Do you have children? How about pets? If you answered yes to either of those questions, you understand how easy it is for walls to get dirty. Fingerprints, drool, scuffmarks—the list goes on. If you have, or are considering wallpaper for your home, there are a few things you need to know about cleaning your walls safely.
First off, not all wallpaper is the same. Sure, there are different patterns, colors, designs and even textures, but the material is what you need to consider. Not all wallpaper can be cleaned the same way and some wallpaper types are more durable than others.
Types of Wallpaper
Most wallpapers use water-based or chemical solvents. Water-based solvents are usually non-toxic, but most vinyl and acrylic wallpapers use chemical solvents.
For the eco-minded, some wallpaper is made from Forest Stewardship Council-approved material. Some are even made from recycled post-consumer products. The coating is usually water-based or has a light plastic layer to protect it and make it easy to clean.
Bamboo or grass fiber wallpaper is another natural option, but these aren’t always washable, so research the type of wallpaper you have before diving in with soap and water.
The most washable wallpapers are vinyl and chemical-based—perhaps that’s what you’ve chosen or inherited with your home. Their plastic coating makes them easy to wipe down.
Whatever type you have, there is a way to clean them. Read on!
Cleaning Your Wallpaper Safely
Know what type of wallpaper you have and be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning it. The last thing you want to do is tear the wallpaper and have to repair it—or in the worst case scenario, replace an entire section. If you’re not sure what material you have, be sure to test a very inconspicuous area.
Regardless of what type of wallpaper you have, it’s some form of paper — which means:
• Do not get it wet
• Do not use anything abrasive to scrub it
• Absolutely do not use bleach
That being said, “damp” is not the same as “wet.” Here are some tips for safely and greenly cleaning your wallpaper:
1. Dust your wallpaper often, especially if it’s made from fabric or natural fibers like grass or bamboo. Dusting can help remove loose debris. A soft microfiber cloth is all you need, no chemicals required.
2. If you have washable (vinyl) wallpaper, use a fresh, damp (not wet) rag or sponge to spot clean any fingerprints or scuffmarks. You’ll be amazed at what a soft sponge or clean rag can accomplish with just a little bit of water.
3. If your wallpaper is washable and needs more than just a spot clean, mix one gallon of warm water with ¼ cup of eco-friendly dish soap. Make sure your rag or sponge is barely damp and gently wipe the walls. Wipe in the same direction as the seam of your wallpaper, which is most likely horizontal. Dry off the wall immediately.
4. For vinyl wallpaper, you can use ¼ cup of vinegar and one gallon of warm water to gently wipe your walls, drying them off immediately afterward. This is especially effective for removing odor, like cigarette smoke, that might have been absorbed by the wallpaper.
5. If your wallpaper is older or if you’re not sure what kind of material it or the coating is, consider a dry sponge made of non-toxic natural rubber for gentle spot cleaning.
Experience has taught me that most chemical cleaners are too abrasive for even “washable” wallpaper. Oftentimes, regularly dusting and gently spot cleaning is all that is needed to keep your walls in tip-top shape.
From cleaning wallpaper to doors to floors the green way, Sommer Poquette is the Green and Clean Mom. Sommer writes on her green-clean tips around the house for The Home Depot. To review all of the wallpaper styles that are available at Home Depot, you can visit the company's website.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.