What should i use to clean walls

How to Clean Walls With Paint or Wallpaper Like a Pro

Even the most diligent deep cleaners can be clueless when it comes to how to clean walls. Established New York City interior designers and architects who need help sprucing up renovated homes look to high-end cleaning service New York’s Little Elves to meet their lofty expectations and get the space clean from top to bottom.

After 35 years in the business, vice president Sabrina Fierman is an expert on making luxury properties sparkle, and her staff knows that walls should never be an afterthought. We enlisted Fierman to help identify the best ways to get rid of pesky marks and buildup—without damaging wallpaper or a decorative paint job.

“Cleaning the walls can be a delicate process, and what you use is dependent on what the wall treatment can hold up to and resist,” Fierman says. Luckily, you don’t need special supplies or expensive equipment to get the job done—just a few household items you already have and a little bit of time. Read on to learn how to clean walls with the best of 'em! This method is gentle enough for walls with paint or wallpaper.

1. Gather your supplies

Some good news: Wall cleaning does not require any special wall cleaner. Chances are you already have everything you need. Here's what you should have on hand:

Steer clear of anything abrasive or ammonia-based and start with simple products. These basic supplies are mild enough to use on most wall treatments while still getting the job done.

2. Protect your floor from drips

Prepare by laying towels along the base of the walls to protect floors and collect any dust or drips.

3. Dust the walls

Give the walls a dusting—using the dust brush attachment, vacuum your walls and follow by wiping them with a tack cloth. You can also use a foam craft brush to easily swipe away dust from baseboards and molding.

Alternatively, you can wrap a dry mop head with a clean rag and dust from top to bottom without fear of scratches or dents.

4. Mix water and dish soap

Now that the dust is wiped away, it's time to wash walls. Fill one bucket with a gallon of warm water and mix clear liquid hand or dish soap and water in the other. Soak a cloth in the solution, and wring it out well.

5. Test a patch on the wall

While the dish soap and water make for a gentle cleaning solution, you should always test an inconspicuous area, like a section of the wall that's behind a painting or piece of furniture, to make sure it won't damage the material. Wallpaper and matte paint are more delicate than high-gloss paint, so it's good to err on the side of caution and do a little test.

6. Gently wash in circular motions

Once you know your surface is safe to work on, it's time to tackle the whole wall. Starting at the top of the wall and working your way down, go over the surface in light, circular motions. Apply as little moisture as possible to avoid bubbling or watermarks. Also, make sure not to apply too much pressure as you make your circle.

7. Tackle any stubborn stains

If you come across any stubborn stains on painted walls, turn to baking soda and water. Baking soda is a natural stain fighter—mix a half cup of baking soda with a quarter cup of water until it forms a paste. Gently rub that paste into the stained part of the wall and the stain should lift.

How to Clean Walls Without Damaging Your Paint


Mary Marlowe Leverette

Mary Marlowe Leverette

Mary Marlowe Leverette is one of the industry's most highly-regarded housekeeping and fabric care experts, sharing her knowledge on efficient housekeeping, laundry, and textile conservation. She is also a Master Gardener with over 40 years' experience; writing for over 20 years.

Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process

Updated on 10/22/22

Reviewed by

Katie Berry

Reviewed by Katie Berry

Katie Berry is a cleaning expert with 30 years of household management experience and 12 years of writing about cleaning methods and routines for Housewife How-Tos. She is the author of several books about homemaking.

Learn more about The Spruce's Review Board

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Project Overview

In most homes, the walls make up the largest area of hard surfaces. Even though walls are vertical, they can still become coated with dust, grease splatters, smoke, insect droppings, and spider webs. Areas near doors, light switches, and furniture take the most abuse and gather soil and scuffs from hands, feet, and sharp corners.

Just as you regularly clean floors, walls—whether painted, stone, brick, or wallpapered—also need attention. Dust mites are tiny organisms found in dust particles and can cause asthma attacks, a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. A dusty home and dust mites can trigger allergies or respiratory issues, and so can the accumulation of dust on walls.

With just a few basic products and tools, you can easily maintain walls painted with different paint and finishes.

The 9 Best All-Purpose Cleaners of 2023

Get Those Scuff Marks off Your Walls Once and for All

How Often to Clean Walls

As part of your regularly scheduled chores, painted walls should be dusted and cobwebs removed at least monthly—twice a month is even better. You should clean smudges and dirt around doorknobs and light switches weekly. Large splatters and scribblings with crayons should be cleaned immediately for the best results.

