Just as you scrub flat, horizontal surfaces, the ones that run vertically in your home also need an occasional wipe-down. Here's how to rid them of smudges, stains, and fingerprints.

By Lauren Wellbank
Updated April 22, 2021
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The walls of your home see a lot of wear and tear. Between scuff marks near the door (courtesy of your end-of-day sneaker kick-off), the dirt and debris that pets drag in, and the fingerprints and smudges that build up over time, these surfaces get messy, fast. Fortunately, fixing those issues is easy with the correct tools. Ahead, we spoke with an expert to find out exactly what you need to do to get your walls clean—so you don't need to break out the paint can and brush for touch ups.

cleaning interior wall with sponge
Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images

Minor Messes

How you remove stains from your home's walls will depend largely on their finish, says Jenna Arkin, the vice president of innovation at ECOS. "For bathroom paint surfaces, like eggshell, semi-gloss, or gloss, most all-purpose cleaners and a microfiber towel will easily remove smudges and fingerprints," she says. "This is also true for most wallpapers." When it comes to matte walls, however, Arkin says to test the cleaner in an inconspicuous area before applying it broadly to ensure that that the formula is paint-safe.

Larger Scuffs and Stains

Bigger messes, that either cover a larger area or are more difficult to eliminate, may require a little extra effort. "For stuck-on stains, try using a cleanser or sponge that has gentle abrasive to help release the stain," says Arkin. Start with a contained section and increase both pressure and the product's strength in increments to ensure you're not creating a larger problem.

Scrubbing Tips

Avoid using anything too abrasive to clean your walls (especially if they have that matte finish). Textured scrubbers may remove the paint, or wear away the sheen, leaving your walls in need of a touch-up coat. Additionally, certain chemical products can damage your surfaces, regardless of their finish. "Solvent-based cleaners can remove paint, so stick with water-based ones for the best results, which are unlikely to disrupt cured paint," notes Arkin.

Fighting Fingerprints

Hands can leave plenty behind on your walls. Between dirt, grease, and oil, you might notice a few places where fingerprints seem to linger long after someone has touched the surface. Areas like door jams, light switches, and low-to-the-ground spots in hallways (where little palms play) are all hotspots. But, according to Arkin, all you need is a microfiber towel and some product to erase them. "Used with a water-based, all-purpose cleaner, microfiber towels do a better job of getting a deep surface-level clean, ensuring surfactants can penetrate deep and release stains." Just make sure you're frequently rinsing whatever applicator you're using, so that you're not spreading grease, oil, or dirt further around your walls.

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