The Best Way to Clean Wallpaper


Wallpaper may be made from paper, fabric, vinyl or a synthetic blend of all three. While regular cleaning with a moist sponge or vacuum cleaner can help prolong the paper life, wallpaper is highly absorbent and may stain easily. An improper approach to cleaning may worsen the stains instead of removing them. Always follow the manufacturer's cleaning instructions if you have access to them.

Things You'll Need

  • Warm water
  • Mild detergent
  • 2 buckets
  • Household sponge
  • Towel
  • Dust with a cloth or feather duster to remove debris before attempting to clean wallpaper. Wallpaper typically generates static electricity, which attracts dust and dirt. This will ensure you don't worsen the problem when undertaking the cleaning process. Use an electrostatic dusting cloth and/or a cleaner with an extending handle, in order to remove all extraneous dirt and residue.

  • Mix warm water in a bucket with warm detergent. Fill a second bucket with plain water for rinsing. Use a household sponge to test an inconspicuous area of the wallpaper to be sure cleaning won't cause damage. A wallpaper remnant is ideal; if one is not available, consider an area in a corner or positioned behind furniture.

  • Wash one section at a time; work from the bottom up. Cleaning from the top down may result in streaking from dripping water; the resulting streaks may be impossible to remove. Avoid ample sponging across the seams; this can force water under the wallpaper, weakening the glue.

  • Wipe with the seam of the wallpaper to avoid saturating the underlying glue. Use a sponge dipped in clean water to rinse the paper; rinse in sections. After each section has been rinsed, gently blot it dry with the towel.

Tips & Warnings

  • To prevent damage to the wallpaper, avoid abrasive cleaners and products that contain bleach.
  • Wallpaper that has molded or mildewed cannot be cleaned thoroughly and must be removed and replaced (or the wall must be refinished by painting or other means). Mold may permeate the wallpaper glue and even the underlying wall materials. A mixture of water and either bleach or borax may be used to kill the mold or mildew -- use one or the other; avoid mixing the cleansers.
  • If the wallpaper is delicate or unwashable, try a dry-cleaning solution from a wallpaper specialty store or home center instead of attempting to wash the paper with soap and water.
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