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How to Wash Walls Before Painting (Using Vinegar)

Wondering if it’s okay to wash your walls before painting using vinegar? Or perhaps you’re just here to find out HOW to clean walls with vinegar.

Today, we’re covering all things related to cleaning walls and prepping them before painting — including the use of this common cleaning staple.

We’ll find out if it’s okay to simply paint over the dirt and grime (or not), as well as when you’d want to use a vinegar solution for washing the walls. Then I’ll guide you through, step-by-step, on how to clean walls with vinegar before painting.

woman washing walls; text that reads: how to wash your walls with vinegar before painting

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Can You Just Paint Over Dirty Walls?

Why not just paint over all the dirt and gunk? After all, everyone does it.

While modern paints are pretty good at adhering to any surface, and you could just cover it up with a couple coats of paint, doing so might result in chipping or peeling down the road (source).

Why take that chance? It’s best to do it right from the beginning and ensure that your handiwork holds up to the test of time.

A Word of Warning: Even if your walls appear clean, they usually have a thin coat of dust and oils from fingerprints. So, if you paint over them without washing the walls first, they could later show up as stains on the newly painted surface.

Can You Wash Walls With Vinegar?

Absolutely! Vinegar is a more health-conscious alternative to commercial cleaners, and it’s really easy to use.

In rooms where there’s little traffic and no humidity or cooking grease, you could probably get away with wiping walls down using plain water. But in high traffic areas, and especially kitchens and bathrooms, you’ll want to use something a little tougher.

Vinegar is tough on grease while being gentler on us.

When cleaning painted walls with vinegar, I will advise that you spot test your walls first, especially if you’re just doing routine cleaning and don’t plan on painting over them.

While vinegar shouldn’t harm your paint’s finish, it’s always a good idea to test an inconspicuous area before getting started in earnest.

Supply List

Washing your walls with vinegar before painting them is pretty simple, and you don’t need much to get started.

Gather up the following:

– vinegar

– water

– a couple of large buckets

– cleaning cloths and/or cellulose sponges

– coarse cloth (for sticky residue)

step ladder

Additional items you might need for prep:

spackling paste

paint scraper/putty knife

sanding sponge

Once you have everything ready, it’s time to get started!

How to Wash Walls Before Painting (Using Vinegar)

Step 1: Remove Nails from the Walls

It’ll be easier to wash the walls if you don’t have to navigate around nails or other items, so you’ll want to remove them and fill in the holes with spackling paste, allowing it to fully dry before washing the walls.

Step 2: Scrape Cracked or Flaking Paint

Use a paint scraper to remove flaking paint, and smooth out minor imperfections using a fine-grit sanding sponge.

Also, peel off tape and remove sticky residue at this time. If something is really sticky, you can soak a rag or sponge in undiluted vinegar and hold it over the sticky spot for a few seconds. Then try to scrape it off with a coarse cloth.

(You may need to repeat this step a few times until the stickiness is completely gone.)

Pro Tip: If you have little ones who treat your walls as their personal canvas, try a magic eraser to remove stray crayon marks.

Step 3: Vacuum and Dust Cobwebs

The quickest and simplest way to remove dust and cobwebs is with a vacuum hose, so try that if you can. Otherwise, a broom should do the trick.

Step 4: Patch any Holes or Cracks

Fill in nail holes (if you haven’t already) and cracks using spackling paste. Use a putty knife to remove excess spackle from the walls.

spackling over a hole in the wall

Allow it to dry fully according to their instructions before attempting to wash the walls.

Step 5: Fill a Bucket With Vinegar and Water

You’ll want to grab a couple of buckets, filling one with half water and half white vinegar. Fill the other bucket with plain water.

Step 6: Wipe Down the Walls and Rinse

Wet your clean cloth or cellulose sponge with the vinegar water and, starting at the top of the walls and working your way down, begin wiping them down in a circular motion.

Avoid soaking your cloth/sponge with too much of the solution, or you’ll end up with a wet mess!

Make sure to rinse the walls with clean water (and a different sponge) as you go. Replace the clean water frequently, and replace the vinegar-water solution as needed.

(Got mold or mildew? This article will help you get that cleaned up.)

Step 7: Allow to Dry Thoroughly

If the walls are visibly wet, you can always dry them with a clean, lint-free cloth. That said, you’ll still want to allow plenty of time for the walls to dry. They should feel dry to the touch.

If you paint damp walls, you could end up with a host of problems (such as blistering). Trust me, you don’t want to deal with that!

What’s Next?

Once you have cleaned and prepped the walls, it’s time to get started painting! Of course, you’ll want to remove outlet covers and tape around fixtures, plus lay plastic on the floor and over anything you can’t move out of the way.

Be sure to check out the ultimate painting supply checklist here.

And that’s it. Easy peasy, right?

It can definitely be time-consuming to wash walls before painting (with vinegar or without), but it’s not complicated, and it’s certainly worth it. I’d hate to have you run into problems in the future and have to start again from the beginning.

Have you run into issues with painting over dirt and grime? Is there anything else you need to know about how to clean walls before painting? Let me know in the comments!

Read More:

10 Best Paint Brands For Gorgeous Interior Walls

What Is The Difference Between Interior And Exterior Paint?

What’s The Best Paint Sheen For Bathrooms?

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