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:
Liquid hand or dish soap
Soft cloths or rags
Vacuum with dust brush attachment
Foam craft brush
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.
Another stain removal technique? Hydrogen peroxide. It works wonders on red wine stains. Take your cleaning rag (with the dish soap solution) and dab a little hydrogen peroxide onto it. Gently press it into the red wine stain for five minutes to lift it.
For grease stains on kitchen walls, there's also an unexpected technique that involves your iron. Place a paper towel on top of the grease stain and then press your iron (set on low heat) on top of the paper towels for one minute. The hot paper towels will absorb the grease, revealing a clean wall beneath.
People with kids may also want to keep a stain removal pen on hand for art projects gone awry.
While the following stain cleaning methods are great for painted walls, you need to proceed with more caution if you have wallpaper. If your wallpaper requires more than a light cleaning, consult the manufacturer's instructions to find out the best way to remove stains.
8. Rinse the walls
Soak a cloth in clean water, and wring it out well. Wipe the wall with the cloth to rinse.
9. Dry the walls
Gently run a clean, dry cloth over the surface. You can also keep your windows open to help air-dry the walls as you go.
How to Keep Your Walls Clean
But how to avoid scuff marks and dust in the first place? Fierman says giving your walls some routine love is the best way to “keep accumulation of dirt to a minimum.” Regularly clean high-traffic areas, focusing on problem spots like light switches and doorknobs. “With children and pets, everything gets ramped up—you just have to be a little more vigilant,” she says. Forward thinkers might even consider choosing durable wall treatments with maintenance in mind.
Written by Hannah Doolin and Kristi Kellogg
This article originally appeared on AD Clever.