10th 2019

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Tips for Cleaning Your Painted Walls

Cleaning your floors, furniture, and countertops are regular check marks in your housework to-do list, but cleaning your walls likely goes more neglected. Walls, like any other part of your home, get dirty in the hustle of your day-to-day--especially if you have children or pets. Regardless if it’s as immediately noticeable as a stain or crayon marks left by your toddler, your walls can become covered in marks, dust, grime, and oil residue over time without you even realizing. It’s not surprising considering how much we touch and lean up against them every day! But if your walls are painted, you can’t just go at it like you would when cleaning your hardwood floor. Scrubbing too hard with an abrasive cleaner could cause the paint to bubble up, flake off, or be removed all together. Painted walls require special care to avoid damage, and different types of paint determine different ways of cleaning to best keep them looking fresh and new. Here are some tips for cleaning your painted walls, brought to you by our professional interior painters.

General Tips

Regardless of the finish or type of paint used, you should begin cleaning with a thorough dusting. For easy-access sections, you can use a regular duster or cloth, and for tall, harder to reach spots, a vacuum with a hose attachment or an elongated duster can be utilized. This is an important but often forgotten step. Leftover dust has the possibility of contaminating any water and/or cleaning solution you’ll use later, meaning you’ll only spread it around even further. Once you’ve finished dusting you can move on to tackling the mark in question. Before you try a cleaner or a degreaser, start with just a non-abrasive, lightly damp sponge or cloth, very carefully dabbing the spot to see if you can clean it without the use of something stronger. If this doesn’t do the trick, you can look into the specifics of using a cleaner.

Glossy Finishes

(Semi-gloss and high-gloss finishes)

Paints with glossy finishes are the most durable, which is why they’re often used in areas of the home that get more traffic, such as kitchens, living rooms, or hallways. This also means that they’re the most likely to suffer from regular scuffs and marks. Luckily, they’re fairly easy to clean so long as you use the appropriate materials. Mild cleansers and degreasers are fine choices, just be careful to avoid going too rough with your scrubbing; glossy paint is still susceptible to scratching or lifting, so always be sure to use a soft tool and a careful hand.

Flat Finishes

(Flat, matte, eggshell, and satin finishes)

Painted walls with more matte finishes are, unfortunately, the kind you’ll have to be most cautious of when cleaning. Though they’re perfect for covering up wall imperfections, they tend to be significantly less durable during cleaning than their glossier counterparts. Vigorously rubbing a stain or mark on a flat finish will result in a shiny patch (an effect called burnishing, meaning increasing the sheen of the paint by rubbing the spot too much and polishing it) that won’t go away. When cleaning matte walls, try to avoid cleaning products and first use a soft, damp sponge or rag that has been thoroughly wrung out before coming in contact with the wall. Gently scrub the blemish in question until the area is clean. If a damp cloth/sponge isn’t enough to do the job, harsh chemicals, degreasers, and abrasive sponges or rags are a strict no-go. Instead, try adding vinegar to the damp sponge/cloth and continue to lightly scrub the walls. An eraser sponge or gentle store-bought foam cleanser can also be used for particularly tough spots.

Oil-Based Paint

You can be a little bit tougher on walls with oil-based paints than latex paints. Essentially, you clean them much like you do glossy finished walls. Though you should still avoid harsh sponges or chemicals (they’ll likely leave you with a blotchy wall), you can go in with a mild degreaser to remove grease stains, or a vinegar/detergent and water mixture and a soft, slightly damp cloth/sponge for spot cleaning.

Latex Paint

Like flat finishes, latex is the weaker of the two paint types. The best way to clean latex-painted walls is to use a sponge/cloth with a blend of warm water and non-abrasive all-purpose cleaner. Gently scrub the spot you want to clean until clean. For more difficult stains or marks, you can also try your luck with a paste made of baking soda and water, or a mixture of white vinegar and water. If the spot still persists, a repaint may be in order.

While it certainly isn’t an urgent task that needs to be added into your daily cleaning routine, knowing how to safely and effectively clean your painted walls is important knowledge when you find yourself confronted with an unattractive blemish. Keeping your walls stain-free will help your entire home to feel more neat and tidy.

Do you have any questions? Contact one of our Painter1 interior painters today to discuss painting your home's interior walls. We're happy to help!