One of the biggest headaches in getting a home ready to sell or preparing a rental for new tenants, is cleaning painted walls. Many people selling their home may opt to re-paint the walls, but it can get expensive if it’s not necessary.
Rental properties with a high turnover rate, especially, probably won’t be painted every time someone moves out. However, even minor spots on the walls can cause major damage if you’re using a cleaner not suited to the paint job. While the ideal cleaner varies according to the type of paint, there are a few that are safe on most painted surfaces.
For water-soluble spots such as smudges of food from small children, mud from pets or boots, or other such soils, a mild soap and warm water will usually suffice. A dish detergent without any color in it is normally preferred, though many people use hand soap or other mild liquid soap. Use a solution with very little soap and test it in a small area that’s not readily visible to make sure your paint doesn’t flake or discolor.
Non-water soluble spots such as grease, motor oil, or butter can be cleaned with a solution of ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, and water. Only clean with this solution when there is good ventilation, ideally leaving windows open for an hour or two after cleaning to allow the fumes to clear out. There are some types of paint that will flake off with this solution, so be sure to test before you clean.
Finally, for all kinds of soils, many organic cleaners don’t require good ventilation or harm paint. Shaklee’s Basic H2 has been used on many types of indoor and outdoor paint without any damage. This works great on greasy soiling and generally leaves no trace of dirt.
If you’re considering cleaning your walls to prepare your home for sale but don’t know what will be safe for the paint, be sure to start with the mildest cleaner first. This can always be stepped up if a stronger solution is needed, but once damage to the paint is done it will have to be painted over.