How Do You Clean Walls Without Removing Paint?

It’s great that your child is allowing their creative juices to flow. Not so much when they allow them to flow onto your painted walls, and you’re left with a Crayola masterpiece.

However, cleaning your walls without removing the paint is not actually as hard as you might think. You’ll just need to adapt your method to the type of paint on your walls.

cleaning wall without removing paint

How to Clean Latex-Based Painted Walls?

If your walls are painted with latex-based paint, you’ll need the following to safely clean them.

This will work for all types of latex paint, whether flat, semi-gloss, or gloss.

  • Dish detergent
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Sponge

What to Do

  • Mix three or four drops of dish detergent in a half-filled bucket of water. You can also swap the dish detergent for vinegar. If you’re doing this, use two or three tablespoons of distilled white vinegar to a gallon of water. Vinegar can work surprisingly well to clean dirty marks off paint.
  • Next, you’ll need to dip a sponge in the mixture and wring it out so it’s not dripping wet.
  • With your damp sponge, wipe off the marks, rinse the sponge, and repeat as many times as needed.
  • If you’re cleaning around electrical outlets like light switches and cables, ensure the sponge is wrung out entirely, and switch off electricity at any outlets you’re cleaning.

Avoid using a degreaser product or any other harsh chemical cleaners on latex-painted walls, as these will simply ruin the paint. If the marks don’t come off with soapy water or white vinegar and water, you’ll have to repaint them.

How to Clean Oil-Based Painted Walls?

Oil-based paints are more durable, so as well as using a vinegar solution or mild detergent and water mixture, you can also use a mild degreaser to remove grease, especially if you’re cleaning kitchen walls.

You’ll need:

  • Dish detergent
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Sponge
  • Mild degreaser

What to Do

  • First of all, try removing the marks in the same manner as how you’d remove marks from latex-based painted walls (explained above).
  • If the stains are more stubborn and this doesn’t do the job, you can opt to use a commercial cleaner instead. Follow the instructions on the degreaser’s packaging to remove grease or buildup from kitchen walls.

Whether cleaning latex-painted walls or oil-painted walls, never use a scrubby sponge, Teflon pad, or harsh chemicals, as these can cause permanent marks on the walls.

cleaning exterior wall

How to Clean Exterior Walls?

If you’re cleaning your home’s exterior, you can follow these steps regardless of whether the walls are painted with latex or oil-based paint:

You’ll need:

  • Garden hose
  • Pump garden sprayer
  • Jomax
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Soft scrubbing brush
  • Optional: Pressure washer

What to Do

  • Start by wetting the walls.
  • With a mixture of 1/2 cup Jomax, 1 cup of bleach, and enough water to fill the container, use a pump garden sprayer to lightly spray the walls.
  • Leave the mixture to soak into the walls for 15 minutes, then use a soft-scrubbing brush to remove mildew, mold, and other dirt.
  • Rinse off the mixture with a garden hose.
  • If your home is two-story, a garden hose may not reach high enough to thoroughly rinse the walls. Alternatively, you can use a pressure washer that’s fitted with a 25-degree nozzle. However, don’t use any pressure, instead, just spray the water as it comes out, as the pressure could damage the paint and siding.

How do you remove stains from walls without removing paint?

If you’re trying to remove a specific stain, these methods work like a charm;


You can buy wall erasers for removing crayon marks, and these usually work really well.

If they don’t do the job, however, you can try the following options:

  • Gently rub marks with toothpaste (not the gel kind)
  • Use a pencil eraser or piece of art gum in a circular motion
  • Try wiping with baby wipes
  • Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and target the marks

Permanent Marker

  • Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and dab the stain
  • Try spraying marks with hairspray, then wipe


  • For Ballpoint ink, which is oil-based, try foaming shaving cream, dry-cleaning solvents such as Carbona, or nail polish remover.

Don’t forget to open your windows when using solvents!


  • Spray mildew with vinegar water (1 tablespoon white vinegar to 1-quart water)
  • Alternatively, try an enzyme laundry detergent, following the pre-treating directions on the label. This usually involves blotting the stain and then rinsing thoroughly with water.

Water Stains

  • With water stains, you should always seek to find the root cause of the stains, but once you’ve done this, you can clean stains with a solution of 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water to prevent mold and mildew from growing.
  • Use a hairdryer or fans to thoroughly dry the area.
  • If bleaching doesn’t remove the water stains, you’ll have to repaint the walls instead, and it’s a good idea to prime the walls with a stain-killing primer, such as Kilz.

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