Before You Repaint, Try a Quick Clean Up

Here's another example of where quality paint makes a difference!

Gloss or semi-gloss enamels are less likely to be damaged by cleaning than are most flat latex paints. The first test for quality is to drip a little plain tap water in an inconspicuous area. Cheap paint darkens much more than quality paint. Suffice it to say that the space between pigment is larger, less vehicle holds it together, and the pigment is not ground as fine in cheaper paint. By the way, virtually every manufacturer makes cheap paint. The manufacturer's name doesn't necessarily mean quality. A $7 gallon of builder's flat offers dry hiding, a matt finish, and covers everything, including even the fact that fewer coats were used. A $20 gallon of the same manufacturer's top line finish has more clear vehicle, goes further with finer pigments, washes and cleans up easier, and therefore lasts longer.

Test cleaning in an inconspicuous corner first. If the wall color and finish look the same but cleaner, go ahead and use it. Wash or spot clean most painted surfaces with a solution of water and mild detergent (such as hand dish washing liquid), or a mild commercial household cleaner, that says on its label is safe for painted surfaces.

The commercial household cleaner that is safe for painted surfaces is actually the only good choice here. Hand dish washing liquid and laundry detergent leave a residue, even after rinsing. Ammonia and tri-sodium phosphate, particularly tri-sodium phosphate are caustic and can burn the skin. Rubber gloves must be used.

Rinse it off thoroughly with clear water. Ammonia in all its forms dulls latex gloss paints if left on the surface. If your walls are very dirty, use a stronger alkali solution such as 2 tablespoons ammonia or a tablespoon tri-sodium phosphate or 2 tablespoons laundry detergent powder in 1 gallon warm (not hot) water. Stronger solutions will 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.

If the walls are going to be painted, cleaning with anything wet is inadvisable. It will cause an unevenness or streaking which may be somewhat difficult to paint over, especially if there is any tobacco smoking done in the structure. Although cleaning of any kind before painting is generally unnecessary, the painter can knock down any cobwebs or dust with a broom or rag. Any other soil on the walls except for tobacco smoke stains will be covered with the paint. Tobacco smoking residue on the walls needs to be covered with an oil base primer/sealer. Just apply the sealer directly over the walls. Cleaning may cause streaking that could show up.

Here's our outline of the 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.
This article has been contributed in part by Michigan State University Extension