How to Clean Vinyl Wallpaper

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Basic cleaning supplies are all you need to clean vinyl wallpaper.
Basic cleaning supplies are all you need to clean vinyl wallpaper. (Image: cleaning and sanitation products studio isolated image by dinostock from Fotolia.com)

Vinyl wallpaper's durability is one big reason homeowners choose it. Unlike paper wallcoverings, vinyl wallcoverings resist stains and scratches and can stand up to repeated washing and even light scrubbing. Even so, in a high-traffic area like the kitchen, bathroom or child’s playroom, it’s bound to get dirty. Clean vinyl wallpaper one to three times a year, depending on the room’s traffic level, and you’ll prevent dirt and grime from building up and keep your wallcovering looking fresh.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 buckets
  • White cleaning cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Naphtha
  • Mild liquid soap
  • Sponge
  • Hard bristle brush
  • Lint-free cloth

Clean off marks from pens, pencils and crayons with a white cloth dampened in rubbing alcohol. For grease stains like shoe polish or chewing gum, use naphtha. You can buy naphtha, a petroleum-based solvent, at a hardware or paint supply store. Rub stains from the outside edges inward to avoid spreading the discoloration.

Fill a bucket with warm water and mix in two or three drops of mild liquid soap. Fill another with pure water. With a sponge dampened in soapy water, dampen a small horizontal section of the wall from the floor up. Rinse the sponge and wipe down the dampened section to remove surface dirt.

Scrub textured areas gently with a hard bristle brush. Also scrub around any edges in the wall to loosen accumulated dirt.

Rinse the clean section with a sponge dampened in pure water. Work your way up the wall in sections, dampening the wallpaper, wiping it, then rinsing it. Working in sections prevents streaking.

Rinse the sponge to remove all soap. Dampen it in pure water, and rinse the whole wall from top to bottom. Rinse thoroughly because residue from some cleaners can discolor vinyl wallpaper.

Pat the wallpaper dry with a lint-free microfiber cloth or soft towel. Rubbing can damage the wallcovering’s finish, causing unwanted shine.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean stains as soon as they occur. Some substances, such as ink, shampoo and certain foods, stain permanently if not immediately removed.
  • Harsh cleaners may discolor the wallpaper or damage the finish. Before using a cleaner like rubbing alcohol and naphtha, first test it on a small, inconspicuous part of the wallcovering.
  • Wear gloves and ensure good ventilation in the room when working with solvents like rubbing alcohol and naphtha.

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