In this article, ghosting does not refer to someone reading a text and never responding. When you see dark marks or stains on walls in a home, you might be looking at ghosting or "soot staining." Ghosting is used to describe streaks on walls or ceilings, often due to the combination of moisture and the buildup of dust and other particles.
But you don't have to be embarrassed by ghosting; you can fix it! We've researched this topic and found some solutions for you to get rid of ghosting for good.
For a temporary solution, you should thoroughly clean and repaint the walls. Follow these steps:
- Gather your supplies.
- Scrub the area with wall cleaner.
- Thoroughly dry the area with rags or towels.
- Apply one coat of paint primer and 2-3 coats of the desired paint.
To get rid of ghosting permanently, you might have to put in a little more work. Follow these steps:
- Identify the cause of ghosting.
- Remove the source[s] of ghosting.
- If needed, remove the drywall covering the stained areas.
- Install new drywall and insulation.
- Apply 1 coat of paint primer and 2-3 coats of the desired paint.
Although this might seem like a lot, you can do it if you are patient and take everything one step at a time! Keep reading to find out more.
Clean and Re-paint the Walls
Although it might appear a little spooky, ghosting is usually a cosmetic issue. Of course, you can splash on a thick coat of paint to hide the imperfections before someone comes over. But this is only a quick fix. Also, it requires frequent repainting whenever the marks reappear. With a little more effort, you can take steps to hide ghosting more effectively.
One option you have is to clean and repaint the walls. Although it's not a permanent solution, it will slow the appearance of ghosting.
Gather your supplies
First, gather your supplies:
- Wall cleaner
- Dry rags or towels
- Paintbrushes or rollers
- Paint primer
- The desired paint
- Possibly a ladder
Plus, you should wear some old clothes that you don't mind getting paint on. Usually, paint does not come out of clothes!
By the way, you only need a ladder if you have hard-to-reach areas or high ceilings. Check out our article, "6 Best Paint Colors For A Room With High Ceilings," if you're looking for color ideas.
Scrub the area with wall cleaner
Today you have several cleaning options that are safe for cleaning walls. You likely already have some of them at home.
Dish soap and water
Here is a great option that is probably sitting under your kitchen sink - dish soap. Mix dish soap with warm water and scrub away!
It's easy to use, and generally, it's safe for walls. First, test a small area of the wall with the dish soap before fully committing, just in case it harms the wall.
Toothpaste and water
Although it might seem odd, you can use toothpaste and water to clean ghosting. Add 2-3 tablespoons of toothpaste for every 5-6 cups of warm water, and stir them together. As always, first test a small part of the wall to make sure it does not damage anything.
Another way to skip using water is to use disinfecting wipes. They are easy to use. But lately, you might have trouble finding cleaning products in stores due to the supply-demand during the pandemic.
In that case, you should check out Amazon to find Clorox Wipes. Click here to see them on Amazon.
In case you're interested in learning more about how to use Clorox wipes, then you should read our article, "Can You Use Clorox Wipes On Walls?"
Thoroughly dry the area with rags or towels
To minimize moisture, you should thoroughly dry the area you cleaned before painting. Remember - ghosting is caused by moisture reacting with particles, creating a stained appearance. This will make more sense when we talk about the causes of ghosting. So, you should keep reading!
Apply 1 coat of paint primer and 2-3 coats of the desired paint
Generally, you should choose dark colors, like dark gray, to paint walls that are prone to ghosting. Also, uneven patterns or sponge painting, like the room shown above, minimize the appearance of ghosting.
Can you paint over thermal tracking?
Thermal tracking is a term used to describe long lines of dirty marks on walls. It occurs because colder areas, like studs or joints, press against the wall. Moisture is attracted to these cold areas. Particles stick to the moisture, creating a dirty appearance.
Yes, you can paint over thermal tracking lines in the wall. However, be aware that the lines will eventually return because the underlying problem is still in place.
Does ghosting on walls go away on its own?
Although you can cover up ghosting with frequent coats of paint, it will never go away on its own if the source of ghosting is not eliminated. A little investigation is needed!
