Friday, October 23, 2009

Cleaning walls 101

Wende asked me how I clean my walls.

She asked me to break it to her gently, if elbow grease was involved.
I'll try to be gentle: but when you take pride in shooting from the hip, it can seem as though "gentleness" exists in another universe. (And preferably one without grease and dust and other unpleasantness.)

The most important thing when cleaning is what you cleaning. Not the dirt: but the surface underneath the dirt. That's why door and window trim is panted in gloss and semi-gloss paint: the shinier the surface, the easier it is to clean. It's also why I don't use flat paint on any of my walls and why I should have used oil paint on the kitchen cupboards instead of latex. (The latex has worn and chipped over the years with repeated swipes. Enamel would have stayed out).

Tools needed:

rubber gloves
Hot, hot water
bucket or bowl for the water
step ladder
a cleaner, preferably in a spray bottle, if possible.

The most thorough way to wash the walls is to wash them as though you were going to paint them. TSP is a fantastic cleaner, in my opinion and I may need it, yet. You can find it wherever you find painting supplies. (Except New York City. I believe it has been banned there. I don't know why.)

I am merely washing my walls to clean them, however, so I'm using Method's all purpose cleaner in the spray bottle. Spray it on, work from the top down (to catch those pesky drip runs) and remove with a hot damp cloth. Rinse. spray. repeat.

For the tops of the doors and doorways (a particularly greasy, dusty mess) I am using dish soap. I just squirt it directly from the bottle onto the surface, then I take a nylon scrubber and have at it until it's clean.

My son went through a disgusting period of picking his nose and then wiping his hand on the wall. Most of it is gone: but it took me a while to figure out how to remove it. When I finally tackled it, it was years old. What finally removed it? WD40. Spray it. Leave it to sit for a bit. Get a paint scraper and remove it. Wash as usual.

If the problem is uric acid, as it may be when your toilet is too close to your wall, use vinegar for your first effort. I had a very anal boyfriend once who would fasten sheets of plexiglass to these walls in every apartment he moved into just so they would be easier to clean. I have got to the point with respect the the upstairs bathroom where I'm strongly considering it. (I suppose that's why bathrooms have tiled walls.)

I hope that helps.
And I hope I was gentle.


drwende said...

Well done! I'll see if I have the intestinal fortitude to tackle my kitchen walls on Saturday now.

Your instructions have three great merits:
(1) No orders to go buy a huge container of some obscure, expensive, and probably organic cleaner.
(2) No orders to create anything in a bucket with vinegar.
(3) No pulling punches on the fact that it's necessary to scrub.

Mella DP said...

Thanks, that's oddly helpful - my cat sometimes does something that can only be described as Projectile Sneezing, so I, um, sort of have a similar problem.

drwende said...

And this worked extremely well on the cabinets and not too badly on the walls -- which are heavily textured AND painted with FLAT paint. Who paints a kitchen -- particularly the wall behind the sink and stove -- in flat? (Ironically, the living room is semi-gloss.)

Alana in Canada said...

Wende--Heavily textured? That's weird. And flat paint, to boot. You have great fortitude.

And Mella, I hope that little tip helps. When I thought to include it, I was only thinking about the different sorts of cleaners I've used on my walls. I hope it does the trick.

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