How to Clean Walls and Ceilings

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Knowing how to clean walls and ceilings will reduce the amount of dust floating around in your home and make any room look better.

Like most cleaning projects, it may take a bit of effort the first time if they’re dusty and covered in grime. Once you make cleaning walls and ceilings part of your regular cleaning routine, it’ll take just minutes. Right away, though, you’ll notice less dust in your house which means it stays clean longer. To really knock out dust, combine this with cleaning your baseboards!

How To Clean Walls and Ceilings

How to Clean Walls and Ceilings

Cleaning Ceilings

It’s a good idea to clean your ceilings first since dust falling from them will settle onto the walls. Ceilings don’t need to be cleaned as often as walls, though, so it’s okay to do them less often.

Rather than climbing up and down a ladder repeatedly, use a long-handled duster with a microfiber attachment to remove dust. Stubborn dirt, like the kind which forms around ceiling fans, can be easily removed with a long-handled paint roller wrapped with duct tape, sticky side out.

Flat ceilings: Combine 1 cup warm water, 4 drops liquid dish detergent and 2 tablespoons white vinegar in a spray bottle. Lightly spray the area then go over it with a damp paint roller or microfiber mop. Cover the roller with a clean white cloth dipped in water and dab the area again to remove soapy residue.

Textured ceilings: There’s a reason these have fallen out of fashion — they’re tough to clean. You can remove light dust with a dry paint roller brush — just shake it out every few strokes. Heavier soil and cobwebs should be handled with a soft-bristled brush attachment and your vacuum cleaner.

Cleaning Walls

The first step in cleaning walls is dusting them. Once you’ve removed the dust, it’s time to clean the surface. If possible, pull furniture toward the center of the room so you can clean behind it. Otherwise, you may want to lay towels or sheets on top of furnishings to protect them from drips.

Painted Walls

You will need:
Two buckets
2 gallons of warm water
2 tablespoons liquid dish detergent
A natural sea sponge (colored ones may leave marks on your wall)
Clean white cloths
Clean white towels

Directions:

  1. Fill one bucket with 1 gallon of warm water. Add the liquid dish detergent and gently swirl the water with your hand.
  2. Fill the second bucket with plain warm water.
  3. Start at an entrance and plan to work clockwise around the room.
  4. Lay a towel on the floor at the base of the wall where you’ll be cleaning.
  5. Dip the sponge in the soapy water and gently wring it until it’s not dripping wet. Wash 3-foot by 3-foot sections of the wall, starting at the top and working down. Wash in light, circular motions and focus your efforts on areas that are frequently touched (corners, around light switches and doors, etc.)
  6. Dip a clean white cloth in the bucket containing plain water and wipe the area you just washed. Dry the spot with a towel before moving lower to the next 3×3′ section.
  7. Proceed clockwise around the room until you’ve washed every wall.
  8. Allow the walls to dry for a half-hour or so before treating any remaining stains.

Wallpapered Walls

Before cleaning wallpapered walls, test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous area by dabbing it with water. If the spot turns dark or the colors run you’ll want to use the method for non-washable wallpaper.

Washable wallpaper: Washable wallpaper can be cleaned like painted walls, but be careful to keep your sponge from getting too wet, so you don’t saturate the paper.

Textured or non-washable wallpaper: Since these wallpapers cannot be washed, you’ll want to vacuum them thoroughly using a soft brush attachment to remove dirt. Remove stubborn grime using a commercial product known as a dry cleaning sponge.

Brick: Start by vacuuming the wall using the soft brush attachment, then wash them using the same method as painted walls. You’ll also want to grab a good scrub brush to clean grout and particularly dirty areas.

Treat Stains

So you’ve cleaned your walls and ceilings then allowed them to dry. Now it’s time to inspect them for any remaining stains and remove them.

Crayons: Make a paste of baking soda and water. Lightly wipe the area with this mixture in a circular motion. Use rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to remove any lingering color.

Pencils: Use the pencil eraser! If the mark persists, use a baby wipe on the area.