How do you prevent ghosting on walls and ceilings?
Whether it occurs on the walls or ceilings, ghosting is preventable. Overall, it's all about prevention.
Identify the cause, and remove the source. Then, you will no longer have ghosting.
Identify the cause of ghosting
Generally, you can identify what the possible cause of ghosting is. Smoke and steam are the most common culprits of ghosting.
Can candles cause ghosting?
If you enjoy the occasional pumpkin spice candle during the holiday, it likely won't cause ghosting. Typically, only frequent candle burning causes ghosting.
However, some candles produce more soot than others. So, watch out for heavily fragranced candles made of soft wax.
Are you not sure if your candle is causing ghosting? Try out this test:
- Light your candle by the TV.
- Let it burn for several hours with the TV on.
- Then wipe the TV screen with a clean, white tissue.
If you see soot on the tissue, the candle likely releases excessive soot. And you should stop using it!
Can smoking cause ghosting?
Yes, smoking can cause ghosting. You can easily identify a smoking home by its pungent smell.
Not only is smoking indoors unhealthy, but it can also cause ghosting on walls by leaving behind residue on surfaces. And it's not just cigarette smoke. Smoking cigars, pipes, and other tobacco products can result in the same issue.
Can steam cause ghosting?
Even though steam is a healthy cooking option, it can leave residue on walls. Often, steam rises from the stove and other kitchen appliances, like a pressure cooker. Since steam is hot moisture, it is a great medium for dirt and dust particles to stick to after it settles on surfaces.
Can car exhaust cause ghosting?
Yes, residue from car exhaust in the garage can cause ghosting. Also, car exhaust can leak from the garage and into the surrounding rooms. Thus, it's essential to have a well-insulated garage!
Additional causes of ghosting
Aside from the potential causes discussed above, a few other possible reasons for ghosting exist, including:
- Gas log fireplaces
- Kerosene Heaters
- Faulty heating and air systems
Remove the source[s] of ghosting
Often all you need to do to get rid of ghosting is to remove the source[s] of ghosting. Of course, you should try doing this before trying invasive solutions, like removing drywall. But we'll talk more about that shortly.
Once you identify the possible causes, you should remove all of them at one time. This will prevent you from having to repeat this whole process repeatedly.
If needed, remove the drywall covering the stained areas
Sometimes the only way to fix ghosting is the remove the drywall so you can start fresh. However, you only need to remove the drywall over the ghosting areas. On the bright side, you don't have to clean the walls because you'll be destroying them!
To remove drywall by yourself, follow these steps:
- First, locate all electric outlets, wires, and water sources to identify places you should avoid hitting.
- Shut off the power.
- Remove any outlet covers, grills, and plugins.
- Wear safety goggles.
- If needed, use a crowbar to remove baseboards.
- Use a utility knife to make shallow cuts where the wall meets the ceiling.
- Identify the studs.
- Use a drywall saw to cut into the drywall. Create a line about 3-4 inches deep across the drywall.
- Use a flat bar, hammer, and your hands to pry off the drywall.
- Lastly, use the hammer to remove any nails or screws in the studs.
In case you need a demonstration, take a look at this helpful video:
Install new drywall and insulation
Generally, installing new drywall and insulation is a lot more challenging. Thus, we recommend leaving this step to the professionals.
Plus, you want this to be done correctly because the issue of ghosting is possibly caused by poor insulation. And you don't want to spend all your time and energy doing something that may not prevent ghosting if done improperly.
Apply 1 coat of paint primer and 2-3 coats of the desired paint
Again, apply paint primer and paint to the walls. You don't have to choose a specific color or design because you shouldn't have any more ghosting!
Make sure you paint all of the walls, not just the areas of new drywall. Over time, paint fades. So, you are unlikely to be able to match the color.
Generally, getting rid of ghosting is a reasonably simple process if the cause is cosmetic. However, if the reason is structural, you have a lot more work to do.
Hopefully, this article was helpful to you. And we wish you the best of luck!