Wallpaper Cleaning Tips

Home décor is an area in which most of us find enjoyment: choosing furniture, fabrics, patterns and colors; shopping for just the right item; and of course, reveling in our newly decorated room. Many home owners and decorators choose wallpaper to adorn their walls, as it comes in a plethora of different colors, patterns and textures. Wallpaper is a little tricky to put up at first, but once you get the hang of it, the results are much more immediate than with painting. Wallpaper is pretty and decorative, but if there are children or pets in the house, or even the occasional accident, the walls are bound to get dirty. Cleaning a painted wall is a cinch, but wallpaper takes a bit more consideration. After all, it’s paper on the wall; we all know that paper dissolves in water, so where does that leave us?

Some wallpaper simply cannot be washed, especially that found in an older house that’s been on the walls for many years. The key is in the surface material. If your wallpaper is simply plain, old fashioned paper, it can’t be cleaned with water. If you are unsure, test your wallpaper in an inconspicuous place, like behind furniture or in a dark corner. Wipe the paper with a fairly damp cloth; if the color or appearance doesn’t change, it can probably be washed carefully with water. Hardware stores carry helpful materials for cleaning older or paper wallpaper. One is a dry sponge that can be wiped along the surface in long, gentle strokes. Another option is to buy a commercial wallpaper cleaning product. This material is like play dough, and it doesn’t involve water. There are clear manufacturer’s directions on how to use it, but always test an area first in an inconspicuous location.


Nowadays, wallpaper is made for easy clean up. Many newer wallpaper materials include vinyl or plastic, which are much easier to clean, but still delicate, so be careful. You won’t want to simply start scrubbing, as you would on a painted wall. To clean vinyl wallpaper, first vacuum the walls and remove any cobwebs, insects, or anything else that doesn’t belong. You’ll need a soft towel, two sponges, and two buckets: one with warm water and a bit of dish washing detergent, and the second with cool water for rinsing. Simply wipe the walls with the sponge dampened with the detergent mixture.

It shouldn’t be sopping or dripping; even though vinyl wallpaper can be cleaned with water, it’s still paper underneath and can be damaged with too much water. Scrub gently, if necessary, but wiping will usually be enough. After cleaning with the detergent solution, follow up immediately by rinsing it with a damp sponge of cool water. Then pat dry with a clean, soft cloth. This process must be done quickly or the detergent solution will dry on the walls or the water will sit there too long. If the wallpaper is extremely dirty and requires a second cleaning, wait until it is completely dry after the first washing, and then begin again.

Never use abrasive pads or powdered cleansers, even on vinyl surfaced wallpaper. These will certainly clean the walls, but will often leave a dull mark or take of color, making the area look worse and eliminating any chance of removing the spot. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep pets clean and remind children to wash their hands often and keep their hands off the walls. But when your wallpaper does get dirty, as it ultimately will, wash it carefully and gently, and it will be sparkling clean in no time.

Tags: home cleaning tips

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