Your Walls need a Cleaning: How to Clean your Painted Walls without Damaging the Paint

Whether you are moving or your house just needs a refresh! And while we all dread the idea of having to deep clean our homes from top to bottom, it’s important to make sure that every nook and cranny gets a good scrubbing. But if you’re thinking about tackling those painted walls, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. After all, the last thing you want to do is ruin all your hard work by accidentally chipping the paint or dulling a gloss finish. Luckily, we’re here to help. With a few simple tips, you can get your painted walls clean as a whistle without damaging the finish.
We put a bit about odor removal and heavy smoke at the end of the article as well.
Note: This is not an article to help you repaint the walls.

Empty Wall Washing

What You'll Need to Clean the Walls

Before we jump into the how-to, let’s quickly go over what you’ll need to get the job done. For this project, you won’t need any fancy cleaning supplies or expensive equipment—just a few basics that you probably already have around the house. Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Warm water (not hot)
  • Dawn soap or all purpose cleaner
  • Cleaning Vinegar (not to be confused with white vinegar)
  • Sponge and/or microfiber cloth (nothing abrasive)
  • Flat mop (optional)
  • Step ladder (optional)
  • magic Eraser (for bad stains)
The vinegar is helpful on high gloss paint but don’t let it sit on the paint too long as it will eat into the paint if given enough time.

Step 1: Top Down

Start at the top and work your way down. This will help you avoid any water streaks or drips that could damage your paint job. Don’t let the cloth or sponge be soaking wet when applying to walls, wet cloth and wring well to prevent water running down the wall. Plus, it’s just plain old common sense—you don’t want to start scrubbing at eye level and then have to move everything down when you’re ready to rinse. Trust us, your arms will thank you later.

If there is loose paint, think about washing the walls and just repainting. Those directions would be different than these. We are assuming there is no loose paint.

Take breaks, as working vertically is hard with blood flow and your arms are likely to get tired more quickly than with floors or countertops. The surface area is also much greater as there is a lot of wall space compared to floor space.

Cleaner Wall Washing
Wiping the wall when washing

Step 2: Spot Wall Wash

Spot wash problem areas. Fill a bucket with warm water and add a squirt of Dawn soap and a quarter cup of cleaning vinegar. If you are using all purpose cleaner, omit the vinegar. Then, using a sponge or microfiber cloth, lightly scrub any stains or heavily soiled areas. If you need to reach higher spots, grab a step ladder so you can avoid putting unnecessary strain on your arms and back. Once you’ve spot cleaned all the problem areas, move on to step three.

For tough stains or permanent market you can use a magic eraser, but be warned this can remove paint, dull glossy finishes, and should be used moderately. Never use abrasive cleaning agents or tools such as steel wool (sos pads) or  on painted surfaces.

Step 3: Flat mop for Regular Wall Washing

If your walls are just in need of a good once-over and don’t have any major stains or dirt buildup, fill a bucket with your soap and water solution or all purpose cleaner solution and dip in a flat mop. Remove excess solution from flat mop and work from top to bottom in long, even strokes until the entire area is clean. Be sure to wring out your mop frequently so that it’s not dripping wet—you don’t want water running down the wall and damaging your paint job. This also works good for high areas that don’t usually have food or stains on them, usually the lower areas are the problem.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

Once you’re finished washing, give your walls a quick rinse with clean water to remove any soap residue. Then, using a clean microfiber cloth or towel, dry off any remaining moisture. And that’s it! A few simple steps is all it takes to get those painted walls sparkling clean without ruining all your hard work. Hopefully you now have the skills to know how to clean your painted walls.

Flat Mop for Washing

Stinky, Smoke, & Grease

Sometimes soap or all purpose cleaners isn’t enough to remove odor, grease, or smoke and it may be better to try out some TSP. This is heavy duty cleaner to remove build up.

When using TSP read the directions and glove up, eye protection, and arm protection. It can damage your skin, eyes, etc.
We don’t recommend our cleaners use TSP for regular cleanings or even move in and outs unless we know we are walking into a house with issues.

More cleaning tips here.

Wall Washing
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