Is your wallpaper looking a little sad? Over time, dust and moisture can discolor, leaving papered walls dingier than the day they were covered.

Wallpaper in the kitchen can become coated with cooking sprays, smoke, and oils, creating a sticky surface where dust will readily stick and shadow the wall. Meanwhile, wallpaper in the bathroom, where it’s exposed to high humidity and splashes of water, may become moldy and mildewed in spots.

Before cleaning your wallpaper, it’s important to figure out what type of wallpaper you have. Vinyl wallpaper is the most popular, but as technology evolves, there are more options to choose from. Each type of wallpaper has its own set of cleaning considerations depending on the material. Here are some important considerations:

If your wallpaper is made of cellulose, fabric, bamboo, or removable, stick to Step 1 (below), and only do a light dust and vacuum. This is because many natural fibers and fabrics can be damaged by water and cleaning chemicals, so contact the manufacturer before tackling a stain.

Vinyl and fiberglass wallpapers—the most durable of the bunch—are the exceptions. Either can be cleaned with all-purpose cleaning sprays or the gentle cleaning method outlined below. Even so, proceed with care: Work with non-abrasive chemicals (no powders) and soft cleaning pads or sponges only (no scouring pads) so that you do not scratch, tear, or otherwise damage the surface. 

DO NOT use Mr. Clean Magic Erasers or any other scrubbers, which contain very fine abrasives.

STEP 1: Remove surface dust.

All types of wallpapers must be dusted with a microfiber cloth regularly—at least once every two months. For hard-to-reach places near the ceiling, attach your cloth to a long-handled sweeper. Make sure the vacuum head does not have bristles and is simply sucking up dust, not scouring the wall. Begin at the ceiling, and swipe the vacuum head down the wall in long, smooth lines.

Tip: For vinyl wallpaper that will be washed, always dust or vacuum the surface before tackling stains. If you apply water and soap right away, any dust or cobwebs will turn muddy, making your cleaning job harder.

STEP 2: Clean with soapy water (only vinyl or fiberglass wallpaper) 

In a bucket, mix 1 gallon of water with ¼ cup of mild dish soap or castile soap. Then, dip a soft, non-abrasive sponge into the soapy water and ring it out until it’s just damp and wipe down the wallpaper.

If your wallpaper is in the kitchen, this soapy mixture should cut through most grease stains, but perhaps not all that have set in. It may not address discoloration caused by water damage or mold. Make note of any deeper stains and resist the urge to scrub harder—we’ll address those lingering stains next in Step 3. For now, allow walls to air-dry or hand dry with a towel.

STEP 3: Remove smudge marks, stains, and water damage.

Determine the type of stain first, then you can nail down the right removal process.

  • For small areas of surface discoloration from pencil or dirty handprints on vinyl wallpaper: Use a gum eraser or a slice of plain white bread. Simply rub the eraser or bread lightly over the mark until it is gone.
  • For stubborn water stains, grease stains larger than a baseball, or general discoloration on most varieties of wallpaper: Contact the manufacturer before attempting an at-home solution. Before using vinegar or bleach, use a Q-tip to apply the vinegar or bleach solution to a small surface area. Let the solution sit for five to ten minutes, then wipe clean with a damp sponge. If the patch test reveals cleaner, brighter wallpaper, you can move on to stain removal.
  • For stains on vinyl caused by water damage: Whether it’s mildew or tannins, try a bleach or white vinegar solution. Start with a weaker solution and add more bleach or vinegar as needed. Mix ¼ cup of bleach with 1 cup of water. First, test the solution with a Q-tip on a small inconspicuous spot on the wall, where any discoloration would be hidden; if it appears to work in five to 10 minutes, continue. Dip a soft sponge or cotton pad into the mixture, and ring out excess water. Dab sponge onto the stain and let sit for five minutes. Remove any remaining bleach with a clean, damp sponge, and dry with a towel.
  • For dirt or grease stains on fiberglass wallpaper: Use ½ cup of white vinegar, mixed with 1 cup of water. Sponge this solution onto the stained portion of the wall, and buff in the same direction as the wallpaper pattern. Wipe the surface with a sponge dipped in clean water. Towel dry.

At Aqua City Cleaners, we are professionally trained, licensed and bonded to assist you with your house cleaning needs in Victoria, Vancouver, and Toronto. From sanitizing your home to bathroom deep cleans, there is no job too big or small! Contact us today for a free, no-obligation estimate.