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Take a quick look at your walls. Is the color looking a little dingy? Do you see fingerprints or dirty spots near your light switches? If so, it’s time to give your walls a quick clean. And if you’ve got flat paint, that time may come sooner than you think.
Flat paint is a popular choice for walls because it creates a smooth, even finish and hides imperfections well. However, one drawback of flat paint is that it tends to be harder to clean compared to other types of paint finishes. The reason of this is because it has a porous surface, which makes it more prone to absorbing dirt, grime, and stains.
On top of that, using abrasive cleaners or scrubbing too hard can damage the paint or leave shiny spots, making the cleaning process more challenging. We’ve put together this helpful guide for how to clean walls with flat paint without making things worse.
Take down any wall art.
Before you begin, be sure to remove any wall art or decor you have hanging. Sometimes dust can accumulate on the frames and leave dirty outlines behind. Your walls will get a more even clean if you start with a blank canvas.
Related: 21 Painting Tips to Save You Time and Money
Remove dust with a duster.
Dust is a major dinge-maker. It can make your walls look pretty lackluster, so that’s the first step in how to clean walls with flat paint. Give every wall a quick dusting with a fluffy duster to remove dust, dirt, and cobwebs. If these particles are not removed before washing, they can stick to the cleaning solution and form streaks or stains. This makes the cleaning process more challenging. Dusting the wall also helps to prevent scratches or other types of damage to the surface during cleaning. By removing loose debris beforehand, the cleaning solution can remove any stubborn stains without causing damage.
Wipe walls with water and a soft cloth.
Before using any type of cleaning solution on your walls, wipe them down with a damp cloth using only water first. This step also helps to pre-wet the surface, making it easier for the cleaning solution to spread evenly and penetrate any stains or grime. Wiping the walls down with water first also prevents the cleaning solution from drying out too quickly. So you won’t be left with streaks or residue on the surface.
Use a vinegar solution to tackle stains and dirt.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, vinegar is an excellent cleaning product! It can tackle dishwashers, microwaves, and tons of other things. The thing about vinegar that makes it so effective is it can dissolve and remove dirt, grime, and stains without causing damage to the paint. Vinegar has acetic acid, which helps to break down those things. It’s also a mild disinfectant that can kill some bacteria and viruses. We love that vinegar is inexpensive, readily available, and safe for use on most painted surfaces.
However, it’s important to dilute the vinegar with water before using it on painted walls to avoid damaging the paint or leaving behind a strong odor. To clean your walls, add four cups of warm water to a bucket along with 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar. For super-soiled walls, you can add a teaspoon of dish soap (like Dawn) to help break down dirt. Use a soft cloth or sponge soaked in the vinegar mixture to gently clean your painted walls. Ensure the cloth isn’t soaked with the cleaning solution, as it could leave behind streaks. Wring it out well and scrub gently so as to not scuff your paint.
If your walls weren’t too bad to begin with, you can stop here. But if you’re dealing with years of wear, keep reading for more tips!
Try baking soda or a Magic Eraser for scuffs and tough stains.
For stubborn stains, baking soda is effective in cleaning painted walls because it’s mildly abrasive and can help to remove grime without damaging the paint. Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 1/4 cup of water to create a thick paste. Apply this paste to the dirty area and rub it in a circular motion with a soft, lint-free cloth or sponge. This method can effectively remove scuff marks, crayon marks, and other tough stains from painted walls.
Tip: It’s important to test the baking soda paste on a small, inconspicuous area of the wall first to ensure that it doesn’t damage the paint.
Use touch-up paint if necessary.
Even if you follow every step for how to clean walls with flat paint, you may still encounter some tough stains. If after trying all of these steps you still have some dirty spots on the walls, it could be time to give the paint a quick refresh. This is relatively simple if you have cans of the original paint in your garage. Your wall is already clean and primed for a new coat!
But if you have no idea what the wall color is, it can be a challenge. Luckily, Home Depot can match paints relatively quickly and easily. Just bring in a small chip of your current paint to the paint counter and they’ll match it as best as possible. They’ll even provide you with a swatch that you can bring home to test against your current paint. If it matches, bring the swatch back and order as much as you need for touch-ups.
Yes, this requires a chip of your current paint. The best way to do this is to cut a sample from an inconspicuous spot, like behind a sofa or even from behind a radiator vent. You can patch the drywall and repaint it later. If all of this sounds scary to you, it may be worth it to give the room a new coat of paint and save the cans of the new hue for touch-ups later.