No matter what type of walls are in a home – flat or textured, papered or paneled or painted – they are going to get dirty. Fingerprints, dust, grime, smudges, splatters, and much more are just as likely to irritate a wall as they are any other surface. Often overlooked as part of a regular cleaning regiment, walls that are clean can really help a home’s overall feeling of freshness. Here are some ideas for how to clean walls, specifically painted, wallpapered, and paneled walls (and a recipe for a great wall cleaner).
How to Clean All Wall Types: Dust
Regardless of what the surface of your wall is, dust will settle on even a vertical surface over time. You will probably notice the presence of wall dust on textured walls more quickly than flat walls, because the texture provides the slightest horizontal surfaces upon which the dust can take up residence. It’s important to dust the walls before you start actually cleaning them, because dust plus water (and any cleaning agent) is going to end up as mud. Efficiency in cleaning dictates that you remove as much dust debris as possible first thing.
Some effective methods of dusting walls include the use of tools such as dusters with extendable reach. Lambswool is a prime duster cover, although microfiber cloths do well as well. Navigate from the top of the wall downward toward the floor. Pay particularly close attention to any corner connection where invisible cobwebs tend to accumulate – wall-to-ceiling, wall-to-floor, wall-to-baseboard.
Another effective wall dusting method is to use a vacuum attachment with a bristle brush. The brush agitates the dust, while the vacuum suction pulls it off the wall. With this method, you’ll want to work from top to bottom of the wall in horizontal stretches, so that your vacuum will catch any dust that has fallen from the vacuum’s previous pass above.
How to Clean Painted Walls
Resist the urge to spot-clean a wall and call it good, because your clean spots will stand out…and you’ll be left, still, with a spotted wall. So, recognizing that best results occur when you clean the entire wall, you’re going to want to start with a blank surface. Remove artwork off the wall, although you can keep the nails or hooks in place. Slide furniture away from the wall. Lay down a few towels along the wall-floor edge to catch any drips.
When you clean painted walls, the most common recommended cleaning solution is about 1 gallon of warm water mixed with 1/4 cup liquid dishwashing soap. Mix this in a clean bucket or large bowl. Fill a second bucket or large bowl with just warm water. This will be your rinsing water.
Have a stool or stepladder ready at the end of the wall where you start, but you don’t need it yet. Unlike dusting, where you want to work from top to bottom, washing painted walls is better working from the ground up. Work all the way across the wall, moving upward gradually. Gently scrub a section of wall with the sudsy water, then rinse with a clean cloth and the plain warm water. Dry with a white towel. If anything drips down over your clean sections, simply dry them away with your soft white towel.
An important tip to keep in mind is that you should really wash the entire wall in one go. (Exchange water if it gets too grimy, then keep going.) This is tiring, but the painted wall will look cleanest if it’s all done in the same way and in the same session.
If, for some reason, your wall still has some stubborn spots, you could bring in the heavy hitters of cleaning agents (although you should spot-check in a hidden area first, to make sure it doesn’t do any damage to your paint; if you notice any paint color on your cloth, immediately stop using). Mix 1 gallon warm water with 1 cup clear non-sudsing ammonia, 1 cup distilled white vinegar, and 1 cup borax or washing soda. Be sure to rinse this cleaner thoroughly after scrubbing out those stains.
How to Clean Wallpaper Walls
Wallpaper, while a sound wall covering option, is more delicate than a painted wall tends to be. Your cleaning regiment should be modified accordingly. The color or texture of wallpaper can be damaged if you’re not careful. First and foremost, avoid scrubbing or scouring the wallpaper with cleaners or abrasive brushes or clothes; these will easily scratch the wallpaper finish and/or remove color.
Use an artist gum eraser to spot clean removal of fingerprints or minor smudges (dry sponges, available at most hardware stores, are preferable for older or more delicate wallpapers). Use long, gentle strokes, rather than vigorous attention at one tiny spot, to work your way through the smudge.
If your wallpaper is marketed as scrubbable or washable, you’re still going to want to avoid the use of abrasive cleaners. You could try a natural sponge, slightly dampened with soapy water and very gently run across the wallpaper surface. You don’t want your wallpaper to get too wet. Dry immediately with a white cloth.
How to Clean Paneled Walls
Paneled walls don’t require much effort in the cleaning department to keep them looking respectable. Dust them with a microfiber or other soft cloth or use a vacuum brush attachment on the loose debris to avoid the creation of fresh grime during cleaning with moisture. For effective wall cleaner, mix about 1/2 cup mineral oil with about 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar and 1 cup warm water in a spray bottle; shake it well to mix the solution. Spray the solution onto your paneled walls, then rub with a clean, soft rag. Dry and buff with a dry, soft rag in a circular motion.
Keep in mind that this regimen is recommended for only synthetic or varnished paneling, not raw wood. Always test a new type of cleaner on an inconspicuous portion of the wall before cleaning the entire wall. Also remember that, no matter what type of walls you’re cleaning, the window trim and door frames could probably use a quick wipe down with some mild detergent and warm water as well.
Although cleaning the walls is an often overlooked and/or avoided chore, it can make a significant difference on the fresh look and feel of your space. Spring and summer are especially great times to tackle those walls and really have time to enjoy the efforts of your hard work!