how to clean walls

Photo: Linus/Shutterstock

Interior walls tend to get dingy over time, as you've probably already noticed. No matter what color they are, streaks and stains start to show, mysterious scuff marks emerge, and you start to feel like you're living in Murkville USA instead of a gorgeous clean home. Numerous commercial products are available for scrubbing down walls and restoring their sparkling clean looks, but many of them are both expensive and not very environmentally friendly — not exactly the kind of thing you want to be applying to your walls, especially if you have young children and pets who might be especially sensitive to chemical cleaners.

Fortunately, there's a way better alternative. In addition to commercial green cleaning products like Simple Green and others specifically designed for walls, you can also just make your own. These DIY cleaners do the trick when it comes to lifting grime, and they're way less expensive than their commercial counterparts, so you can save big while you're also restoring your home's handsome looks.

By the way, there's another form of savings embedded in washing your walls to remove grime: you won't be applying yet another layer of paint. Some people prefer repainting to washing, but there's no reason to pile on the paint if the underlying paint is in good shape and you still like the color. (If you don't like the color, of course, you're definitely looking at a new paint job and a phone call to your painting contractor — but you should actually wash the walls first anyway, to help the paint go on more easily, reduce the risk of stains seeping through, and keep mold and mildew out of your walls)

So what are you waiting for? Oh, right, a recipe.

One very basic wall wash uses a quart of warm water to one quarter cup white vinegar, with two tablespoons of liquid soap. Before you start washing, brush and wipe down the walls to remove loose dust, spiderwebs, and other messes. Then use clean cloths to wash the walls, and follow with more clean cloths dipped in warm water to rinse clean. Blot with dry cloths to get the drying process started. To prevent molding, plan to do this on a day when it's warm and you can open the windows for ventilation to dry the walls as quickly as possible.

Stubborn stains? Good old baking soda is your friend. Make a baking soda and water paste, apply it to stains, allow it to dry, and brush it away. The baking soda should lift the stain, allowing you to wash as usual and then move on with your stain-free life!

If you're thinking about interior paint design as you prepare for repainting, be aware that semi-gloss, high-gloss, and eggshell finishes are much easier to clean and maintain than matte paints. While matte can provide a much better look in some cases, it's not a great idea for high traffic areas. Consider compromising with matte on the ceiling and an eggshell or semi-gloss for the walls.

Katie Marks originally wrote this story for It is reprinted with permission here.

Related stories on MNN:

Clean your walls the eco-friendly way
Step away from the toxic chemicals and enjoy a fresh new look for your home.