Before You Begin

You can dust every type of paint finish. However, the paint type and the finish determine how best to clean it. Determine your kind of paint and check the lists below for pre-cleaning tips.

Types of Interior Wall Paint

Types of Interior Paint Finishes

Equipment / Tools


The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

How to Clean Latex-Painted Walls

  1. Remove Dust

    Starting at the top of the wall, use a vacuum with an extendable wand, dusting brush, or microfiber duster to remove dust and cobwebs. Always use a sturdy step stool or ladder when reaching high spots.

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Add one teaspoon of all-purpose cleaner per quart of warm water in a bucket. Fill a second bucket with clean water.

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  3. Wash the Walls Using a Circular Motion

    Dip a sponge or microfiber cloth in the cleaning solution and wring until no water is dripping. Start at the top of the wall and, working in a small section, move down the wall. Starting at the top prevents drips from falling on areas already cleaned. Rinse out the sponge frequently.

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  4. Rinse the Walls

    Dip a second sponge or cloth in the clean water and wring until nearly dry. Rinse away any soapy residue as you move down the wall.

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  5. Tackle Heavily Soiled Areas

    Ensure that the electricity is turned off and clean carefully around light switches and outlet plates. Do not allow these areas to become excessively wet.

    If scuffs and smudges do not come off easily, dip your dampened sponge in some baking soda and lightly rub the area. The gentle abrasive action of the baking soda should remove the problem.

    A bit of rubbing alcohol on a sponge works well to remove soil from painted areas around doorknobs and trim work.

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    How to Remove Scuff Marks From Walls and Floors

How to Clean Oil-Based Painted Walls

  1. Dust the Walls

    Begin by dusting the walls. Dusting will prevent loose dirt from being moved around while you clean.

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Add one teaspoon dishwashing liquid and 1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar per quart of warm water in a bucket. Fill a second bucket with plain water for rinsing.

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  3. Wipe and Rinse

    Dip a sponge or microfiber cloth in the cleaning solution, wring out well, and wipe down the walls starting at the top. Follow up with a sponge dipped in plain water and wrung well for a final rinse.

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  4. Tackle Tough Stains

    If the walls are filthy, add two tablespoons of laundry borax to the cleaning solution.

    A melamine sponge (Mr. Clean Eraser) works well to remove soil on semi-gloss or glossy oil paint finishes. Using a light touch, the abrasive action will remove almost all scuffs.

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Tips to Keep Walls Clean Longer

To stretch the time between wall cleanings, you can do a few things to lessen your workload. Avoid smoke in the house, from tobacco and cooking to burning candles or incense; the soot from combustion coats walls, getting them dirty quicker.

Also, immediately spot clean walls when you notice smudges or hand prints between the big jobs. It will extend the appearance of clean walls longer.


Teach young children to keep their hands off the walls; they are usually the biggest culprits for dirty handprints on the walls.

Removing Writing From Walls

If you have little kids, your young Picassos might have gotten inspired and marked up your walls. Or—and this can happen to anyone—you are walking out of a room with items in your hand, and your pen drops, ricochets, or happens to glide along a wall. How do you remove crayon, permanent marker, or ink markings from a wall?

Removing Mildew and Water Stains From Walls

Mold and mildew are pesky stains that will return if you do not remediate the problem. Unfortunately, you will likely need to repaint water-stained walls. First, make sure that if there is a leak behind the wall, you handle the cause of the water stain. If the situation has been remedied, you want to clean the stain with a solution of 50% bleach and 50% water to prevent mildew growth. Apply it to the entire area. Use a hair dryer or fan to dry the area. Once dry, repaint the area using mold and mildew-resistant paint.

If you have a little mildew growth but no water stain, you can try cleaning it off with a vinegar solution (1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 quart of water) or blot on an enzyme-based laundry cleaner and clean it off with a moistened towel.

When to Call a Professional

If you have vast sections of walls that have been blackened by mold, then it's time to call a mold remediation service to handle the mold situation. They will likely remove the entire portion of the wall, clean out the mold in the wall's interior, and replace the wall panel. The costs vary drastically on the size of the job and how difficult the mold situation is. It can cost between $15 and $30 per square foot, plus all the charges for evaluation, new materials, and more.

