How to Remove Stains From Flat Paint

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Flat paint gives your walls a classic matte look with a smooth, uniform appearance. You're less likely to notice scratches, nicks, and other blemishes on flat paint because it doesn't reflect as much light as other finishes. But flat paint is often more difficult to clean, which can cause headaches if you get grease, fingerprints, or other stains on the walls. Gentle cleansing options make the best cleaners for painted walls with flat paint.

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Issues With Flat Paint

Compared to other finishes, flat paint is less durable, which allows smudges and stains to appear more easily. You can't simply scrub the paint to remove a stain. While you'll eventually remove the stain, you'll also likely remove some of the paint or make it look patchy. To clean walls without removing paint, start with the gentlest option and work up to stronger cleaners if necessary.

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Wipe the Walls First

Before you introduce any type of cleanser or water, wipe down the walls with a dry microfiber cloth or duster to remove dirt and dust. If you leave dust on the wall, it can stick or cause stains when it gets wet. It's a good idea to run a cloth over the area you plan to clean even if it doesn't look dusty. You can't always see the dust, and it won't take long to do a quick swipe.

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Wash With Warm Water

Start simple with warm water and a soft sponge to tackle stains on flat paint. Soak the sponge and squeeze out most of the water so it's just damp. Rub gently to avoid wearing off part of the paint but go over the area several times to see if the stain gradually comes off the wall. Keep a close eye on the paint to see if it looks like it's wearing off the wall, looking dull, or changing color.

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Add Gentle Cleanser

If water alone doesn't remove the stain, add a gentle cleaner as a boost. A few drops of a gentle dish soap, laundry detergent, or vinegar added to the water can give you a little extra cleaning power. Use the same method of dampening the sponge with the cleaning solution and rubbing it gently over the stained area. Wipe the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove the cleaner from the paint.

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Try an Eraser Sponge

If the stain remains, another option is an eraser sponge. The soft material on the sponge is gentle on the delicate flat paint to protect it. Read the instructions on the package to find out how to use it properly. You typically wet the eraser sponge and wring out the excess water. Then, rub the sponge over the area, being careful to avoid rough scrubbing.

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Touch Up the Paint

If the stain is too stubborn, touching up the paint may be the only option. This is an option if you still have the original wall paint. If you don't have it and the stain is noticeable, you might choose to completely repaint the room.

Try a glossier paint sheen to make cleaning easier in the future. Eggshell paint isn't overly shiny, but it offers more durability than flat paint. Satin is a step above eggshell, offering a good balance of glossiness and durability.

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