A Paint Fanatics Guide to Touching-up and Cleaning Painted Walls

Just as the rat-a-tat-tat of size one patent leather shoes under the Thanksgiving table got me to thinking about tiny hand prints all over my freshly painted walls, I was reminded that making the house look merry and bright will also have its effects. Most notably, every painted surface is made just a little less perfect than it was before, after the garlands, wreaths and do-dads are hung, albeit with care. Since touching-up the walls after the onslaught of cup-hooks, push pins, staples and thumb tacks is inevitable after the holidays, here’s the advance copy of my top ten Dos & Don’ts for cleaning and caring for beautifully painted surfaces.

vintage illustration of woman cleaning a spot on the floor

  1. Don’t use masking tape, scotch tape or packing tape, on painted surfaces. All of these can either damage a paint surface or become difficult to remove. If tape is must, choose a blue tape made especially for painted surfaces.
  2. Don’t use colored dishwashing soap to clean neutral colored paint surfaces; choose clear, ph neutral detergents instead.
  3. Don’t use bleach products to clean white painted wall or trim — they can turn yellow from bleach products.
  4. Don’t apply cleaning products directly to painted surfaces; mix the soapy water solution separately, and then apply it to the surface with a clean rag.
  5. Don’t use proprietary scouring powders to remove scratches from painted walls. Baking soda works better, is colorless, and less abrasive. My husband insists that buying a tree that could actually fit easily though the doorways is the better solution to avoid scratching door trim. The baking soda works just fine.
  6. Don’t use metal scouring pads, green pads or blue pads. If there’s an imperfection that really needs scrubbing, use either a sanding pad made for smoothing drywall, or a very lightweight (400 grit) sandpaper, and go easy.
  7. Do try lighter fluid as your first and last resort before repainting. Lighter fluid is the single best solvent for cleaning painted surfaces. It will remove dark scratches, stubborn dirt, sticky residue, and even crayon. Calamities to numerous to name can often be removed with a small amount of lighter fluid and a clean fluffy rag.
  8. When you absolutely must touch-up a wall or trim, DO test the color first in an inconspicuous spot. I usually do this behind a piece of artwork. If the color appears off a little, paint out a larger area than necessary, and feather out the paint well beyond the offending imperfection.
  9. Pale colors, especially whites, can be adulterated by dirty brushes, dirty stir sticks or poor storage habits. DO keep your tools and touch-up paints scrupulously clean, and don’t work out of the paint can — pour off what you need; your paints will stay clean and the colors will remain true.
  10. When touching up trim, paint out a larger area than is damaged. Regular washing and regular wear and tear can affect the color and sheen of existing painted surfaces, especially door casings that get cleaned often or base trim that regularly gets hit with a mop or vacuum.

cleaning products in plastic bottles

Finally, don’t forget to stir stored paint very well before you use it and don’t fret if the sheen appears more luminous — it will settle down once the paint is completely cured. I trust I’m not the only one who frets over gigantic Christmas trees scratching my door trim and I’m anxious to hear your best tricks + tips for decking the halls with boughs of holly without ruining the walls.

Stay colorful,

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6 thoughts on “A Paint Fanatics Guide to Touching-up and Cleaning Painted Walls

  1. what is a good recipe for a wall washing solution. Or is there a
    comercial brand you would recomend. I get hairspray on my bathroom walls. Thank You

    • Hey Rita-you can find a bar of Fels-naptha soap in the dish detergent aisle at the food store. This soap, mixed with warm water, will remove hair spray from the wall. it’s great for cleaning and conditioning brushes too. Bet you hair is look marvelous.:)

  2. Touch ups are show ups and touch ups are free…. its the Screw ups we charge for. LOL
    Oils amber the first month applied Best to repait the entire area.

    Magic erasers… Those are awesome.

    Lightly apply the paint and fade it out on the ends. Walls use s small 4″ roller, the texture of the brush marks vs. the roller marks alone will make it flash. Sheen Paints always flash, I love the MATTE finish paints, high hiding and a nice silky sheen. Its not the sheen of the paint that makes it washable, its the quality of the paint.

  3. Hi All-I agree those magic erasers are magical, aren’t they the best on white painted cabinets and trim too! Tom Tom-you may lose the flash if you wet the brush before you use it. Happy cleaning everyone, and thanks for the comments.-lu

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