How to Clean Your Walls (and Remove Stubborn Scuffs and Stains), According to the Experts

Plus, find out how to preserve the quality of your paint job as you clean.

Woman dusting walls before cleaning
Photo: AnnaStills / GETTY IMAGES

Your walls are the literal foundation of your home, but they're also a blank canvas for all kinds of eye-catching details, including collections of photographs, that extra-large flatscreen, or even a statement coat of bright paint. That's why wall smudges and stains can really stand out. These marks happen all the time—think splatters that hit the walls when you cook or fingerprints courtesy of curious toddlers.

But when left uncleaned, these smudges can become true eye sores and are often a pain to remove. That's why we've enlisted the help of cleaning experts; they helped us navigate the entire wall cleaning process, from dusting to removing stubborn marks.

How to Remove Dust and Dirt From Walls

It's only natural: Over time, dust accumulates on all of our surfaces, including our walls. Plus, shoe scuffs can leave behind unsightly trails of dirt.

Luckily, there's a quick way to refresh these often-overlooked surfaces, says Kathy Cohoon, the director of franchise operations at Two Maids. First, take caution: "When it comes to walls and finishes, always double check the manufacturer's instructions for any store-bought solutions you may try," she says. "This method [below] is safe for any kind of wall (just try to keep an eye on it as you clean), but if you're worried, you can always color test a small spot of the wall that isn't super noticeable."

Materials You'll Need

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Gentle dish soap
  • Soft cleaning brush
  • Duster

Follow Cohoon's best practices to remove dust and dirt from your walls:

  1. Dust the walls with a dry microfiber cloth or duster to remove cobwebs, dust, and other particles.
  2. Remove as much debris or gunk from the wall as possible with your dry cleaning brush, but make sure to avoid scraping off the paint.
  3. For a quick clean and minor messes, mix together warm water and a gentle dish soap.
  4. Dip a microfiber cloth in the mixture and wring well. Use circular motions to clean the wall and rinse away with a water-only cloth.
  5. Wipe with a dry microfiber cloth and allow it to fully air-dry.
A set of tools for cleaning the room in a plastic basket on the shelf on a blue wall background

How to Remove Stains From Walls

You can remove those pesky wall stains—you just need to use the right cleaning solutions, says Jennifer Parnell, co-founder of Humble Suds, a line of non-toxic, sustainable cleaning products. "We recommend avoiding using any whitening agents on walls, as they can affect the color," she says. "Also, avoid using anything that is abrasive, as it will damage the wall finish, and possibly the paint, resulting in a bigger problem."

Materials You'll Need

  • Mild cleaner
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar

Here are expert-approved steps to get rid of stains on walls:

  1. To start, use a mild cleaner with a neutral PH, such as diluted castile soap in a spray bottle, or a natural, non-toxic, all-purpose cleaner like Humble Suds. Strong chemical cleaners can strip the finish, says Parnell.
  2. Spray the area and let it sit for a bit. Catch any drips with a non-abrasive microfiber cloth.
  3. Gently wipe away the dirt from the wall. Do not press too hard, as this could damage the paint or the finish.
  4. For more stubborn stains, turn to a baking soda and vinegar paste. How much you mix depends on how big your wall stain is, says Cohoon. In a small bowl, combine baking soda, water, and a splash of vinegar. Add baking soda to a bowl first and gradually add water until your mixture has the consistency of paste, then add the vinegar.
  5. Spread the mixture over the wall and let it dry.
  6. Wipe the dried mixture off with a soft cloth and repeat as needed for stubborn messes.

How to Keep Your Walls Clean

While it might be tough to keep your walls clean all the time, there are a few ways help them look their best for longer. "We recommend adding wiping down walls to your monthly cleaning regimen, particularly paying attention to walls, trim, and fixtures in high-traffic areas, such as entrances anywhere in the house," says Parnell. "[You don't] need to wipe down entire walls. Just staying on top of the areas with accumulated dirt is plenty."

If you see tougher stains, like from crayons and markers or food stains, remove them as quickly as possible, before they have a chance to set, Parnell says.

Maintain the Paint Quality

Whenever you clean painted walls, be careful, says Cohoon. "Many smudges and marks can be safely removed with the method above. Just avoid scrubbing too hard or using harsh chemicals or tools that can lift paint," she says. "This includes bleach or sponges made of formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer that can be a miracle for smudges, but can also scrub away paint."

Avoid Smearing Wet Grime

To avoid spreading any wet smudges, remove the mess when it's dry as possible, says Cohoon. That's why dry dusting and then brushing away any debris is crucial. When messes are wet, they could get bigger once you start scrubbing.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles