How to Clean a Flat Ceiling

If you want to clean a ceiling, start by dusting it. Otherwise, washing will lead to dirt streaks that are hard to remove.

Ceilings are an often neglected part of a cleaning routine, and it’s easy to see why – they’re hard to reach and not in your line of sight. But a ceiling can accumulate a tremendous amount of dust and cobwebs over time.

If you want your ceilings to look new, here’s the easiest way to wash them.

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Supplies You Need For Ceiling Cleaning

  • Long-handled duster, vacuum with a soft-bristled cleaning brush, or a microfiber mop with a clean pad
  • Dish soap and water
  • Clean, soft microfiber cloth

Best Way to Clean a Ceiling: Step by Step

If you’re getting ready to deep clean a room, your ceiling should be the first spot you tackle. It’s important to always clean a room from top to bottom, or you’ll end up with dust and dirt on the areas you’ve already cleaned.

Step 1: Dust Your Ceiling

The first step to cleaning a ceiling is dusting. If you don’t rid the ceiling of dust and cobwebs, washing it with a liquid will result in smears.

To dust, start at the corners knocking down cobwebs. There are various tools you can use, depending on what you have on hand. For example, you can remove cobwebs with a broom, duster, vacuum attachment, or a mop with a clean microfiber pad.

Now, take your long-handled duster or microfiber mop and use light, even strokes, to dust the entire ceiling. 

As you’re dusting, don’t forget about the light fixture. You can use your duster or vacuum to remove build-up from ceiling fan blades and the base of light fixtures.

(Note: If you have popcorn ceilings, use a feather duster, vacuum attachment, or a clean paint roller. Using a broom or microfiber mop can ruin the texture.)

Step 2: Wash the Ceilings

If you have flat, painted ceilings or ceiling tiles, you can wash your walls with a solution of dish soap and water. Dish soap is one of the mildest cleaners and works well to rid most surfaces of dirt stains without ruining the finish.

(If you have popcorn ceilings, skip this step. Water will make the ceiling texture crumble.)

Here’s how to wash your flat, painted ceilings:

  • Fill a bucket or bowl with water and add a couple of drops of dish soap, then mix
  • Dampen a microfiber cloth with the solution
  • Wipe your ceilings in long even strokes
  • After you’ve wiped the ceiling, reclean any areas with excess dirt
  • Allow the surface to dry

Avoid oversaturating your cloth. It should be damp, not soaked. Also, switch out your microfiber cloth if it becomes too dirty.

Step 3: Wipe Down Crown Molding

If you have crown molding near your ceiling, wipe it down with your cleaning solution. You can also wipe your ceiling fan blades.


How to Remove Common Ceiling Stains

With your ceilings clean, you’ll be able to see any problem areas. There are three main types of ceiling stains – grease, water, and smoke.

Here’s how to deal with stains on flat, painted ceilings. But before you start removing stains, put on gloves and safety glasses, and place a towel under the area you’re working to protect your floor.

Grease – Grease stains are common over the stove in kitchens. You can remove them using a grease cleaner like Krud Kutter of Zep foaming wall cleaner. Follow the instructions for the product you’re using.

Smoke – Smoke stains appear yellow or gray. Remove them by mixing a spray bottle with half water and half white distilled vinegar. Spray the stain, then blot with a sponge and gently work in circles. Dry the area. If the stain persists, repeat.

If you can’t get the stain off with water and vinegar, use a damp Magic Eraser. Just be careful – if you press too hard on the Magic Eraser, it can remove paint from the ceiling.

Water stains – Water stains look like circular or oval patches of yellow or brown, often with a darker ring around the edges. These stains are the hardest to remove from ceilings. 

To remove water stains start by opening windows for ventilation. Then, fill a spray bottle with one part bleach and three parts water. Spray the stain with the solution and let it air dry. If the stain is still there, repeat the process.

What if Your Ceiling Stains Won’t Go Away?

If you’ve treated your ceiling stains and they won’t go away, you’ll need to prime and paint.

Always start by cleaning the ceiling and allowing it to dry. Then treat the stains with a stain-blocking primer. If you fail to do this, the stains can show through the new paint. After the primer is dry, paint using 1-2 coats of ceiling paint.


How to Clean Your Walls

If you want to tackle your walls while you clean your ceiling, follow the same process. Start by dusting the walls and removing cobwebs and dirt build-up. 

After you’ve removed all the dust, you need to spot-test your wall. If your wall has semi-gloss, satin, or eggshell paint, you shouldn’t have any problems washing it. Matte paint, however, does not clean as well.

Fill a bucket with water, add a couple of drops of dish soap, and mix. Now dampen a fresh microfiber cloth with the solution and wipe your wall in an inconspicuous area. If the spot doesn’t damage and the paint doesn’t remove, you can move on to cleaning the entire wall.

Here are some tips:

  • Work in small sections, starting at the top of the wall and working your way down
  • Use gentle circular motions to clean
  • After you’ve washed a small section, dip a new cloth in water only. Then, wipe the area to rinse it.
  • Dry each section with a soft, dry towel
  • Repeat until all walls are clean

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What are the best wall and ceiling cleaners?

The best wall and ceiling cleaner is dish soap. Dish soap is very gentle and effectively cleans without damaging surfaces. If you want a stronger smell, you can use an all-purpose clean but make sure to dilute it as instructed.

How do you clean ceilings without leaving marks?

The only way to clean a ceiling without leaving marks is to dust first. Start by knocking down cobwebs, and if you have extra dusty areas, clean them with your vacuum. Then use a duster or microfiber mop. Only wash ceilings with water when there’s no visible dust left behind.

How do you clean a ceiling before painting?

If you’re getting ready to paint your ceiling, the most important thing is to remove all dust and cobwebs. You can do this with a duster, vacuum attachment, or microfiber mop. After dusting, wipe down the ceiling with water and dish soap. Once dry, it will be ready for paint.

How often should you clean your ceilings?

To keep dust in control, clean your ceilings twice a year. If dust builds-up fast in your home, increase the frequency to four to six times per year.

What’s the best mop for walls and ceilings?

If you want to use a mop to clean walls and ceilings, look for one with a soft microfiber head. You can also purchase wall, ceiling, and baseboard mops with microfiber mitts that you can use as a duster or wet mop.

Can you use Pine-Sol to clean walls and ceilings?

You can clean your walls and ceilings with Pine-Sol, but dust first. Otherwise, your wall will look streaky. If you have matte paint on the wall or ceiling, do a test patch before cleaning. Also, make sure to dilute the Pine-Sol with an appropriate amount of water.

How do you clean vaulted ceilings?

If you have vaulted ceilings, purchase a ceiling and wall mop with a telescopic pole. The pole will allow you to reach the ceilings without standing on a ladder.

Final Thoughts

While never a fun task, cleaning ceilings isn’t difficult. The most critical step is dusting. If you want to wash your ceilings with water, ensure the surface is dust-free and only use a dampened rag. Treat stains depending on their type but avoid oversaturating the ceiling. 

If you have popcorn ceilings, you need to be more careful. Excess force while dusting can crumble the popcorn texture.