How to clean painted walls to remove stains — tips and tricks

Woman cleaning a wall with blue cloth
Woman cleaning a wall with blue cloth (Image credit: Shutterstock)

When your white walls look grimy or have marks, you’ll need to know how to clean painted walls to remove stains. Over time, painted walls can be subjected to various stains including drink splashes, grease and dirt.  Plus, if you have young children, pencil or crayon marks on the walls can also play havoc! 

Don't despair. You can learn how to clean painted walls to remove stains without ruining them. After all, the last thing you need is to repaint them. In addition, you need to consider the type of paint finish you have, as harsh cleaning products or bleach may damage the surface or make the stain worse. 

Also, if you have a tiny kitchen, here are 7 ways to double your space in a small kitchen. And if you want to spruce up your entryway, here are 7 entryway ideas to impress guests

So follow our simple tips on how to clean painted walls to remove stains (and not remove paintwork), and get it spotless again. And if you do need to repaint, check out our guides on how to paint a room like a pro and how to paint a ceiling, with quick tips or how to paint kitchen cabinets to transform them on a budget. Before you paint a room, check out how to clean baseboards first.

If your room lacks natural light, you'll need to know how to brighten a dark room for tips and tricks. Or if you have any other unsightly marks, check out how to remove water stains from wood and walls

How to clean painted walls to remove grease and grime stains

What you need

Dish soap

White vinegar

Baking soda

Non-abrasive sponge

Cleaning eraser sponge

Soft-bristle brush

Microfiber cloth

Paper towels

1. First, mix a few drops of liquid dish soap with warm water in a spray bottle. Dish soap is specially formulated to cut through grease and is not too harsh to use on painted walls. 

2. Use a non-abrasive sponge and do a spot test on the stain first before you start cleaning the entire area. This is to see if the cleaner will work without taking off the paint. 

Cleaning the wall with spray and sponge

Cleaning the wall with spray and sponge (Image credit: Shutterstock)

3. For tougher grease stains, you can mix baking soda with warm water until it forms a paste. Carefully work the paste formula into the wall stain, taking care not to scrub the area too hard. This will only make the stain worse.

4. Then, wipe away the formula residue with a clean, damp microfiber cloth. It’s best to use white, lint-free cloths to prevent the fabric color from bleeding into your wall. 

Baking soda in a spoon

baking soda in a spoon (Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to clean painted walls to remove coffee stains and other spills

1. Make up a natural multi-purpose cleaning solution by stirring one teaspoon of liquid dish soap into a quart of warm water. Follow this by adding a ¼ teaspoon of white vinegar.

2. A top trick is to apply the solution to the stain with a soft-bristle brush. 

Coffee stains on wall

Coffee stains on wall (Image credit: Shutterstock)

3. Do a spot test first before working the solution into the stain. Gently scrub in side-to-side movements without putting too much pressure on the area. 

4. Wet and wring out a paper towel to rinse out the cleaner. Once the coffee stain is removed, wipe off the surface with a dry cloth and leave to dry. 

Wiping a wall with a microfibre cloth

Wiping a wall with a microfibre cloth (Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to clean painted walls to remove pencil marks

1. First, try to remove the marks with a brand new pencil eraser or art gum eraser. Focus specifically on the marks so you don’t rub an entire area and risk damaging the paint.

2. If this doesn’t work, you can try to gently rub the mark with a cleaning eraser sponge. Cleaning eraser sponges are non-abrasive and designed to remove pencil marks from your wall. 

Erasing pencil marks on wall

Erasing pencil marks on wall (Image credit: Shutterstock)

3. Another easy method for pencil stains is to dip the corner of a damp cloth into baking soda and dab along the mark. 

4. Repeat until the mark is removed before using another clean damp cloth to wipe the baking soda off. 

5. Another trick is to apply a tiny amount of daily white toothpaste onto a soft cloth and rub gently on the pencil mark. Similar to baking soda, toothpaste is a mild, natural abrasive that can help to remove pencil stains.  

Cleaning pencil marks off a wall

Cleaning pencil marks off a wall (Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to clean different types of painted walls

How to clean your painted wall depends on the type of finish it has. Flat finishes such as matte, and eggshell paint are less durable to clean, so avoid using harsh chemicals or degreasers that may strip the paint. Gloss or semi-gloss paints are highly durable and can cope with a mild degreaser. Latex paint simply needs warm water and a non-abrasive cleaning solution.  

If you're looking for more cleaning advice and DIY, check out our how to remove red wine stains guide and how to remove oil stains from clothes, how to get paint out of a carpet, and how to grout tiles in 5 simple steps. Also take a look at the 11 things you didn't know you could clean with toothpaste

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!