5 Old-Fashioned Tips for Cleaning Walls

All it takes to have spotless walls is a little bit of work and a few of our simple tricks.
©iStockphoto.com/Svitlana Pavzyuk

Getting wine stains off the counter and odors out of the rug may seem like a breeze, but dirt and grime on the walls is a different story. Even if your table is set beautifully, even if windows are crystal clear, that stain on the wallpaper or woodwork can make the room feel so far from perfect.

Don't fret. All it takes to get spots off the wall is a little elbow grease -- just a different kind of grease than you're used to! Your grandmother knew the secrets, but you shouldn't stress if she never told you, because we're willing to dish on how to get rid of the dirt. Our 5 old-fashioned tips give you more to work with than just soap and water, and they'll scare those stains right out of the wall! First up is how generations have been cleaning the smears off the walls with just a hunk of bread.


5: Smears and Soil

No one knows how those marks got on the wall (although dirty pets and hyper children do look pretty guilty), but we know how to get them out. Forget finding the culprit and focus on this easy trick to get rid of the marks:

To clean wallpaper with smears and soil stains, gently brush off all loose dirt and dust. Then go to your bread bin and grab a soft slice or hunk of white or rye bread. You can't use the hardened bread from dinner two nights ago, but you can steal the heel of the loaf that no one ever wants anyway -- all you need is its soft center. Wad up the center of the slice and use it as a natural eraser to gently rub off smears and stuck-on soil.


4: Grease-Spotted Wallpaper

Nasty grease spots speckling your kitchen wallpaper? It happens to the best of us who have a stove-top backed up against the wall or kids who don't wipe their hands after eating fried chicken.

Remove the spots by laying a few sheets of blotting paper against them and holding a hot iron -- you know, the tool Grandma insisted you use on every piece of clothing but you try to avoid breaking out whenever possible -- close to the wall. Wear an oven mitt on your hand to protect your fingers as you hold the blotting paper in place against the wall. The special paper will slowly absorb the grease spots from the wallpaper. Just be sure not to press the iron directly against the wallpaper.


3: Painted Walls

Don't waste money and chance accidentally buying a cleaner that will dull the color of paint on your wall. Use this inexpensive, old-fashioned recipe that people have been using to attack pesky stains on painted walls for years:

Mix 1/2 cup vinegar, 1 cup clear ammonia, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 gallon warm water. Apply to the wall with a sponge and rinse with plain water. Because this cleaner contains ammonia, you should wear rubber or vinyl gloves when applying it and make sure the room you are working in is well ventilated. Your walls will be spotless without the risk of becoming dull.


2: Scuff Marks

You try to make the walls look nice by coating them with your favorite shade of yellow. Unfortunately, whether it's a ladder you need to change a light bulb or a set of foldable chairs to accommodate extra guests, something's bound to scuff that wall eventually. Of course, that black streak just screams out against your beautiful buttercup yellow.

You can easily remove scuff marks from painted walls by scrubbing the scuffs with old-fashioned toothpaste (not the gel variety that's so common today, but the kind your grandparents kept in their medicine cabinet) and an old, soft-bristled toothbrush. The marks will come right off without you having to break open the paint can for a touch-up.


1: Woodwork

Wooden accents add a beautiful touch to the room, but they always seem to get dirty, nicked or stained. If your woodwork has an oil finish, your tried-and-true cleaning methods won't ever leave it looking the same.

People have been running into this problem for years though, and some have, luckily, worked out the solution for how to clean and polish this woodwork. First, pour equal parts turpentine and boiled linseed oil (available at hardware or paint stores) in a jar, tighten the lid, and shake until the liquid is blended thoroughly. Then, pour a small amount of the mix onto a soft cloth and rub it into the woodwork along the direction of the wood's grain. The surface will at first look oily, but within an hour the polish will be completely absorbed, leaving a soft, lovely shine.


Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.