If routine wall cleaning is not something you like to do or plan on ever doing, then it's time to call in a house cleaning service to do it periodically for you. You want to keep the air quality in your home as clean as you can to prevent triggering allergies or any respiratory conditions from occurring. You can expect to pay at least $40 to $65 per person per hour to clean your house; if you only want your walls cleaned, they should be able to tackle it in an hour, depending on the size of your home.

What Cleaning Pros Buy Every Year for Spring Cleaning

Article Sources

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Dust and dust mites. American Lung Association.

  2. Dust Allergies. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

How to remove paint from walls in different ways



  1. When is it necessary to remove paint from walls?
  2. What do you need to work?
  3. How to mechanically remove paint from walls
  4. Chemical washes
  5. Surface heat treatment
  6. How to choose the right method for removing paint from walls?

Paint is one of the most popular finishes. It is quickly and easily applied, suitable for exterior and interior work, flooring, walls, ceilings, and other surfaces. To paint the walls, it is enough to purchase high-quality material and suitable painting tools. Applying paintwork is quite simple, but removing it is not. That is why the task of how to remove paint from the walls is relevant for everyone who decides to make repairs, update the interior, change the design.

To make a new wall decoration, you need to get rid of the previous one. If it is easy to remove old wallpaper, then you will have to fight with the paintwork. Sometimes you can avoid this and improve the walls without getting rid of the old paint:

There are times when there is no other solution but to strip the paint off the wall. This is mandatory if you plan to stick wallpaper or apply wet plaster. The paint practically does not absorb liquids, so the glue and primer will not be able to give sufficient adhesion. For the same reason, you can not plaster a painted wall.

In the work you may need:

Prepare your tools depending on how you can remove the old paint from the walls. Be sure to prepare gloves, goggles, a mask and other personal protective equipment.

Do not rush to apply chemicals or heat, it is worth trying to get rid of the old paint mechanically. The main advantage of this method is availability, and the disadvantage is laboriousness. It is not necessary to buy special tools, you can use those that are on the farm. Machining the walls gives a lot of dust, so it is better to take out the furniture and cover the surfaces.

With a spatula

To begin with, you can try to remove the annoying coating with a spatula. It is convenient to work with them, you can crawl even into the most inaccessible places. When working with a hand tool, there is not a lot of dust. A sharp and thin spatula easily removes loose paint. Many refuse this option, since it is difficult to immediately process a large area with such a tool. If the surface needs to be prepared urgently, the idea of ​​​​working with a spatula will have to be abandoned. In the process of peeling the paint, particles of it can get into the eyes, so as not to get injured, you need to work in goggles.

Chisel and hammer

If the paint is not cracked or peeled off, it cannot be removed with a spatula. Here you need to take a chisel, it does not bend and is effective when the paint coating is well kept. Tapping the handle with a hammer will intensify the impact. The main thing is to make sure that the chisel remains sharp.


The previous options are effective, but their implementation will take a lot of time. Nobody wants the repair to last forever, so the question arises of how to quickly remove the paint from the walls mechanically. A suitable power tool, for example, a grinder, will help speed up the process.

This option is really the fastest, but also unsafe. It should be used only by those who know how to work with such a tool. The main disadvantages include thick dust and a lot of noise.


This is the best way to remove old paint from walls. It is relatively safe to work with a power tool, and it will be possible to remove the paint quickly. The drill is lightweight, so your hands will not get tired, as when working with a grinder. Before you get started, pay attention to the following points:

Work with the drill slowly, touching the wall only with the surface of the nozzle. You can use brushes with metal bristles or several chains with washers.

Other tools

You can quickly remove the old paintwork with other power tools, in particular, grinders are suitable. Equip network devices with circles and discs for stripping, metal brushes, sanding belts. In this way, you can quickly remove even the paint that holds well, it all depends on the power of the tool and the selected nozzle.

Start-Pro online store offers a wide range of construction and repair power tools. In the catalog you will find only high-quality devices from the leading Ukrainian manufacturer at the lowest price.

When choosing how to remove paint from walls, many people prefer to buy ready-made washes. Manufacturers produce compounds based on alkalis, salts, acids, organic components. Almost all solvents are universal, they cope with oil, acrylic compositions, they are not used only for water-based ones.

Liquid, gel, powder and aerosol washes are available in stores. Liquids are concentrated, so they need to be diluted. They are acid or alkali based. Gel products are made on organic matter, they are softer, they can be used even indoors. Aerosols are convenient to apply in small areas. Powder products are designed for preparing a solution.

