It's easy to pass by walls and woodwork every day without a second glance, but like many housekeeping tasks, regular cleaning can help avoid bigger cleanup work later on.
Dirt and scuffs
Walls tend to get dirtiest around light switches and doorknobs.
"Even if a hand looks clean, it still has a little dirt and oils that over time build up and eventually make that area of the wall dirty," said Amy Panos, senior editor at Better Homes and Gardens.
Walls also get marked up from accidental kicks or the brush of a bag near the baseboards. Parents know how toddlers' hands often find their way to walls, either with filthy fingers or with crayons or markers.
These fingerprints and other blemishes are best tackled right away. "The sooner you can get to a mark that is noticeable, the easier it will be" to clean, said Sharon Grech, a color and design expert for Benjamin Moore.
People are wary of cleaning or washing painted surfaces because they fear the process will remove the paint. But Grech said the technology has improved over the past decade, and paints now are more stain-resistant and durable for cleaning.
Still, it's important to use the right products.
To remove everyday marks, Grech suggested using a clean cellulose sponge with a little warm water. "Just give it a good rub," she said. "Wait for it to dry and see if it's clean."
If the dirt is still evident, repeat the process using a dab of dish detergent and wipe the area dry with a clean sponge, rag or paper towel. "You want to avoid using regular household cleaners that have ammonia and other products in them" because they can change the sheen of the paint, Grech said.
Panos likes the ease of a foam eraser pad, like Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, though be sure to test it first in an inconspicuous area to make sure it won't remove the color or finish. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is approved by the manufacturer for use on most paints, including flat and semigloss paint.
Don't forget doorways and trim, often coated in easy-to-wipe paints but in light colors like white and cream that make marks especially visible. Cleaning those areas can instantly make the room seem brighter.
Dust and cobwebs
While most people know to take care of an unsightly mark, many overlook cleaning the whole wall, Panos said. Once you have a fresh coat of paint, lightly dust the walls about every three months. "You don't need to get a bucket and soap and sponge and completely wash down the walls," she said. "Make it easy on yourself by getting a tool with an extension pole so that you can stand on the ground and take care of the job in just a few minutes rather than having to drag out a ladder."
Clean the ceiling first, with a dust-attracting microfiber mop on the extension pole for smooth ceilings, or a slightly damp paint roller on the pole for a popcorn ceiling, she said. The walls can be cleaned from top to bottom with the mop (dry or slightly damp), and the baseboards hand-cleaned with a microfiber cloth.
Grech recommends regular cleaning where dusts collects, such as on baseboards, and on window ledges, where it can mix with moisture and turn into a mess.