vintage wallpaper design

How to Clean Wallpaper

Cleaning wallpaper is relatively simple. With a gentle approach to avoid damaging the wallpaper, cleaning it shouldn’t take too long.

The method you should use will depend on the type of wallpaper you are cleaning. There are several types; vinyl, fabric or paper-based.

Having a good idea of which type your wallpaper is will help you clean it more effectively.

The method we show below works great on most types of wallpaper, but if you intend to use a professional wallpaper cleaning product, you should find out which type of wallpaper you are dealing with. That way, the work you do won’t damage the wallpaper at all.

Here’s a general guide on how to clean most types of wallpaper and remove most types of stains.

bucket with cleaning cloth and feather duster behind wallpaper


Cleaning Wallpaper: A Step-by-Step Guide

1. Before you begin

It is a good idea to move all furniture out of the way and cover it with a dust sheet. You can also put a dust sheet or plastic sheet down on the floor.

This job can get a bit messy, so there is some risk of staining furniture, wood flooring and carpet if you don’t do this.


2. Dust the wallpaper

hand holding feather duster

Use a microfibre cloth or a feather duster to gently remove any loose dust and dirt from the wallpaper surface.

Start from the top and work your way down. You can also use a vacuum cleaner at this stage if you like. Just ensure all of the dust is removed from the wall.

Don’t use any water to help remove the dust. We are just looking to remove the dust that isn’t stuck to the surface here.


3. Prepare a cleaning solution

clean wallpaper with sugar soap

Mix a mild cleaning solution in a bucket with warm water. You can use a few drops of washing-up liquid or a small amount of mild detergent in warm water.

Something like Bartoline Sugar Soap is ideal for this task. It can cut through grease, nicotine stains and just about anything else that may be on your wallpaper.

Alternatively, you can use a specialised wallpaper cleaner recommended by the manufacturer of your wallpaper.

This cleaning product may be more powerful than the mild detergents that we’ve recommended above. So, you may want to reserve this cleaning solution for the more troublesome areas.


4. Test a small area

Before cleaning the entire wall, test the cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t cause any damage or discolouration.

Leave this to dry and see if there is any peeling of the wallpaper. If there isn’t, you’re good to go.


5. Clean stains and spots

wipe wall with cleaning cloth

Dip a clean microfibre cloth or sponge into the cleaning solution and wring it out thoroughly to avoid excessive water getting on to the wall.

Gently dab the stained or dirty area without rubbing, as rubbing can damage the wallpaper.

Work in small sections working from top to bottom. This will prevent dirty water from running down the wall over already-cleaned sections and leaving streaks.

This process will take some time. Time to put on some music and slowly but surely clean each wall.

Rinse the dirty water out of the cloth or sponge periodically to ensure you are maximising your efforts.


6. Dry the wallpaper

After cleaning, use a new, dry microfibre cloth or towel to pat the wallpaper gently and remove any excess moisture.

Make sure not to leave the wallpaper too wet, as it can cause damage or peeling. Once you’ve done this, leave the wallpaper to dry fully before you put any furniture back in place.


Dealing with Stubborn Stains and Grease

remove wallpaper stains with baking soda paste

For tougher stains, you can use a paste made from bicarbonate of soda and water.

Apply the paste to the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, and then gently wipe it away with a damp cloth.

You may need to repeat this several times for very stubborn stains.

While the sugar soap should take care of most of the grease, there may still be some very stubborn spots to tackle.

For these, use undiluted sugar soap. A small amount on a cloth will work wonders for you here.

Just gently rub the sugar soap into the grease, leave it to soak in for a few minutes, then use water and a cloth to remove it.


The Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Wallpaper

no harsh chemicals and abrasives on wallpaper

Avoid excessive scrubbing

The whole cleaning process should be gentle, working in small sections as you go. Never use abrasive materials, scrub brushes, or harsh chemicals, as they can damage the wallpaper’s surface.

If you find a stubborn spot of grease or a stain that won’t come off, leave it to soak for a few minutes while you work on another section.

This is usually enough to get rid of it, but you may need to return with a more powerful cleaning solution later.



Good ventilation while cleaning is really important. While the cleaning solutions we’ve recommended aren’t too bad for you, it is still a good idea to have good ventilation.

So, open a couple of windows to create a draft before you begin. Keep the windows open while the wallpaper dries. This will speed up the drying process and prevent mould or mildew growth.


In Conclusion


Remember, different wallpaper types have specific care requirements, so always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations if you have access to them or consult a professional if you’re uncertain about the proper cleaning method for your wallpaper.

If this look at cleaning wallpaper has helped you, maybe one of our other cleaning articles will help you too.

We have loads of cleaning articles on In The Wash, including how to clean wooden furniture and how to get ink out of carpets!