Before cleaning your walls the first step is to assess what type of paint your walls are covered with. Semi-gloss and glossy enamel paints tend to stand up best to washing. Flat, satin, and eggshell latex paints, on the other hand, may fade or rub off with overly abrasive cleaning. It’s always best to test in an inconspicuous spot first.
Before you do any washing, run the dust brush attachment of your vacuum over ceilings and walls. You’ll want to remove as much dust and cobwebs first. Often, this is enough to get your walls looking clean.
When vacuuming isn’t enough to get rid of tougher stains and smudge marks, a bit of old fashioned elbow grease is required. To avoid stripping or causing fade spots on the paint, always start with the gentlest materials possible — in this case, water and natural sponges. Avoid using colored sponges since the dye can be deposited onto lighter-colored walls. When water isn’t enough to remove stubborn stains, a mixture of warm water and mild detergent should get the job done.
Before starting, be sure to lay down old sheets or canvas drop cloths to catch soapy drips and to protect your floors. You’ll also need two buckets — one for cleaning and one for rinsing.
Begin at the bottom of the wall working your way up, alternating between the wet, soapy sponge and a wet, clean sponge to rinse; each sponge should have its own bucket. Rinsing with clean water is essential to prevent soapy residue from being left behind. Rinsing also ensures that any new dirt and grime won’t cling to the soapy residue left behind.
Rub in a gentle, circular motion and make sure to wring out the sponges well to avoid drips. Work in sections, and once you’ve completed a section, dry the area with a clean, soft cloth.
If you need to take a breather, never stop for a break in the middle of washing a wall. Stopping the job before you finish the entire wall can cause “wash marks”: a wave effect caused by stop-and-go wall washing. Always wash an entire wall in a single session.
Prevention tip: Always try to clean a spot or remove a stain promptly. The longer a stain stays stuck to the wall, the harder it’ll be to scrub off later. For spot-cleaning, try a paste of baking soda and water gently rubbed over the stain, then rinsed with clean water and dried with a soft cloth.