How To Clean Flat-Paint Walls [In 3 Simple Steps]

When rearranging a room or doing a deep cleaning, the question about how to clean flat sheen walls will come up. While flat paint is fragile, this makes the chore seem daunting. We have researched the most efficient ways to remove dirt and dust from those walls.

Since flat paint is porous, it does hold fast to dirt and grime. Walls painted with flat paint need to be cleaned carefully. Do not use abrasive detergents or materials that might scratch or scuff. To clean a flat painted wall, test each cleaning product in an inconspicuous spot prior to applying it to the entire wall to ensure you will be happy with the result. Please, follow these steps: 

  1. Use a dusting cloth or a vacuum cleaner with a small soft attachment to remove dust and cobwebs from the wall.
  2. Using warm water, dampen a clean sponge and wipe down the wall. Warm water is typically enough to clean the flat painted wall.
  3. If you see dirty spots or lingering stains, try a stain removal technique -as we'll discuss in detail below. Stain removal may involve various cleaning agents, either homemade or commercial detergents, or finally re-painting the area to touch up if the stain does not budge.

We understand that there are multiple choices to clean the walls. Continue reading as we explore these steps and discuss what furniture and rooms work well with flat paint.

A painter wearing a hardhat and face mask for cleaning and smoothing an interior flat paint wall during construction or renovation work, How To Clean Flat-Paint Walls In 3 Simple Steps

Flat Paint, Or Not - Determining your wall finish

Cleaning flat painted wall using sponge

Verify the sheen easily by shining a light on the piece, and if the light reflects, it is not flat. If the light seems to fade into the wall, the wall was painted with flat paint. Since flat paint is the most fragile of the paints, the same cleaning solutions can be used on the other sheens.

How to Clean Flat Paint Walls

1. Dust and/or Vacuum

Use a microfiber cloth or the soft brush attachment to gently dust and/or vacuum the walls and ceiling to be washed. This process will remove any loose dirt and grime.  A small handheld vacuum with a soft brush is best. If a handheld vacuum is not available, use the hose attachment on your vacuum.

Click here to see this vacuum on Amazon.

2. Wash

Wet a soft sponge and wring out well so that it's just damp, and wipe down the wall. This method will get most of the dirt and grime off and often is the only step needed. Avoid the abrasive side of the sponge as it can damage the paint.

Click here to see the bone-shaped sponge on Amazon.

3. Stain Removal

Now, it's time to tackle any lingering stains from the cleaned, flat paint. We've got several cleaning solution suggestions for you for stain removal, including a final tactic to prime and re-paint the stained area.


Add white vinegar to the damp sponge and wipe to pull the grime out of the paint. Dilution is unnecessary.

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All-Purpose Wall Cleaner

Prepare one teaspoon of an all-purpose cleaner with a quart of warm water, and add 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar. Apply a layer to the stain and let sit for about 10 minutes, then blot off with a microfiber or white cloth.

Click here to see these cloths on Amazon.

Eraser Sponge

Embedded stains will react well to an eraser sponge. Follow the manufacturers' instructions to dampen the sponge, squeeze out excess water, and then wipe on the wall. 

Click here to see these eraser sponges on Amazon.

Foam Cleaner

Foam cleaners can loosen dirt and remove any accidental crayon drawings. As with an eraser sponge, follow the manufacturer's instructions to apply to the wall. Wait the recommended time period for the foam to work its magic.

Click here to view this foam cleaner on Amazon.

Diluted Detergent

Dilute dish detergent into one gallon of water, dampen the sponge in this solution, and wipe the wall down.


Click here to see this dish detergent on Amazon.

Touch Up Paint

If the above steps do not work, the last resort is to paint over the stain. Use a primer with a stain blocker to go over the stain to prevent any bleed through, and then apply the matched color paint. If the paint no longer adheres to the wall, click here to view our article on "How To Fix Paint That Ripped Off."

Click here to see this Interior primer on Amazon.

Preventative Measures to Keep Flat Paint Looking Fresh

Walls painted with flat sheen paint will need maintenance to keep them scuff and stain-free. Preventative maintenance will help minimize the need for deep cleaning. Set up a routine to occasionally vacuum the walls with a soft brush attachment or wipe down with an electrostatic duster.  Also, use microfiber cloths or used dryer sheets on the walls as they are electrostatic materials. Wipe away marks as soon as they are noticed and use a minimal amount of water when cleaning the walls.

Click here to see this electrostatic duster set on Amazon.

When Should You Use Flat Paint? 

Paint your low-traffic rooms, such as an office, formal dining room, and bedrooms, with flat paint. Flat paint gives a finish that is velvety, elegant, and warm. Be aware that it does not reflect light, so make sure to use it in a well-lit room.

Look for a washable, flat paint if you plan to use it in a room with a lot of activity. Washable, flat paint is relatively new, so double-check that the manufacturer states how to use it appropriately for your purpose. Standard Flat paint does not hold up well to high traffic rooms such as playrooms, game rooms, and living rooms as it is easy to scuff and mar.

Click here to view this paint and primer mix on Amazon.

Is Flat Paint Good For Furniture?

Use flat paint with an identical base as the paint ss a clear polyurethane coating for the final coat on upcycled furniture. For example, use water-based polyurethane for water-based paint and oil-based polyurethane for oil-based paints. The flat paint will hide blemishes and provide an elegant finish for the furniture. 

Even with the final clear coat, flat paint is still fragile. The same rules apply to furniture as it does with rooms. If it is a high-use piece like a table or chairs, go with an eggshell or semi-gloss finish instead. Let the piece cure for a minimum of 24 hours before use. Treat gently for 14 days to allow the furniture to cure completely.

Does Flat Paint Hide Imperfections?

Reduce the visual effect of imperfections in the wall or ceiling with flat paint. Because flat paint does not reflect light, it reduces eye-catching blemishes. To match the existing paint, either take the lid of the existing paint to your local paint store to get a match or get a few paint swatches and visually match them to your wall. When visually comparing them, make sure to check in different lighting situations.

In Closing

How To Clean Flat-Paint Walls In 3 Simple Steps

As fragile as flat paint is, it is still possible to refresh the look using gentle, non-abrasive cleaning methods. Once the fresh look is back, maintain by dusting the walls periodically and handling marks as they occur. Clean stubborn stains starting with the simplest fix first, then move into the more intense solutions as needed. Flat paint can be used in a multitude of ways, including low-traffic rooms, furniture, and camouflaging. 

For more information about flat paint, check out our articles on "Should Living Room Paint Be Flat or Eggshell?" and "Should Ceiling Paint Be Flat Or Eggshell?"

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