Plus, a dusting technique that doesn't require a ladder.

By Katie Holdefehr
January 13, 2021
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If your home was built between 1950 and 1980, there's a good chance it features at least one popcorn ceiling. During that time, popcorn ceilings became a popular alternative to smooth skim-coated plaster ceilings because the textured material could be quickly and easily sprayed on, it hides imperfections, and it acts as a sound buffer. Fast forward a few decades, and many now consider popcorn ceilings a huge cleaning challenge. As anyone who has a textured ceiling in their home's hallway or basement likely already knows, the many nooks and crevices act as serious dust magnets. Don't fret, here's how to clean a popcorn ceiling and remove dust the easy way—plus a more advanced cleaning method for stains.

Safety note: If the popcorn ceilings in your home date from before 1980, it's a good idea to have them tested for asbestos. Early formulas for popcorn ceilings contained white asbestos fibers, which are now a known carcinogen. Cleaning these surfaces could release harmful asbestos particles into the air.

How to Clean Popcorn Ceilings

What You'll Need:

  • Lint roller with an extendable pole (such as this one, $16, target.com)
  • Vacuum with a brush attachment
  • Ladder (or step ladder, depending upon ceiling height)
  • Feather or microfiber duster with extension pole (such as this one, $16, bedbathandbeyond.com)
  • Liquid dish soap (optional)
  • Cleaning cloths

Follow These Steps:

  1. Lint roller method: There are several techniques to clean a popcorn ceiling and remove dust, so start with the easiest one first. If the ceiling is low, such as in a basement, grab a lint roller with a 3-foot extendable pole. This way, you won't even need to climb a ladder. Designed to clear pet fur off the floor, the 10-inch-wide sticky roller will grab dust from the ceiling and prevent it from falling onto furniture or the floor below. Test in a small spot first to make sure the adhesive won't damage the textured surface.
  2. Vacuum method: If your vacuum has a brush attachment (and bonus points for a telescopic wand), use it to gently remove dust and cobwebs from the ceiling. You'll likely need a ladder and may want to cover furniture with tarps or sheets to collect falling dust.
  3. Microfiber duster method: Using an extendable microfiber duster that has a duster head that can rotate to form a right angle, gently run the duster along the ceiling to collect dust and cobwebs. If the surface of your ceiling is particularly rough and the microfiber gets caught in it, try an old-fashioned feather duster instead. For this method, you'll want to cover furniture and rugs with bed sheets to capture any falling debris.
  4. To clean stains: Popcorn ceilings are susceptible to water damage, which can cause discoloration. To clean a stained area, dip a clean cloth into a mixture of water with a squirt of liquid dish soap. Wring out the cloth so it's damp but not wet, then use it to clean the stained area (it's a good idea to test in a small spot first). Rinse the area with a clean, damp cloth. Open a window or set up a fan to help the area dry as quickly as possible.
  5. Cover stains: If the stains can't be removed by cleaning and the source of the water leak has been fixed, you can freshen up the ceiling with a coat of paint. Start with a stain-blocking primer and use a thick-nap paint roller to cover the textured surface without damaging it.