How to Clean Walls for a Room Refresh

Cleaning your walls may be the easiest way to make a room sparkle. See our wall cleaning tips—whether you have paint, wallpaper, or brick.

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A person cleans a painted wall with a pink cloth while wearing a red cleaning glove
Photo: Getty Images

We're about to show you how to clean walls to refresh any room—without picking up a paintbrush or installing new wallpaper. Most people don't think to clean the walls of their homes too often. But if you haven't cleaned painted walls in a few years, you may be surprised to see exactly how much dirt and dust has collected on them.

In fact, after cleaning your walls thoroughly, you may notice that the paint color looks more vibrant. Similarly, your wallpaper will look restored, and brick walls will be dust-free. Follow our wall cleaning guide below.

How Often to Clean Walls

In general, you should clean the walls in your home at least once a year. However, this will depend on where you live, how often you open your windows, and whether your family members have allergies. Those factors will help you determine if you should wash your walls more often to remove dust, dirt, and other allergens.

How to Clean Painted Walls With Dishwashing Liquid

Walls with paint on them are not difficult to clean. One thing to note is what type of paint finish you have, especially if you want to clean the walls without damaging paint—or worse, removing the paint.

What You Need:

Step 1: Remove Dust and Cobwebs

Use a dry mop to remove dust or cobwebs along the baseboards or near crown molding. A mop with a telescopic handle will make it easy to reach up high without pulling out a ladder, as well as down low without bending down.

Step 2: Dust the Details

Grab a microfiber cloth to dust around light switch plates or other details, like if you have chair rail molding.

Step 3: Check the Paint Finish

If your walls need a more thorough cleaning, first check the finish. Duller finishes (like matte or flat paint) are more delicate, while shinier finishes (like semigloss) are better at handling water or cleansers. If you have a semigloss or gloss finish, proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Wipe the Walls

Fill a bucket with warm water and a squirt of mild dishwashing liquid (preferably undyed). Dip the sponge, then wring it out almost entirely before wiping the walls. (Note: You want the sponge to be damp, not wet, or else drips can leave marks on your wall.)

Step 5: Clean Minor Spots

Get rid of little spots and scuffs with a Magic Eraser; these are typically up to the challenge. First, test a small, inconspicuous area on the wall to make sure it won't affect the paint color.

How to Clean Wallpapered Walls With a Vacuum

Before you start scrubbing, it's best to check the manufacturer's cleaning instructions. For fragile, antique wallpaper, it's best to skip any cleaning methods that involve water.

What You Need:

Step 1: Dust the Wall

Using the brush attachment on your vacuum, carefully dust the wall, paying special attention to molding and baseboards. Alternatively, you can use a dry duster. Always start at the top of the wall and work your way down; this prevents dust from falling onto an area you've already cleaned.

Step 2: Test for Water Absorption

If dusting isn't enough, you can wipe the wallpaper, but first, test a small area to be sure it won't be damaged.

  • Combine warm water with a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid.
  • Dip a soft sponge into the soapy water, wring it out, and test it in an inconspicuous spot, such as behind a piece of furniture.
  • Does the water absorb into the paper, or does the color bleed? If so, skip this method.
  • If not, you're good to go.

Step 3: Wipe and Dry

Gently wipe the wallpaper with the barely-damp sponge, then follow with a clean towel to ensure moisture doesn't sit on the wallpaper.

How to Clean Brick Walls With Dishwashing Liquid

Brick walls are simple to clean. With a few easy steps—plus an unconventional one—your walls will be renewed.

What You Need:

  • White bread
  • Vacuum with brush attachment
  • Bucket
  • Mild dishwashing liquid
  • Bristled brush
  • Old towels

Step 1: Remove Cobwebs and Debris

To clean brick, our senior editor, Brandi Broxson, swears by this trick: Press a slice of white bread onto the brick to pick up dust, cobwebs, and debris.

Step 2: Dust the Brick

Using a brush attachment, vacuum the brick to remove dust and dirt.

Step 3: Scrub With a Brush

If dusting isn't enough, mix a bucket of warm water with a squirt of mild dishwashing liquid. Dip a bristled brush into the solution and scrub each brick. Use old towels to protect the floor below from water.

How to Keep Your Walls Clean Longer

To keep your walls clean longer and looking fresh between deep cleans, try to clean high-traffic areas more often. For example, the wall space around light switches, thermostats, behind the kitchen stove, the bathroom sinks, and in the kids' rooms could all use extra attention. Additionally, dusting your walls with a dry dust mop or vacuum—even once a month—will help walls stay clean.

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