Natural recipes to clean, polish and restore old wood
Landscaping pros share their secrets

Why Your Painted Walls Always Look Gross


Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication.

When you first moved in, you spent an entire weekend coating your home in a fresh layer of paint. Not a year later, you found the color yellowed and grimy, so you painted again. Now, another year has passed, and you once again notice your walls looking bad. What gives?

Painting the interior of your home isn’t a quick and easy chore; it takes several days, hundreds of dollars, and a supreme amount of effort to cover everything, tape up corners, and apply the paint. Still, one of the best features of paint is its durability, unlike other wall coverings, like wallpaper, that tend to tear and stain quite easily. Therefore, if you find your interior paint looking shabby or gross after only one or two years, you are probably doing something wrong. Here are a few suggestions to keep your paint looking fresh for long, long time.

Don’t Let Dust Settle

If you look closely at your walls and ceiling, you’ll see tiny motes of dust clinging there. Worse, you might find larger clumps of dirt and sticky cobwebs, which can shorten the life of your paint. To prevent this, you should spend an hour or two every month running a microfiber cloth along your walls and ceiling. It shouldn’t take too long ― about 10 minutes per room ― because you don’t need to move pictures or furniture, which tend to protect your walls from dust. If you can’t reach certain spaces, wrap the cloth around the head of a broom and use the handle to extend your arm.

Wash Away Grime and Gunk

Oils from cooking and showering can be carried away by steam and adhere to your walls, accumulating to form a gross, gummy gunk that doesn’t come off easily. If you try to ignore the gunk and let it grow unhindered, your walls will look like they are sweating some kind of yellow glue, which is less-than-inviting to most guests.

The best way to avoid this scenario is to wash your walls with water, soap, and sponge about once per year. The most important spaces are your bathrooms and kitchen, but if you have kids or bad adult habits (to be discussed in full later) you might want to go over other rooms, as well.

Gentle rubbing should be enough to remove the worst grime, as long as you use the right soap. Here are two reliable recipes for powerful homemade wall cleaners:

  • 1 cup of borax, 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid, and 1 gallon of warm water
  • 1 cup of ammonia, 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid, and 1 gallon of warm water

Watch Out for Wall-Ruining Habits

Though everyday life wreaks quite a bit of havoc on your walls, you might accidentally be causing your walls harm with your bad habits. Fortunately, with concerted effort, you can change your behavior to keep your walls prettier longer.

By now, you should know that smoking tobacco indoors is the worst idea possible, not least because the smoke stains paint quickly and insidiously. Even if you don’t smoke, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, and even candles can produce the same effect: dry, yellow, unattractive paint. The best solution is to switch to smokeless nicotine alternatives, like e-cigarettes or patches, and make sure the chimney is open whenever you light a fire.

Children are also particularly bad for walls, though they are harder to get rid of than pesky smoke. You must set hard rules for how children can behave indoors, especially around your painted walls. Even when they aren’t drawing with markers and crayons, kids’ hands aren’t often the cleanest, so you should prohibit touching walls whenever possible to avoid transfer of oils and food particles from fingers to paint.

Touch-Up Whenever Possible

Accidents happen, and no matter how diligently you look after your walls, damage will eventually occur. However, when paint gets chipped, scratched, or torn even slightly, the rest of the layer can begin to decay. As soon as you notice damage to your wall, you should touch up the paint as soon as possible. Touch-ups are just as involved as painting an entire wall, and for the best results, you should follow these steps:>

  • Fill any holes in the wall with caulk or drywall
  • Seal any stains that cannot be removed by washing
  • Sand the damaged area to remove loose scraps of paint
  • Repaint evenly

Whenever possible, you should use the original paint to touch-up damaged areas. However, if you run out, you will have more luck finding the exact shade by using computer paint-matching software. Most hardware stores are capable of scanning paint chips to produce a comparable shade, but you can also try color snapping mobile apps at home to achieve the same result.