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Michigan State University Extension
Home Maintenance And Repair - 01500185
06/24/03

Washing Painted Walls, Woodwork



Gloss or semi-gloss enamels are less likely to be damaged by cleaning than is flat latex paint. Test cleaning solution in an inconspicuous corner first; if wall color and finish look the same--but cleaner--go ahead and use.

Wash or spot clean most painted surfaces with a solution of water and mild detergent (such as hand dishwashing liquid), or a mild commercial household cleaner, that says on label is safe for painted surfaces. Rinse off thoroughly with clear water.

If walls are very dirty, use a stronger alkali solution such as 2 tablespoons ammonia or tablespoon trisodium phosphate or 2 tablespoons laundry detergent powder in 1 gallon warm (not hot) water. Stronger solutions remove some of the paint. Always rinse off. Gloss or semi-gloss enamels are less likely to be damaged by cleaning than is flat latex paint. Test cleaning solution in an inconspicuous corner first; if wall color and finish look the same--but cleaner--go ahead and use.

Washing Procedure
1. Before washing, dust or vacuum walls to remove loose soil.

2. Use one bucket for washing solution and one for rinsing, and a large cellulose sponge for each bucket.

3. Wear rubber gloves to protect hands.

4. Start washing at the bottom and work up, so cleaning solution does not run down the dirty wall and cause streaks that are hard to remove.

5. Rub gently to avoid damage to paint.

6. Wash and rinse one area; then do the next overlapping area.

7. After doing several areas, dry off excess moisture with soft absorbent cloths or towels, which can be laundered and reused.

References

This article was written by Anne Field, Extension Specialist, Emeritus.

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