How to Clean Walls and Make Them Look Like New

Jenna Jonaitis
Written by Jenna Jonaitis
Reviewed by Asya Biddle
Updated November 15, 2022
A view of a living room with white walls
Photo: FollowTheFlow / Adobe Stock

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Whether you want to brighten your space, remove scuffs and smudges, or prep for painting, washing your walls is a great DIY project. However, you’ll want to use safe products and cleaning techniques that won’t damage your space. We’ll teach you what to wash your walls with and break down how to clean walls, no matter the surface.

Why Do I Have to Wash My Walls? 

Over time, walls can accumulate dust, debris, scuffs, cobwebs, splatters, smudges, stains, grease, smoke, and more. Without cleaning them, your walls can look dull and dirty.

Washing your walls has a few key benefits:

  • Makes your space look bigger, brighter, and cleaner

  • Increases the lifespan of your paint, wallpaper, and other surfaces

  • Reduces dust and irritants that can trigger allergies and asthma, or cause irritation of the throat, nose, and eyes

  • Helps a new layer of paint adhere to the wall

How Much Does It Cost to Wash Walls?

Cleaning your walls costs less than $10 if you already have the tools, as you only need a few cleaning supplies. The cost of professional wall cleaning ranges from $170 to $480 on average.

How to Prep for Washing Walls

A man removes a frame from a wall
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

Before getting started, clear your walls, prep the space, and determine which cleaner to use. Different paint finishes and wallpapers need milder cleaners and a gentler touch to avoid causing damage. Don’t worry: We’ll help you choose the perfect one.

Choose and Prepare Your Cleaning Solution

Depending on the type of wall you have, you’ll want to opt for a cleaning solution that removes dirt and scuffs, but doesn't harm or discolor the finish. 

Consult the chart below to learn what to wash your walls with and any tips you’ll need to know about each wall type. Once you choose the right solution for your space (only choose one, never mix cleaners together), fill up a bucket and prepare to get to work.

Type of Paint or SurfaceSafe Cleaning Solutions (Choose one)Cleaning Recommendations
Flat, matte, eggshell, satin finishesWhite vinegar and water (50:50 ratio) and one ounce of liquid dish soap for every gallon of waterScrub gently to avoid removing paint. Never use harsh chemicals or commercial degreasers.
Semi-gloss, gloss finishesWhite vinegar and water (50:50 ratio), one ounce of liquid dish soap for every gallon of water, and a mild degreaserScrub gently to avoid removing paint.
WallpaperWhite vinegar and water (50:50 ratio) and one teaspoon of vinegar for every cup of water (on tougher stains only)Be sure not to oversaturate with water or cleaning solution.
Brick or concreteWhite vinegar and water (50:50 ratio), one ounce of liquid dish soap for every gallon of water, and a mixture of 2:1 dish soap and baking powder for tougher stainsSpray the brick or concrete with water first so it doesn’t absorb too much of the cleaner. Let the cleaner sit for 10 minutes before scrubbing. Use a soft-bristled brush to get into nooks and crannies.
WoodWhite vinegar and water (50:50 ratio) plus 2 tablespoons of lemon oilSkip the rinse after cleaning.

Test Your Cleaning Product

Spot-test your cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area before tackling your whole wall. You want to ensure that the cleaning solution isn't too harsh or doesn’t cause streaks and discoloration. Be especially careful with wallpaper and matte, satin, eggshell, and flat paint finishes.

Gather Your Tools

Besides your cleaning solution, you'll need a few tools. Having everything ready makes the project smoother and faster.

  • Microfiber cleaning cloth or non-abrasive sponge 

  • Soft-bristled brush for textured, brick, and concrete walls

  • Handheld vacuum or vacuum with hose and brush attachment

  • Long-handled duster

  • Step ladder to reach high places (practice good ladder safety like working with a buddy here)

Consider attaching your cleaning cloth to a dry sponge mop head, or using a sponge mop, so you can easily reach higher on the wall. 

Clear the Wall and Protect the Floor

Remove any wall art, photos, mirrors, and other objects hanging on the wall or leaning against it. Move any furniture away from the room's perimeter for easy access to the walls. Place towels near the baseboards to protect your floors from drips and splashes.

