The best ways to clean walls: how to get your walls sparkling again

Walls are somewhat worrying to clean because of the risk of damaging the paint. However, there are a few tried and tested methods that will keep your walls squeaky-clean without messing up the paint.

The best ways to clean walls: how to get your walls sparkling again

Wall cleaning: it’s something many of us put off. There are a lot of concerns when it comes to a proper wall clean. Mostly, people worry about the effect of cleaning on the wall paint.

Certain chemicals and excess water can cause the paint to fade, chip or even rub straight off. Another concern is the necessary use of water – how to make sure that your walls do not soak in too much and become damaged, or that water does not drip onto the floor and cause more problems.

This is why so many people tend to delay their wall cleanings. However, most walls should be cleaned with water every six months. To help avoid the build-up of dirt, grime, dust and germs for the months in between a deep clean you should be dusting the walls at least monthly (ideally twice a month). Here are some general guidelines for the dos and don’ts of wall maintenance:


  • Regularly clean high traffic areas to reduce grime build up.
  • Test the cleaning solution on a normally hidden area before using it on the rest of the wall (such as a patch of wall behind furniture or a painting).
  • Follow the instructions on the cleaning solution label for diluting and preparing your mixture.
  • Keep your paint finish in mind when choosing your cleaning products (glossy, semi-glossy, matte and flat finishes all have different cleaning products).
  • Dust the wall before cleaning.
  • Make sure the walls dry completely by opening the windows and doors, turning on the fans, and rubbing with a dry towel.


  • Scrub the walls harshly – you need be to be extremely gentle to reduce risk of discolouration, chipping or other damage to the paint.
  • Use the wrong tools or chemicals – you need soft sponges and microfiber cloths to avoid scratching the wall or taking the paint off in patterns.
  • Wash one part of a wall and not the whole area – if you wash only the visible parts of a wall and avoid the patch of wall hidden behind the couch, you run the risk of creating a patch of different coloured wall.
  • Use too much cleaner – it will not remove spots and stains better and is in fact more likely to leave your walls looking streaky or chalky.

How to clean dirty walls: what materials do you need?

To clean your walls, you will need:

  • Duster
  • Bucket(s)
  • Gloves
  • Soft cloths/sponges/microfibre rags
  • Warm water
  • Liquid hand or dish soap
  • Whichever cleaning product is best suited to your walls

What cleaning product is best to buy for wall washing?

Matte, flat, wallpaper, eggshell or stain finish: These finishes are fairly delicate. To protect your paint, dissolve a small amount of mild dye-free hand soap or dishwashing detergent in warm water.

Glossy or semi-glossy finish: These finishes are more durable. You can use stronger cleaners such as dish shop, cleaning products with a degreasing agent, non-abrasive multipurpose cleaners, or a home mix of (one tsp) liquid dish soap with vinegar (¼ teaspoon) and one quart of water.

Oil-based paints: Oil based paints are the most durable type of paint and as such can withstand a stronger cleaner. They would be suited to the home mixture described above or higher grade chemical wall cleaners and dish soaps.

Note: Sugar soap is commonly recommended for washing walls. However, you should be aware that sugar soap is a powerful chemical most often used for cleaning walls before painting them. If you want to keep your paint intact, you will have to be very careful when using sugar soap.

How to clean walls without removing paint: The best way to clean walls

1. Find the right products and tools

cleaning supplies and tools in bundle

The most fundamental step to cleaning your walls is ensuring you have all of the necessary supplies. Make sure you do your research and have chosen an appropriate wall cleaner for the finish of the painted walls. The easiest way to gauge wall type is to take note of the shine – that the higher the shine, the more durable the paint.

2. Prepare the area

room with towel on floor to protect while washing floors

To prep the area you will need to lay towels to protect the floor from any dripping. It is also important to clear out bulky furniture as you need to clean all of the walls at the same time. Finally, you will need to dust the walls before you can begin cleaning with water.

3. Ready your cleaning mixture

cleaning supplies standing in bunch with lemon and vinegar bottles

This will vary depending on the type of cleanser you have purchased (or made), but usually involves dissolving a mixture into warm water.

4. Test somewhere subtle

blue gloved hand with yellow sponge washing dirty white wall

First, find an inconspicuous area such as the space behind where a couch or painting usually goes. Gently wash the area in circular motions. Once you have covered a small amount, wait a little before checking on it. If the patch doesn’t appear damaged, faded or cracked, your walls are probably safe.

5. Rub the walls with the mixture

pink gloved hand washing yellow wall with pink sponge

Start from the top of the wall and work your way down. Use gentle, circular motions to lightly rub at the wall. This should be enough to dislodge any clinging dirt or grime. Make sure to wring out your rag before applying it to the wall – you want to use as little water as possible to avoid damage.

6. Go over any problem areas

yellow sponge washing filthy dirty stained wall

Once you have washed the whole area, you can return to the problem spaces. White walls are particularly susceptible to stains and scuff marks, so they are fairly common issues to tackle. If going over the spot a few times with your regular mixture doesn’t work, you may need to purchase a gentle wall stain remover and try again.

7. Rinse off the mixture

blue sponge washing dark blue wall dirty

Wipe the wall with a damp (wrung out) cloth to rinse off the cleanser.

8. Make sure the walls dry properly

dry blue cloth wiping wall

This is imperative to keeping the walls undamaged. After rinsing, wipe the walls down with a clean, dry cloth or towel. Make sure to allow for enough natural ventilation for the walls to finish air-drying by opening all of the windows and doors to your house.

9. Mop the floor and return the room to normal

fluffy mop timber floor clean

Once the walls have fully dried, you can return the room to its original state. You may want to run a mop over the floor area to clean up any excess soap that my have dripped onto the floor.

10. Maintain the walls and repeat in 6 months

blue feather duster dusting white walls and appliances

Keeping your walls clean is a matter of regularity. You should dust the walls at least once a month, and ideally twice. Clean high traffic areas such as door handles, light-switches and windows often to reduce grime build up. If you follow these rules, the next wall clean will be a breeze!


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