Clean Like You Mean It

When Was the Last Time You Cleaned Your Walls?

We won't judge, but we will help get the job done.

January 10, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

Clean Like You Mean It shows you how to tackle the trickiest spots in your home—whether they’re just plain gross or need some elbow grease. You’ll get the cleaning secrets we’ve learned from grandma, a guide to our handiest tools and helpers, and so much more. Pull on those rubber gloves and queue up the tunes: It’s scour hour!

The walls in our spaces go through quite a lifespan of wear and tear. Between everyday scraping and scuffing, cooking residue, and dirty pet paws or kid hands, our walls are lucky to fare as well as they do. Much like deep-cleaning the entire floor, washing the walls is a task often avoided because it’s just. so. overwhelming.

Good news, though! Cleaning your walls is not as difficult as you might think, it’s actually pretty simple (albeit tedious). Below, find the best ways to get the job done.

Assess Wall Finish

Naturally, before you take a sponge to your wall, you’ll want to assess the material or finish. For example, raw or finished wood paneling should only be cleaned with cleansers specifically made for wood, like Method Daily Wood Cleaner, but wall paneling (or drywall) painted with semi-gloss paint can handle a mild degreasing solution. Eggshell and matte sheen paints are a bit less durable than semi-gloss or gloss, and more likely to scratch or rub off with anything more than a gentle detergent and water. As for wallpaper, there are several different kinds, which we’ll get into below.

A word on wallpaper: Wallpaper materials really run the gamut, so before you clean anything , you should double-check the material and what the manufacturer recommends. That said, if you have peel-and-stick wallpaper, it’s likely some form of durable vinyl that can be easily wiped down with a cloth and some multipurpose spray. Wallpaper made from fabric, cellulose, or bamboo really shouldn’t be cleaned with any kind of liquid, and fare better with a vacuum, duster, or even a lint roller to remove more stubborn spots of dust.

Vacuum Walls & Baseboards

Yep, walls get dusty too! Before you use any kind of liquid on the wall, you’ll want to break out a vacuum wand for a quick dusting session. Make sure to use the attachment with bristles so it’s gentle on the walls and baseboards, and won’t leave any marks behind.

Try Warm Water

You might be surprised just how much comes off with water, a microfiber cloth, and a little bit of elbow grease. Bonus points: you can avoid the possibility of wearing down the finish on your walls. Simply fill a bowl or bucket with warm water, and rinse and wring the cloth frequently as you go so you’re not spreading dirt around.

Move Onto Soap or Degreaser if Necessary

Some stains and scuffs are more stubborn than others, and you might need to move onto a gentle detergent to loosen up grime. Add a few drops of dish detergent or castile soap to a large bowl or bucket of water, dipping, wringing, and rinsing as you go with a microfiber cloth or gentle sponge.

Kitchen walls can be particularly gunky from cooking oils and dust that accumulates on top of them, so you might need to move onto a gentle degreaser. We’d recommend Method Degreaser, which is made for cleaning stoves, ovens, microwaves, and other appliances that get covered with grease, so a little bit goes a long way on walls.

Spot-Clean Small Marks

Spot cleaning marks is the simplest task when it comes to cleaning walls, because it’s concentrated in a single area. There are several ways to remove even the most stubborn marks left behind by shoes, crayons, painted furniture, and more, but they will require a bit of patience. The main thing to keep in mind for any of these methods is not to go too aggressively in one area, as they can be slightly abrasive in order to lift marks away from the walls.

  • Rubbing alcohol makes little marks disappear with a few good swipes: just dampen a cloth with the alcohol and get to work.
  • A paste of baking soda and water (mix the parts until they’re a toothpaste consistency) is mildly abrasive, so it gently buffs away surface scuffs when you rub it on the wall in circular motions with a cloth. When you've successfully banished the scuff, wipe away the leftover bits with a clean, damp cloth.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are great at removing wall scuffs with just a tiny bit of scrubbing, but you’ll want to be super careful with these melamine sponges as they will break down the finish of your paint if used too aggressively. Once you’ve removed the spot, wipe the area with a bit of soapy water.

Invest in Easy-to-Maintain Paint

High traffic areas will always get scuffed no matter how careful you are. Entryways, kitchens, and bathrooms take a beating from furniture rearranging, running kids, curious dogs, and just everyday wear and tear. One way you can avoid constant cleaning is to invest in paint that’s made to withstand rough conditions. When it comes to sheen, flat and eggshell paint are the most difficult to successfully wipe down, but stain, semi-gloss, and gloss are more durable and easily cleaned, and are used on high-traffic areas like trim, doors, and kitchen cabinets.

Are we missing any important wall-cleaning tips? Fill us in below!

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Photo by Ty Mecham. Design by Angelyn Cabrales.
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When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.


Monica April 1, 2022
Clean from the bottom up!
[email protected] January 24, 2022
Clean walls: SPIC & SPAN- POWDER VERSION ONLY- with hot water for amazing results.