How to Wash a Wall

A view of a wall being washed with a microfiber cloth
Photo: FotoDuets / iStock / Getty Images

No matter the type of wall or paint, here's how to wash walls in five easy steps. Dust first, clean with a wet solution next, then hone in on any remaining scuffs and stains.

1. Dust the Wall from Top to Bottom

With a long-handled duster or microfiber cloth, dust the entire surface of the wall from the ceiling to the floor, horizontally from left to right. Make sure you reach the corners. For larger dust bunnies and abandoned spiderwebs, use a handheld vacuum or one with a brush and hose attachment. A vacuum also works best on textured walls and those made of brick or concrete because it reaches all angles. 

Dusting the walls before washing them down is imperative. "By removing dust, debris, and hair prior to washing the walls, you are saving yourself time, energy, and frustration,” says Asya Biddle, Angi Expert Review Board member and manager of The Dustbusters, a family-owned and operated janitorial company in Williamsport, PA. “If you skip this step, it will take much longer, and you will find that some of the dust and hair will be left on the walls when dried and in your cleaning cloth." 

2. Wash the Entire Wall Surface

Soak your cleaning cloth or sponge in your cleaning solution (see the table above to find the right solution for your wall type). Wring out excess water and cleaner from the cloth. 

The best way to clean walls is to scrub gently in circular motions from top to bottom, left to right. Use gentle pressure. More aggressive washing can damage the paint or other surface. Avoid soaking the wall, as it could cause the paint or wallpaper to bubble or leave watermarks. 

You should also gently wipe down your door and window trim, light switches, outlets, and thermostats with a lightly damp cloth. Avoid soaking these areas, as this could pose an electrical risk. 

3. Spot-Clean Stains, Scuffs, and Marks 

If you have stains or scuffs that didn't come off during your cleaning, sprinkle baking soda on a damp cloth and gently scrub the stain or mark. Rinse the wall area with a clean damp cloth. 

You can also rid your walls of scuffs and marks with a cleaning eraser, but be sure to test it on an inconspicuous area first and read the manufacturer's instructions. Cleaning erasers are not recommended on high gloss, satin, and clear coat paints, wallpaper, or wood, as they could leave a permanent mark.

If you have a water stain, repainting is often the best way to take care of the discoloration. But first, be sure to fix the leak or underlying issue so water doesn't stain your walls again.

4. Rinse the Walls and Let Them Dry

After you’re done washing the walls, dump your bucket out and fill it with clean, warm water. Then, dip a clean cloth in the water and wring it out. Wipe down the entire wall surface to get rid of leftover dirt and detergents, rinsing off the cloth as needed. If you have wood walls, skip the rinse.

Use a towel or microfiber cloth to absorb any leftover moisture on the walls. If it’s a warm, dry day, open your windows and let the breeze speed up the drying process. 

5. Touch Up the Paint (Optional)

A view of a white wall being painted with a paintbrush
Photo: Serenethos / Adobe Stock

If you have discoloration or stains that won't go away, consider touching up the area with the same color and paint finish. Be sure to protect your floors from any paint drips or spills. Gently brush or roll off any excess paint on your roller or paintbrush before using light, feather-like strokes over the stain.

Tips for Keeping Your Walls Clean

Keep your walls beautiful and stain-free by following a few key tips:

  • Clean spills, scuffs, smudges, crayon marks, and other blemishes as soon as they happen. This step makes them easier to clean off of the surface of your wall.

  • Dust your walls and clear away cobwebs at least a few times a year, especially if you have textured walls.

  • Avoid smoking in the house to prevent soot on your walls.

  • Stick to satin and eggshell paint finishes on most walls for easy clean-up.

  • Opt for gloss or semi-gloss paint finishes in the kitchen so it’s easier to remove grease. 

  • Clean high-traffic areas regularly, such as the walls in your dining room or living room.

DIY vs. Hire a Pro

You can clean your walls yourself with a few household cleaning supplies. The job takes time, though, and if you’re working with a lot of square footage or have walls with tall ceilings, you may want to hire a pro. A local cleaning pro can tackle the job and ensure your walls look pristine.

Frequently Asked Questions

The best solution for cleaning walls is usually a 50:50 mixture of white vinegar and water or a gallon of water with an ounce of liquid dish soap. You can use a mild degreaser on gloss and semi-gloss paint finishes. Use a 50:50 mixture of white vinegar and water, plus 2 tablespoons of lemon oil, on wood walls.

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