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Follow these quick tips for how to clean walls and enjoy your reward of a sparkling clean room. But first . . .

Are You Sure You Want to Do This?

Before undertaking the time-consuming chore of washing all the walls in a room, please consider if it is absolutely necessary. Many times you can remove the worst of the grime with thorough dusting and some attention to spot cleaning.

Tip #1 – Consider the Surface

How to clean walls is going to depend on what surface you are dealing with. Flat and matte paint finishes (most common in rooms other than the kitchen and bathroom) can not be scrubbed vigorously, nor should they remain wet for long. They also do not clean easily, so many times you’re going to be better off just repainting than trying to wash a flat finished wall.

Satin and gloss finishes (kitchen and bathroom usually) can withstand some scrubbing but need to be dried carefully or you may leave behind streaks. Textured walls are tricky and may require special cleaning tools and cleaners. Wallpaper may only withstand dry cleaning, although many vinyl wallpapers can be damp cleaned. Always test in an inconspicuous area if you are unsure of your surface type.

Tip #2 – Arrange Your Work Area.

Take down drapes, curtains, and all hanging objects from the walls before you get started. Also move furniture, children, pets, and electric cords out of the way. Protect your floor from stray drips with an old sheet if necessary (a few drops of water on most floors isn’t going to hurt, but you could stain a carpet).

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Tip #3 – Dry Cleaning

Before wet cleaning, the walls, thoroughly remove all surface dust and cobwebs with a duster or a vacuum with a brush attachment, then sweep or vacuum the floor. Don’t forget to dust baseboards and window frames. If you have wallpaper that won’t permit wet cleaning, try using a regular dry-cleaning kitchen sponge, which should clean off most dirt without having to wet a sensitive surface.

Tip #4 – Two Bucket Method

I first heard about the two-bucket method for how to clean walls in Don Aslett’s marvelous book, Is There Life After Housework? He used a sponge, one bucket of cleaning solution, and one empty bucket. With the advent of microfiber, cleaning walls with sponges seems a bit dated, so I’ve modified the method a bit.

How to Clean Walls, Two Bucket Method

What you’ll need:

  • 2 buckets
  • cleaning solution
  • microfiber cloths (I love microfiber cloths and use them to clean everything. I suggest having a lot of these for a wall-cleaning project.)

Fill one bucket with warm water and the recommended dose of the cleaning solution of your choice (Mrs. Meyer’s has always worked well for me, but there are lots of alternatives these days, including green cleaners). Fill a second bucket with clean warm water.

Dip a cloth in the cleaning solution, wring it out, then wipe down the surface. When you judge the area to be clean, take a second clean cloth and dip it in the clean water bucket. Wring it out and use it to wipe the area you just cleaned. This removes any cleaning solution. Finally use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe the area dry – this will prevent a streaky or spotty finish.

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Depending on how dirty the walls are, you may want to change cleaning cloths frequently, and you will need to recharge your bucket with clean water and more cleaning solution once it starts looking murky.

Tip #5 – Top Down or Bottom Up?

When discussing how to clean walls, an argument arises.

It would seem logical to start at the top of the walls and wash down – that way any stray dirty drips go into the area you haven’t cleaned already. However, I was surprised to find out that an argument can be made for starting at the bottom and working your way up, especially if you have really dirty walls. The skinny on this is that it is much easier to clean a drip off of a clean wall than a dirty one. So which is best? Why not decide for yourself with a little experimentation?

When learning how to clean walls, try to be methodical in your progression – sometimes it’s hard to remember where you’ve cleaned and where you haven’t. If you’re cleaning from the bottom up, start in a corner and clean the lower third of a four-foot or so wide area. Then do the middle third of the same width of the wall and finally the top. Reverse the process if you’ve opted for top-to-bottom cleaning.

Tip #6 – Remove the Aggravation

how to clean walls sock

Nobody likes that sensation of dirty water running down their arms, but it always seems to happen when cleaning walls. Stop the drip with sweat bands or fashion your own by cutting the toes off of an old pair of socks.

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Getting the top of walls clean can also be a problem. Going up and down a ladder to get your walls clean is really not a practical solution. The best thing is to equip yourself with a flat mop for these areas.

Tip #7 – Maintain

This is a really big and important tip about how to clean walls.

Are you ready?

It is a whole lot easier to maintain walls with regular touch-ups rather than infrequent all-out cleanings. I find that dusting the walls once a month with a telescopic duster and spot cleaning (just look at the range where the kids’ hands can reach) keep my walls clean enough for me.

For spot cleaning, I use a home steam cleaner and a microfiber cloth and quickly go through all the rooms in the house – I do the doors, knobs, and light switches (carefully) at the same time. Takes less than 30 minutes and I actually quite enjoy this mindless task.


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Mary Ann

I'm a mom of 3 and spend a good chunk of my time cleaning and organizing our crazy home. My goal is to help people keep their homes tidy in a way that saves them time and money! I hope the resources on this site are a help to you and your family.

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