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How to Clean your Walls

If your walls could talk, they’d be crying out for a good cleaning. Just as you dust and 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 dust, smudges, stains, and more.

Photography by: Bryan Gardner

1. For Dust

Use a lamb’s-wool duster or the bristle-brush extension of your vacuum cleaner to clear dust and cobwebs from the walls. Start with the ceiling, then work your way down; do this twice a year for painted walls. If you have textured or fabric wallpaper, it will collect dust easily, so you may need to dust once a month.


Lamb’s-wool duster, 24″, $12,


2. For Grime

Tackle everyday dirt with a sponge and a bucket of warm water mixed with a good squeeze of dishwashing liquid. Start at the top, working in sections of a few square feet at a time. Rinse with a clean damp sponge, then wipe dry with a soft cloth. To prevent streaking, test-wipe first on an inconspicuous part of the wall. Higher-gloss paints tend to respond better than matte ones.


3. For Fingerprints

Clean fingerprints, food splatters, and other stains with baby wipes. They’re a notch above soap and water in stain-fighting power, says Glenn Cooper, vice president of product development at Benjamin Moore, but still gentle as can be. “Resist the urge to scrub walls with an abrasive cleaner,” notes Sarah Cole, creative director at paint company Farrow & Ball.


4. For Crayon Marks

Don’t fret if your little one’s doodles end up on the wall: You can remove the scrawls (instead of repainting) with a Magic Eraser, which is essentially melamine foam that, once dampened, gently sands away stains. Just be sure to use light pressure to avoid erasing the paint.


Magic Erasers, by Mr. Clean, $3.50 for 4,


5. For Grease

Dry cleaning sponges, designed to clean surfaces that are easily damaged by moisture, are effective on oil buildup. But if your walls have a washable finish, you can simply use a solvent-free degreasing spray.


Dry cleaning soot sponges, by Absorene, $33 for 12,