Use chemicals only as directed. The algorithm of actions is simple:

If there are many layers of paintwork, a one-time chemical treatment may not give the desired effect and the procedure will need to be repeated. When working with chemicals, remember to protect exposed areas of the body and eyes.

When buying expensive ready-made products does not fit into the allocated budget, you can prepare your own wash at home. It is enough to mix lime, soda, chalk in the correct proportions and the surface to be cleaned can be treated with a solution. But such a composition will not be able to remove strong old layers. The chemical method has many advantages, but it also has disadvantages. The most important are the persistent smell of chemicals and the need for proper waste disposal.

Looking for a solution to remove Soviet paint from walls? Old acrylic and oil coatings should be softened. Not only special solvents are suitable for this, but also the action of high temperatures. You can use both a simple home iron and a special building hair dryer or burner.

It is important to observe personal safety measures, and also do not remove paint with thermal devices near electrical wires, switches, sockets, pipelines, plastic windows, doors, panels, skirting boards.

Regular iron

If the coating is already coming off with age, a regular iron will help to remove it. You can influence the temperature through a double layer of foil. After warming up, the treated area is easily scraped off.

Construction dryer

The special dryer is the safest device for thermal cleaning of old coatings. He does an excellent job of melting the paint, which is then removed without problems. The device alternately heats small areas, after which the peeled paint is scraped off.


A blowtorch, kerosene or petrol burner is suitable for high temperature paint stripping. The flame is brought to the surface to be treated and heated until the paint begins to melt, the main thing is that it does not burn. After that, the old material can be removed with any scraper.

Heat treatment of old wall finishes does not produce dust, but has one big disadvantage - a persistent chemical aroma. It appears due to the heating of the paintwork, and only airing the room will help get rid of it. When working with thermal devices, use all protective equipment.

Choose a method considering the following points:

The most difficult task is to remove the oil composition, which is applied directly to the concrete. You will have to work hard with the removal of a thin layer of paintwork. It is much more difficult to remove it than a thick one, which easily cracks when struck with a tool.

The most universal method for removing paint from walls is mechanical. By choosing the right tool, you can remove any type of paintwork. Chemicals are not suitable for water emulsion. Thermal is also applicable not for all bases and not for all paints, besides, it is a fire hazard.

The easiest way to determine which option is suitable in a particular case is to experience it. After trying each of the appropriate methods, you will understand which one you will use.

How to remove wall paint quickly at home: the best removal methods



When carrying out repairs in an apartment or a private house, it often becomes necessary to remove the paint from the wall. Most often, this is done before plastering or puttying the wall surface and further wallpapering. People who are going to prepare the walls themselves should figure out in advance how to properly peel off the paint at home.

Removing paint is a job that you often have to do during repairs in an apartment

Is it always necessary to remove the paint when repainting the walls

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Many people who plan to repaint walls wonder if it is necessary to manually remove the old layer first. Some people think that doing it is a must. However, sometimes you don't have to.

You can leave the old paint layer in the following cases:

Also, do not clean if the old layer is firmly attached. You can paint over it.

When to remove old paint and why it is done

Before you remove old paint from the walls in the kitchen, in the toilet, bathroom or ordinary room, you need to figure out exactly when this should be done.

Most often, it is removed if a large number of bubbles, cracks, chips and other mechanical damage appear on the surface. The fact is that such paint begins to peel off and therefore you will have to get rid of it in any case. At the same time, it must be removed completely. This is done so that the new layer also does not begin to peel off immediately after staining.

It is also recommended to remove paint prior to plastering or wallpapering the walls. The fact is that the paint has a rather low absorbency and therefore it is better to clean it off.

Most often it is necessary to remove acrylic, oil, water-based compositions and alkyd enamel from the walls.

How to peel different types of paintwork

Each person, before removing paint from the wall, should familiarize himself with the features of removing various compounds.

Aqueous emulsion - a composition that can be disposed of with an ordinary cloth soaked in water

Aqueous emulsion

Some people think that it is very difficult to clean water-based compositions from concrete walls, but this is far from the case. In fact, cleaning surfaces from such paint is quite easy and fast.

To wash the emulsion, it is necessary to moisten the wall with ordinary water. After some time, the layer will gradually soften under the influence of moisture and it can be removed with a regular spatula or rag. This must be done very carefully so as not to accidentally damage the surface.

