How to clean white walls — 5 tips for when a li'l wiping action doesn't work

Scuff marks, who?

Picture of a white wall with hand with sponge illustration
(Image credit: Future)

We love a white wall situation. It's clean, minimal, and super aesthetic — you can create whatever kind of vibe you want, and you probably won't be sick of the color after three weeks.

That being said, keeping white walls clean is a whole other ball game. Shoe scuffs, paw prints, random dirt... pizza grease — you name it, and it'll probably leave a mark on their squeaky clean surface. Figuring out how to clean walls isn't exactly thrilling, but it's a useful skill to know. Things get a little trickier with white walls, but there are certain tips and hacks that'll help you restore their pretty surface in no time. 

Before you start, Melissa Maker of Clean My Space recommends you test cleaning products and solutions on a part of the wall that's not really noticeable (like in a corner or near a baseboard). "Some paints simply can't handle being cleaned and will come out with what looks like a permanent wet mark on the wall," she explains. No thanks!

1. Get out the dish soap

When you have a stubborn little smudge on your hands, a halfhearted swipe at it with a paper towel probably isn't going to cut it. The first thing worth trying is a little dish soap. Make sure any blobs or 4D stains are gently brushed off, then add a tiny dollop of soap onto a sponge and start scrubbing. 

Be sure to really wring the sponge out so you don't leave a water stain on your wall. Let it dry and do another round of scrubbing if the scuff is still there. 

2. Make the most of your fabric softener

The stuff that makes your towels and sheets super fluffy can also come in handy for cleaning your walls. Take a microfiber cloth (we like this 24-pack from Amazon) and get it slightly damp with a mixture of warm water and a small amount of fabric softener. 

Take your cleaning cloth to the wall and gently apply it to the scuffs and stains. It should help remove any trace of a shoe that went flying or your fur baby's paw prints.

3. Clean white walls with vinegar

If you aren't already on the white vinegar cleaning train, it's time to hop on. There are so many hacks to make the most of all around your apartment, and cleaning up white walls is one of them. Our go-to is Heinz's white vinegar, which you can snag on Amazon.

For a large-scale cleaning sesh, fill a bucket or pitcher with warm water and about a cup of white vinegar. Grab a sponge, squeeze it out, then apply the solution to your walls. Bye, scuff marks!

4. Tackle scuffs with baking soda

Still got a mark? You can spot-treat the wall with baking soda. Maker recommends taking a damp microfiber cloth, dipping it in baking soda, and gently rubbing it over the stained area. "Wipe it off and follow it up by buffing it dry with a dry cloth, which will get rid of the residue," she says. "The baking soda will provide a tiny bit of abrasion, which should help rub off any marks or stains."

Our team swears by Arm & Hammer's baking soda (pop a box in your Amazon cart). If you're feeling fancy and like a DIY queen, you can also create a baking soda paste. Mix three parts baking soda with one part water to create it, then apply (gently) with a soft sponge or cloth. Then wipe it dry with a towel!

5. Try out a Magic Eraser

Melamine erasers work magic on dirty walls and have so many other uses. Witchcraft? Maybe, and it's worth having one in your cleaning supply kit. Our fave at RH is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (which you can get on Amazon). Whether it's mud, shoe scuffs, food stains, or crayons, it's a good cleaning tool candidate for getting it off. 

You’ll just need to get it damp, squeeze it out, then rub it on the wall. Test it on a less noticeable part of your wall first to make sure it won't stain. 

Melissa Epifano
Former Global Editor in Chief

Hi, I'm former editor of Real Homes. I cut my teeth in New York City, covering fashion and beauty but eventually made my way into the world of homes. I've spent several years writing and editing for The Spruce, Apartment Therapy, Forbes, MyDomaine, People, InStyle, Real Simple, Lonny and more. I track trends like it's a competitive sport but am equally excited about covering products and style ideas that stand the test of time.

With contributions from