How to Clean Flat Paint Walls

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Dingy, scuffed walls in your home are never attractive, but keeping them clean when you have an active family can be a challenge. This is especially true if your walls have a flat paint finish. Cleaning these types of walls requires special treatment to avoid damaging the paint finish. Scrubbing flat paint too vigorously could cause the finish to wear down, making it appear patchy in spots, which may require repainting the wall. So, how do you go about cleaning flat paint walls? Our experienced cleaning pros have some valuable advice and tips to share that will keep your flat-finish walls looking their best.

How to Determine if You Have Flat Finish Walls

Before you remove scuff marks from matte paint, let’s determine if the paint on your walls is a flat finish. Since it doesn’t reflect much light, flat paint is often used to hide any imperfections in ceilings and on accent walls. If your walls don’t reflect light at all, even from an angle, they most likely have a flat finish paint on them. And while flat finish paints are good at hiding imperfections, they are a little more difficult to clean when they get dirty or scuffed.

Getting Started — Gather Your Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning supplies for flat paint walls

Set yourself up for success before cleaning flat white paint walls. Make sure your arsenal of cleaning supplies includes the following essentials:

  • Sponge or cloth
  • White vinegar
  • Eraser sponge
  • Foam cleanser
  • Detergent
  • Touch-up paint and paintbrush

Clean Flat Paint Walls

Person scrubbing flat paint walls

You should clean dirt and stains from flat paint walls as quickly as possible. The longer you let the stain or marks settle in, the harder the walls are to clean. Here is some advice for removing smudges, smears, crayon, and scuff marks from your flat finish walls:

  • Rub the stained wall with a clean, damp sponge or cloth. If you catch the stain quickly enough, you may be able to remove it by using water and a sponge and/or cloth.
  • If water isn't effective, add vinegar to your damp sponge or cloth and scrub gently. Don’t apply too much pressure because you might remove the paint finish too.
  • Use an erasing sponge for problematic spots. This product should eliminate the stain without damaging your flat finish walls. Again, rub lightly to avoid damage to the finish.
  • For especially stubborn stains, use a gentle store-bought foam cleanser. Follow the directions on the container. For the best results, test the cleaner on a small area before applying it to the entire stain.
  • The last cleaning technique you should try is applying a diluted detergent. About 1 tbsp of detergent to 1 gallon of water should do it. Dip your cloth in the bucket and gently scrub a small area of the stain. If it works without damaging the finish, use the solution to remove the last of the stain.
  • If none of the above works, it’s time to repaint. If you have the original wall paint, break out the can and a painter’s brush to cover the stain. Another option is to repaint the entire wall with a new, more durable sheen. For instance, an eggshell finish is more durable and easier to clean than a flat finish.

Removing Scuff Marks from Matte Finish Walls

Toddler drawing on flat paint walls

Now that you’ve mastered cleaning flat finish walls, it’s time to step up your game. Removing scuff marks from matte finish walls can be a delicate task that requires some special care to avoid damaging the finish. Matte paint finishes are known for their smooth and non-reflective appearance, but they are also more prone to showing scuff marks and stains.

When cleaning flat white paint walls, with a matte finish, start by gently dusting the affected area with a soft, dry cloth to remove dirt and debris. Use a mild detergent or dish soap mixed with warm water on a damp cloth or sponge. Gently rub the scuff mark with the soapy solution using a circular motion. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as it can cause the paint finish to fade or leave a noticeable shiny spot on the wall.

If the scuff mark or stain persists, you can try using a melamine foam sponge (also known as a magic eraser). Dampen the sponge with water and gently rub the area, using a circular motion again. The melamine foam is mildly abrasive and can effectively lift stubborn marks off the wall without damaging the paint. However, always test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn't negatively affect the paint finish.

After removing the marks, rinse the area with clean water and gently pat it dry with a soft cloth. If the mark is still visible, you may need to repaint the affected area or seek professional advice.

Maintaining Flat and Matte Finish Walls

Cleaning flat and matte finish walls can be tricky. Depending on the stain, it may require repainting some or the entire wall. Prevention is a great way to maintain the beauty of your flat and matte finish walls. Take precautions to avoid scuffs and marks by using furniture pads, being mindful when moving objects, and regularly cleaning the walls with a soft cloth or duster.

Keep the Rest of Your Home Looking Its Best

Once you’re done cleaning flat paint, what about the rest of your home? Molly Maid’s team of experienced housekeepers use effective, proven cleaning methods to maintain the freshness and cleanliness of your home. We have the team to get the job done right and stand by our work with the Neighborly Done Right Promise™, which guarantees your satisfaction. Contact us for a free estimate, and let us help you keep your home looking its absolute best!