It is worth noting that cleaning water emulsion is not always easy. In some cases, getting rid of it is quite difficult. Most often, difficulties arise if a layer of varnish is applied on top. It will have to be additionally treated with special chemicals and solvents. Only after that it will be possible to clean off the varnish layer with a spatula.

If the applied water-based paint is too thin, it should not be removed with a spatula. It can be washed off with a regular sponge.


Quite often, people involved in repairs are faced with the need to remove oil compounds. They are much more difficult to clean than water-based ones.

Oily compounds can be cleaned with special chemicals

There are several effective ways to remove this paint:

There is also a thermal method. When using it, the paintwork is removed with a building hair dryer.


Acrylic compound is easiest to clean. The fact is that for this you can use an ordinary sponge dipped in water.

Wood surfaces are a little more difficult to clean off. You will have to use a spatula or knife.

Detergents are used to remove the acrylic coating from the plastic surface.

Thermal cleaning methods

Some people use the thermal method to remove paint from concrete. However, before you remove the paint from the walls using this method, you need to figure out what exactly can be used for heat treatment of surfaces.

An iron is a fairly common element of household appliances, which is often used to clean the walls from old layers of paint

Home iron

Not every person has professional tools with which to get rid of the paint layer. If there is no building hair dryer in the house, an ordinary household iron can be used instead. It will allow you to get rid of any paintwork.

To use it to remove paint when preparing the walls for wallpapering, you need:

  1. Heat the iron to the highest temperature.
  2. Tear off a sheet of foil at least 25-30 centimeters long.
  3. Warm up wall sections through a piece of foil.

Once the surface is well heated, the remaining paint can be scraped off with a spatula.

Building dryer

It is best to use a building dryer for thermal cleaning of walls from paint residues. This is a fairly powerful tool that allows you to heat the air up to 550-650 ° C. Thanks to this, with its help it will be possible to melt any paint composition.

The advantages of this tool include its versatility. The fact is that with its help you can clean not only concrete, but also wooden surfaces with your own hands. Some people use a hair dryer to remove the paint on the tiles.

A spatula is a tool that can be used to quickly clean peeling paint

Using a remover

In some cases, the paint can be simply washed off the wall. This method is considered the safest, since when using it, there is minimal risk of damaging the wall covering or chipping and scraping off the plaster.

To remove the paintwork, you will need the following tools:

Protective gloves must be put on before flushing.

Then you should start preparing the walls. They must be swept in advance with a broom. After that, the surface must be moistened with a washing solution.

After 12-15 hours, the coating will gradually crack and delaminate. It must be treated with a spatula to get rid of peeled paint.

Then you need to clean the wall with a metal brush and sandpaper.

The cleaned wall must be thoroughly rinsed and dried.

Mechanical methods

If it was not possible to clean the wall with the above methods, you will have to use mechanical cleaning methods. With their help, it will be possible to get rid of any paintwork.

Sandblaster - ideal for metal surfaces


This is one of the most common mechanical paint removal methods. To use this technique, you will have to acquire a sandblaster. It is equipped with a special nozzle, from which the sand mixture flies out during the cleaning process. This abrasive is quite powerful, with its help it will be possible to remove any paint.

It is worth noting that sandblasting can only be used when working with metal surfaces. For example, this method is definitely not suitable for cleaning wooden surfaces.

Using brush

People who have a grinder or drill can purchase a special brush for such tools. It is suitable for processing concrete, metal and wood. With the help of such a brush, it will be possible to tear off even a multilayer paintwork. However, this is a slow process that can take several hours.

This method has disadvantages. Among the minuses, one can single out the fact that hard-to-reach pestles cannot be cleaned with a brush. It also begins to dust heavily when processing concrete surfaces.


Sandpaper is often used when processing metal surfaces. However, it is also suitable for cleaning walls from the remaining paint.

Most often it is used together with chemical solvents. If the paint layer is too thin, you can wipe it off with sandpaper without chemicals. In this case, it is better to use fine-grained sandpaper so as not to leave too many marks on the wall.

Sandpaper - capable of removing paint residue from walls

Choosing the right cleaning method

Many people have some difficulty in choosing the most suitable cleaning method. There are several criteria that should be taken into account:

If desired, several methods can be combined at once.


Before cleaning the walls of old paint, you should familiarize yourself with the safety precautions.

Learn more