Painting walls? Try washing them first.


If you’re like me, you’ve looked at your walls and cringed while thinking that it’s time again…time to start painting walls.  The handprints, the smudges, the unidentifiable smears along the stairwell, from tots too short to reach the handrail to naughty persons breaking the no touch rule.  Rinse, lather, repeat, “Walls are not for touching, unless you are going to fall down.”  In order to stretch the time between painting walls out, I wash my walls.

Be careful!  If the walls become too wet, any drywall patches may be damaged.  Also, there may be a change to the finish of your paint, after washing your painted walls.  That being said, with 3 little kids, I will be washing my walls!


Image darkened to clearly show difference on beige wall.

Step One:  Note dirty hand and finger print covered walls, and suppress a hysterical sob.  Gather small children, remind them of the “No touch” rule.

Step Two: Fill a bucket with about 4 inches of warm water and 2 healthy squirts of DAWN® blue liquid dish soap.  Gather old prefolds or clean rags/shop towels.

Step Three: Soak and really wring out the prefolds/towels/rags.

Step Four: Gently scrub the walls, then dry them using a clean prefold/towel.  Gently scrubbing is important here, most interior walls have eggshell finish paint on them, and their finish can be marred by harsh scrubbing.  If you want a gold star, go after the trim while you’re at it.

Step Five: For any really hard to get after stains, try a Magic Eraser®, but wear those sexy gloves on your hands (and keep them away from short people).

Now, if your walls are so far past gone with scrapes, stains and the like, at least they are clean so you can get on with painting them.  I suggest that children that are old enough be forced to go with you to Home Depot, to wait in the very boring paint mixing line.

Disclaimer:   My opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.  I received no remuneration from DAWN®, or Magic Eraser®. As mentioned in the post, take care when washing your walls as damage can be done to the finish or to dry wall patches.  Elizabeth Copeland and Water Rolls Uphill are not liable for damage done to your walls, always do due diligence before undertaking any DIY project.


  1. Love this post lol. I have 2 boys who’s mission in life is to keep me running behind them with a sponge to wipe the walls.

  2. I hate painting. One of the reasons I’m happily living in an apartment where they take care of that stuff!

  3. You are right that washing the walls can make the paint job look fresh and new again. I have four kids who think a wall and the bannister are the same thing.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Janeane, Oh yes, a good washing can make a substantial difference. I cringe when I see little fingers trailing down the stairwell, at least the hubby bought the proper ladder for stairwell painting, right? Sigh.

  4. Love step 1! You have just reminded me how much work I have to do!

    • Elizabeth says:

      I wasn’t kidding about step one! I despise painting. We’re due for ceiling repaints too, my nemesis.

  5. Brittany says:

    My 2 year old just drew on the walls with crayon. Looks like its time for me to paint. Thanks for the tips.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Brittany: I heard something about a WD-40 pen that would remove crayon. It might be worth investigating at your local big box DIY store.

  6. My boys at least show mercy and draw where I can’t immediately notice!

    • Elizabeth says:

      That could be good or bad, Sara-Jayne, depending on what they’re drawing with, as some fresh drawings will come off, while others require Kilz. Sigh.

  7. Luckily I live in an apartment so if this needs to be done they have staff that does it because if not I would have my work cut out for me… I have two boys and I swear my oldest will do anything to get some kind of marking on the walls even in some spots that I don’t know how he got them.

  8. Ugh the thought of washing or painting walls just makes me shudder. I have a really bad neck and shoulder and both of those things I am not able to do. Lucky my husband doesn’t mind doing it. It is a lot cheaper to wash a wall than to paint it that is for sure.

  9. We just finished painting one of our room and getting the bathroom next. Maybe this would be a good option.

  10. I LOVE my Magic Eraser!!! I thought it would be a great idea to have the kids help me one day do this to my walls that they had colored on, yeah they are no longer allowed to use it Ill just leave it at that :)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Oh no, Jenn. Sounds as though they may have been using it like it was a dry erase board eraser. The only negative about the Magic Erasers is that they very clearly change the paint’s finish, however, if the only other option is a crayon masterpiece……

  11. Great suggestions!! I hate repainting especially baseboards.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Maria, I despise painting the baseboards! Mostly because at this point, they probably need to be sanded, and I am not doing that, sorry!

  12. Great idea! I know I cringe when the walls look dirty again!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Katherine, It sneaks up on you doesn’t it? One day they look fine, and then the next you’re thinking, “The walls are filthy, how did that happen?!?!”

  13. Oh my gosh! Wow! I know a lot of friends and actually most people who have dirty walls. It’s hard to avoid, especially with kids. This is so great. I am definitely looking this up. My husband is obsessed with finding things that clean to perfection.

  14. I totally need to wash my walls! If it doesn’t work, I’ll have to paint. My youngest daughter thinks walls are for drawing :-(

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