How To Clean Flat Paint Walls Without Leaving Streaks

Date Published: August 1, 2021
Author: Kylee Smith

Many homeowners prefer using eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, or gloss paint for easy cleanup. You may be surprised to learn that you can clean flat paint walls without leaving streaks. Flat paint has its own unique set of challenges, including needing to clean up any messes or stains immediately; otherwise, they are harder to remove. Our clear-cut process for cleaning flat paint cuts out many of the frustrations you have experienced in the past.

Cleaning Supplies for Flat Paint Walls

Many people have made mistakes when cleaning walls coated with flat paint. Flat paint is a little tricky, but a quick touch-up with paint and paintbrush easily eliminates mistakes. You are not going to make any mistakes, however, because you are privy to a quick four-step process that will make your walls look freshly painted.

Microfiber Cloth

A microfiber cleaning cloth is used to wipe down the walls where stains and other imperfections are present.

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White Vinegar

White vinegar can be used to wipe down the walls if plain water is not working.

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Magic Eraser

A magic eraser is yet another tool that you can use to clean flat paint walls.

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Gentle Foam Cleanser

A gentle foam cleanser can be used to tackle even tougher stains on flat paint walls.

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  • POWER FOAM: Clings to vertical surfaces for easy no scrub usage

Empty Spray Bottle

An empty spray bottle is used to hold the diluted detergent used for cleaning the flat paint walls. When mixing up homemade cleaning solutions, it is best to use bottles that have measurement labels.

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Paint Brush

When cleaning flat paint walls, there is always at least a small chance that touch-ups are required. You are going to start with a cleaning cloth and water, working your way up to stronger agents if needed. Therefore, keep a clean paintbrush handy in case touchups are needed.

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Backup paint is also necessary for touchups. Ideally, you have paint saved back from when the wall was originally painted. If not, you will need to have more mixed. Unfortunately, exact matches are not always easy; therefore, it is best to purchase more than you need.  

Cleaning Flat Paint Walls

Be especially careful when cleaning flat paint walls. Use the simplest cleaning strategy first and work your way down the list if needed. Flat paint walls are more prone to scuffs and dingy marks. With our techniques, you will be pleased with the results of your cleaning efforts. Just take your time and be prepared to handle any touchups needed.

Step One: Clean Using Damp Cloth

Use a damp (not soaking wet) microfiber cloth to tackle any wall stains and scuff marks. Pay special attention to the areas close to the baseboards as this part of the wall is often the dirtiest.

  • Pro Tip: Be sure not to scrub too hard. It would be nice if a damp cloth is all that’s necessary to clean your walls, but there are times that a damp cloth simply will not clean your walls.

Step Two: Use White Vinegar

If the damp cloth helps but does not completely clean your painted wall, it is time to bring in the white vinegar. Simply add a little white vinegar to the damp cleaning cloth. Take your time and wipe down the walls gently.

  • Pro Tip: Vinegar acts as a natural degreaser when applied to wall paint. Flat paint is porous, traps dirt, and doesn’t detract water very well. Therefore, white vinegar is the obvious second step when trying to clean flat paint walls.

Step Three: Use Magic Eraser

If dirty marks are still present on your wall after using vinegar, use a magic eraser to tackle those stubborn spots. The magic eraser tackles all kinds of tough household cleaning tasks, and it is known for helping clean flat paint walls. At this point, however, you are using products that may or may not damage the paint, resulting in areas that need to be touched up with paint in at least a few spots.

  • Pro Tip: Magic erasers are gentle cleaning products. If you end up having to touch up a few spots, do not beat yourself up. It happens on occasion with flat paint, and you are doing everything in your power to keep it from happening.

Step Four: Use Store-Bought Foam Cleanser

Foam cleansers are advertised as being able to clean a wall without affecting the finish. These products are great, and they work well. Unfortunately, nothing is a guarantee when it comes to flat paint. Experts still suggest trying the other methods mentioned before using a store-bought foam cleanser.

  • Pro Tip: Be ready to wipe spots clean with a dry microfiber cloth. The foam acts quickly, penetrating tough stains. Follow the directions and wipe the walls clean immediately.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, your walls are clean at this point and no touchups are required. It is still always a good idea to have extra paint around because eventually, touchups will be necessary. Tackling scuff marks and other dirty spots on your flat paint walls as soon as you see them helps to keep your walls looking great.

FAQ: Cleaning Flat Paint Walls Without Leaving Streaks

While you have been advised to be careful when cleaning flat paint walls, the task itself is quite simple. You will be lightly scrubbing the dirty spots and trying different cleaning agents as necessary. Flat paint attracts dirt. If you find yourself fighting a losing battle, the wall simply needs some fresh paint. Put some lipstick on your walls as they say.

Can you use dish detergent to clean flat paint walls?

Dish detergent is another possible solution. It would, however, rank last on this list. Furthermore, you would need to dilute the detergent by mixing it with water. The formula is one tablespoon of detergent per one gallon of water. When mixing the solution in an empty spray bottle, use a teaspoon of detergent.

Can you vacuum your walls?

Vacuuming walls is a great way to remove extra dust. Vacuuming is especially helpful when trying to reach the top corners of the walls where cobwebs tend to be. You can certainly add vacuuming your walls to your cleaning routine but doing so is not going to help you remove dirt and scuff marks from flat paint walls.

Can you use the same steps to clean flat paint ceilings?

Yes, you can use the same steps to clean flat paint ceilings; however, you will need a ladder of course. Additionally, cleaning a ceiling with arms extended is much more difficult than cleaning walls at face level. Most people simply decide to repaint their ceilings when it is time.

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Are there certain flat paints that are more easily washable?

Sherwin-Williams features both Duration Home and Emerald paint lines that are advertised as having truly washable flat finishes. You do get what you pay for when it comes to painting. If you are going to use flat paint, it is always best to go with one of the top brands.

Should I choose not to use flat paint next time?

Flat paint has its advantages, too. While flat paint is not the easiest finish to clean, it is the best finish for hiding blemishes on walls. Semi-gloss and gloss paints highlight existing blemishes. Flat paint does not reflect light directly either. Each type of paint has its pros and cons. Flat paints work well for low-traffic areas, like bedrooms, living rooms, and hallways.    



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