Permanent marker: Rubbing alcohol easily removes permanent marker from most surfaces. Wet a cotton ball with it then dab the wall. Change cotton balls frequently, so you aren’t merely smearing the stain around.

Grease: Lightly rub a piece of white chalk or a scoop of baby powder or cornstarch over the area. (You’ll want to put a towel on the floor below and dust the wall when you’re done.) This powder will absorb and pull grease from the paint itself. Allow it to remain in place 10 minutes before wiping the area with a 50-50 mix of white vinegar and warm water.

Soot or smoke damage: Soot and smoke damage require a two-step approach. First, use a commercial dry cleaning sponge on the area, dragging it downwards on the stain in overlapping strips. The dry sponge will pick up soot in its pores as you work. Once you’ve covered the whole area with the sponge, rewash it using soap and water.

Maintenance

Dust ceilings and walls at least once a month. Spot treat smudges with soap and water as soon as you see them. A few minutes of regular weekly attention will keep your walls and ceilings looking new while reducing the amount of dust in your home, too.

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20 Comments

  1. Becky Coleman says:

    Thank you for sharing these useful tips! I like when I find a way to spend less time for cleaning (especially if I can skip repainting the walls). It is very important when you have kids, they are really good at making stains! But it is also important to clean with natural ingredients!!! I am so lucky that I found your webpage! I will definitely try your tips! Greets!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thank you!

    2. The duct tape wrapped paint roller sounds like it might do the job.. I ‘m gonna try it today..

    3. I finally found a way to clean greasy walls without scub n the paint off the walls.. 2 tbsp. ammonia,2 tbsp. baking soda, 2 white vinegar, 2 cups of warm water mix slowly then pour in spray bottle .. spray on microfiber cloth.. in a circle motion then rinse with cloth..

    4. Katie Berry says:

      Thank you for sharing that. It sounds like a powerful mix!

    5. Katie Berry says:

      Just don’t press too hard or the roller will stick to the ceiling!

  2. Sammarie Durushia says:

    One way of removing marks on the walls is to use a wet rag and a small amount of sheetrock compound and rub it until the mark is gone.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Good to know!

  3. Jim Johnson says:

    I wonder if a dry Swiffer Sweeper could be used to dust the ceiling and a wet Swiffer used to clean it?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You could certainly give that a try. I wouldn’t recommend it with a popcorn or knockdown-textured ceiling, though.

  4. Any suggestions on how to properly clean wood wall paneling? Please let me know. Thanks!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’d just use a lightly dampened microfiber cloth or even a microfiber mop if the walls are high. Treat scratches as you would on wood furniture (here’s how to do that).

  5. Thank you for these great tips. My carpets are 15 years old and have endured kids and pets etc. I will try your carpet cleaning tips as we are getting ready to sell our house and would rather not pay the money to replace them. I have unfortunately made a few mistakes with wet paint as I tried to scrub it out of the carpet when it was wet rather than blot. Any tips on removing this kind of mess?

  6. I really like warm water and white vinegar in a spray bottle it doesnt have a strong smell and it cleans awesome. Cheaper than some cleaners.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      If it works for your walls, that’s great!

  7. Robina Thornton says:

    Got a conservatory roof panels that was tinted now they are sticky glue left will bicarbonate soda and oil or vinegar re.ove it I am tearing my hair out please help.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Usually oil does a good job loosening glue. On glass conservatory roof panels, you’d want to apply it on an overcast day, let it soak for an hour or so, then scrape away the residue with a rubber spatula. Once that’s gone, wash the area with soapy water to remove the glue then use a glass polish to shine it. (Here’s a homemade glass cleaner recipe you might like.)

  8. I am going to tackly my ceilings and walls today with your suggestions. Curiously, last year my friend and I went through my living room walls and washed them all down. Shortly after that I had a fruit fly infestation like out of a zombie movie; they also left tiny marks (flyblown?) all over. I waited until I had the flies under control to clean again but I still see some. Any suggestions on how to best get those off?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I use a spray bottle of vinegar and water with a little dish soap to remove fly spots from walls.

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