Repainting a room is a lot of work, and that’s why it’s good to know how to clean walls and ceilings to keep them looking good as long as possible. If it’s been a while since you’ve painted, don’t be surprised if cleaning your walls and ceilings takes a considerable amount of work. The good news is that, once clean, it takes just minutes each week to keep them in shape. Doing so makes your home look better and reduces dust, too!

How To Clean Walls

The first step in cleaning walls is dusting them. A long-handled extension duster makes this easy, especially if you have high ceilings. Starting at an entrance to the room work top to bottom, moving clockwise around the room. This keeps dust from falling onto surfaces you’ve already cleaned.

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

Painted Walls

You will need:
Two buckets
2 gallons 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


Fill one bucket with 1 gallon of warm water.
Add the liquid dish detergent and gently swirl the water with your hand.
Fill the second bucket with plain warm water.
Start at an entrance and plan to work clockwise around the room.
Lay a towel on the floor at the base of the wall where you’ll be cleaning.
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.)
Dip a clean white cloth in the bucket containing plain water and wipe the area you just washed. Dry the area with a towel before moving lower to the next 3×3′ section.
Proceed clockwise around the room until you’ve washed every wall.
Allow the walls to dry for a half-hour or so before treating any remaining stains.
Wallpapered Walls

Before cleaning wallpapered walls, check the manufacturer’s instructions!

Washable wallpaper: Washable wallpaper can be cleaned using the method described above for painted walls, although be careful to keep your sponge from getting too wet so you don’t saturate the paper. If you’re not sure whether your wallpaper can be washed spot-test an inconspicuous area by dabbing it with water. If the spot turns dark or the colors run you’ll want to use the cleaning method below.

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 as much dirt as possible. More difficult grime can be removed using a commercial product known as a dry cleaning sponge. Before shelling out the money for this you can also try a piece of crustless white bread (really!) using the same method. Don’t use wheat or dark bread, though: most contain food dyes that can leave your wallpaper looking worse.

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.

How To Clean Ceilings

Ideally, you should clean your ceilings before cleaning the walls so you aren’t scattering their dust onto surfaces you’ve already cleaned. Since ceilings don’t need to be cleaned as often as walls, though, 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.

To clean general stains and grime on 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 wipe it with a damp paint roller. (If you have popcorn or textured ceilings, use more of a dabbing than wiping motion.) Cover the roller with a clean white cloth dipped in water and wipe or dab the area again to remove soapy residue.

Specific 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 with baking soda and water. Lightly wipe the area with this paste 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 at the area. Change cotton balls frequently so you aren’t simply 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. Do NOT rinse the dry sponge in water or you’ll ruin it; instead, use a sharp knife or razor to cut away the surface and expose a new, cleaning layer. Once you’ve covered the whole area with the chemical sponge, wash it again using soapy water as described above.

Preventative Maintenance

Make wall and ceiling maintenance a part of your regular weekly cleaning routines by dusting them before you clean anything else in the room. Spot treat stains as needed using a spray bottle filled with warm water and a few drops of liquid dish soap, and tend to more difficult stains using the methods described above. 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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