How to Clean Painted Walls Safely Without Removing Paint

A home that has walls with a few scuffs, marks, and stains is a sign that it is well-loved, lived-in, and full of memories. However, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for imperfect, dirty walls. While cleaning painted walls can be a daunting task, especially when you want to avoid removing or damaging the paint, it doesn’t have to be a burden or an expensive project. Read on to learn what to use to wash painted walls so you can say goodbye to those imperfections with ease. 

How to Clean Painted Walls Safely


While you definitely don’t need to clean your walls as often as other parts of your home, such as the floors and furniture, it’s a good idea to clean your walls just on an as-needed basis. The key to cleaning painted walls without removing or damaging the paint is to use washable paint on your walls along with following these simple cleaning steps.  

To check out our recommendations for the best washable paint for walls along with more tips on how to prevent and fix paint burnishing, check out this blog post.


Step 1: Dust First


The first step in safely cleaning painted walls is dusting the walls with a soft dust cloth, a vacuum with a dust brush attachment, or a rag attached to a clean mop head. It’s important to remove any loose dirt and cobwebs before you begin cleaning. 


Step 2: Choose Your Cleaning Solution 


Next, choose the cleaning solution you’ll use on your walls. If you’re not sure what to use to wash painted walls, we suggest that you start with a more mild solution and work your way up from there as needed. 

You can begin with just a soft cloth and water first. If that doesn’t do the trick, try a soft cloth with soapy water by adding a bit of dish detergent to the water. 

If you still need something a little stronger, you can carefully use a magic eraser on those hard to clean spots. Just be careful to not rub too hard, as that can cause paint burnishing

It’s important to keep in mind the type of paint finish you’re cleaning, as that can affect the solution you choose. Paint finishes like matte, flat, and eggshell are more fragile and do best with a very mild cleaning solution, such as water alone or a bit of mild soapy water. 

Gloss and semi-gloss paint finishes can withstand more and handle stronger types of soap or even mild degreasing solutions. 

You can even add 1 splash of white vinegar and a teaspoon of dish soap to a quart of water to make your own cleaner, which works great for most latex paints. 

Oil-based paints are the strongest, so for super tough spots, you can use the same cleaning solution as above, switching out the vinegar for a splash of ammonia. 


Step 3: Test Your Cleaning Solution

Once you’ve chosen your cleaning solution based on the type of paint finish and the level of dirtiness, you should test your cleaning solution on a small, less-obvious area of the wall. You would hate for the solution to do more damage and even remove the paint from the entire wall, so testing it first is always the best option. 


Step 4: Choose Your Cleaning Tools


After deciding on and testing your cleaning solution, gather the tools you’ll use to clean. When cleaning painted walls, it’s important to use a soft sponge or cloth to avoid scratching, damaging, or removing the paint. 

This also helps prevent paint burnishing from occurring, which are areas of high-gloss and high-sheen due to dulling of the paint film, which can be caused by cleaning with too harsh of solutions and tools. 


Step 5: Clean Gently in Small Sections


With your cleaning solution, tools, and an extra bucket of plain water for rinsing in hand, it’s time to clean your walls gently and in small sections. By working in small sections, wringing out the sponge or cloth well, and rinsing it frequently, this will help avoid streaks and water marks. 


It’s best to wash from top to bottom and rinse each area of the wall as you go. To avoid damaging the paint, scrub gently in a circular motion. 

If you come to areas that are tougher to clean, you can spot-treat them with either a magic eraser or a mix of baking soda and water. 


Step 6: Dry the Walls


After cleaning painted walls, it’s important to dry them thoroughly to prevent water spots and streaks. Use a clean, dry cloth to wipe down the walls and remove any excess water. Cleaning your walls is a great spring or summer project, as you can open the windows and allow the fresh air to help dry them. 

By following these simple steps for cleaning painted walls safely, you can ensure your paint will remain in tip-top shape and come out looking fresh and clean. 

However, if you do notice damage to your paint while you’re cleaning your walls and you think it’s time to touch up or repaint, you can learn more about how to approach these paint projects in these blog posts: 


As always, if you are in the Raleigh area and are looking to partner with a professional painter for your next home or commercial project, we’d be honored to chat with you and give you a free estimate!

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