How to Clean Wood Walls and Paneling

You might have discovered it when you bumped up against them while you were wearing a light-colored jacket. Or you might have splattered something on them and, in the course of wiping up the spill, found more than you had bargained for. Wood walls and paneling can be deceptive when it comes to hiding dirt, oil and smoky residue. But one way or another, once you've discovered that your wood walls or paneling are dirty, you know you've got a full-fledged cleaning project on your hands.

Before you proceed, it will help to know what type of wood you're dealing with – and principally, whether the wood is sealed and finished or uncoated and unfinished. So if you have a care and maintenance manual, now is the time to rustle it up, especially because some manufacturers recommend the inclusion of oil to provide moisture and shine to the wood.

Even if you've cleaned your wood walls or paneling before, the integrity of the wood and the finish could have changed since then, so proceed with caution. Test your cleaning method first on a small, inconspicuous area of the wood. If you like what you see, continue with confidence – and slip on a white jacket to celebrate once you're finished.

Basic Cleaning Formula

Remove surface dust and cobwebs from the wood walls or paneling with a microfiber cloth or the soft brush attachment from a vacuum. Then map out a plan of attack for cleaning the wall since you face a three-pronged problem: cleaning it, rinsing it and then buffing it dry. So break the wall into small, manageable sections that are comfortable for you, taking into account your physical reach and allowing time for climbing up and down a ladder or stepladder. Work from the top of the wall down to mitigate drip lines.

Mix ½ cup of mild dish soap in 1 gallon of warm water. Fill another bucket with warm water only.

Dip a soft sponge into the soapy solution, wring it until it is merely damp and wash a section of the wall. Dip a second sponge in the bucket of water, wring the sponge so that it is not dripping and rinse the wall. Then buff the wall dry with a microfiber cloth.

Embellished Oil Additive

Remove surface dust and cobwebs from wood walls or paneling that can be treated with an oil additive. Use a microfiber cloth or soft brush attachment from a vacuum.

Combine 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup of vinegar, 1/2 cup of mineral oil and about 20 drops of lemon oil in a bucket. For best results, do not use vegetable oil as an oil substitute.

Dip a soft sponge into the solution and wash the wall. Then use a microfiber cloth and buff the wall to a shine.

Unfinished Soft Touch

Exert extra caution with unfinished or raw wood. It will absorb moisture quickly and could even stain.

Brush the wood wall or paneling lightly with a microfiber cloth -- the safest and surest way to clean unfinished wood. If the surface is smooth, try wiping it gently with a barely damp cloth.

Fortify your dust-removing efforts by mixing 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a spray bottle. Spray a fine mist on the wall or paneling and wipe it dry with a microfiber cloth.