Things You'll Need
Wood cleaner (Murphy's Wood Oil Soap or any wood oil, including teak, tung and Danish)
Sturdy step ladder
It doesn't matter what color the knotty pine paneling is stained. Products such as these will clean any wood color.
If the finish itself is damaged, it should be repaired or refinished. Before doing so, clean with a dilute soap solution and allow to dry.
Pre-clean extreme soil (it looks grey or gritty) with a well wrung out cloth and plain water or a very dilute soap solution. If this doesn't work, cautiously try Scrubbing Bubbles (aerosol can only, sorry to say) to spot-clean a test area, drying it immediately. This works beautifully on fingerprints and greasy marks. Modern finishes are not affected. The test area will reveal whether you can pre-treat the rest of your knotty pine.
Don't get wood oil soap or wood oil on painted surfaces, sheetrock, fabric surfaces like drapery or furniture or carpets.
If you do overshoot, use a de-greasing technique appropriate to the material stained.
A room paneled in knotty pine looks cozy and comfortable, but not if you can hardly bear to touch the grimy walls. Elbow grease and a little time will restore sheen and cleanliness to a knotty pine wall or room. It's a good project for times you need to think, can't sleep or when weather confines you indoors.
Limit the work. Don't undertake an entire great room in a single session.
Move the furniture away from the wall you've chosen. Put away miscellaneous items, so you don't have to step over them. Ignore the dusty floor beneath furniture.
Arrange your materials conveniently, perhaps by tucking the spare rag in your waistband, setting up the stepladder and placing the cleaner on a sheet of newspaper (to protect the surface you set it on).
Wear gloves, if you don't want your hands to smell of the product you use. On the other hand, it doubles the benefit and deep-softens to work bare-handed.
Start in a corner at the top of a wall so that any drips run down the wall. Spray cleaner directly onto the paneling or pour a little on the first rag and wipe at ceiling level.
Work from top to bottom in a comfortably confined area, perhaps 2 feet wide. Rub longer in areas of concentrated grime, such as where fingerprints have accumulated.
Move onward and clean swatches from ceiling to floor until you reach the end of the wall.
When one wall is finished, lightly wipe excess cleaning product with second rag (the one in your waistband).
Lani Johnson is a hiking, writing musician. Recent published work includes journalism, poetry and research. See her online writing at Trails.com or at Azacda.presspublisher.us.