How to Clean a Ceiling Before Painting

Woman with a rectangle dust mop cleaning a white ceiling

Paint can be fickle. Some modern paints say they can stick to any surface yet when there is dirt on them, those claims seem to be untrue. The paint peels off rather quickly once the job is done and the paint has dried.

To avoid this issue, which can double your costs, you need to know the steps involved in painting a ceiling. A good cleaning is essential if you want the paint to last for years. Keep reading to find out how essential cleaning your ceiling is before you paint.

Do I Need to Clean My Ceiling Before Painting?

Man with a rag wiping a shiny ceiling above a window.

Yes, you do. There is no other legitimate answer to this question. While some painters and paints claim that this step is not necessary, it is. Paint does not stick that well when the ceiling is dirty regardless of what the paint store employee or the paint can say.

Someone has to do it. If you don’t clean the ceiling first, the painters are not going to do it. They get paid to paint not clean. Any cleaning the painters do will add to your overall paint bill as you will be charged painter’s labor costs when they clean.

If you are unable to handle the cleaning yourself, you can always hire a cleaning crew to come in and do it for you. Their cost may be cheaper than paying the painters to do it.

What is the Best Way to Clean a Ceiling

Man in a blue apron wiping a ceiling with a blue rag

There are several methods you can use to clean your ceiling and we will list a few of them. That way you can choose which one is best for your situation. There may be several options you can use under each subsection, and you just need to pick one or a combination to get your ceiling nice and clean.

1. Cleaning the Dirt and Dust

  • Use a Duster – This will get loose dirt, dust, and even cobwebs off your ceiling.
  • Use Your Vacuum Cleaner – A soft bristle attachment is best, and it gets harder to reach dirt, etc., as well as the cobwebs and lose dust.
  • Wipe with a Cloth – This is basically the same as using a duster, but you are closer to the action and use a lot more elbow grease.

2. Choosing the Cleanser

  • Soap and Water – This is the best option of them all and all you really need here is a dishwashing liquid that cuts grease and warm water.
  • Vinegar & Water – Mix a little white vinegar with warm water. It is natural and safe.
  • Regular Commercial Cleaners – There is nothing wrong with using these items. They do get the ceiling nice and clean, but they may also produce some toxic odors and leave a residue behind.

3. Method of Cleaning

Yellow gloved hand holding a white spray bottle against a blue background
  • Spray Bottle – Probably the easiest way to clean your ceiling. After dusting, you simply spray the chosen cleanser on and wipe it off with a clean cloth.
  • Use A Paint Roller – These rollers apply more than just paint. They can give you an even coating of the cleaner making sure all the ceiling receives a good amount of cleaner. Then simply wipe off when you are done rolling. This option does not work that well on popcorn ceilings.
  • Old School – This is where you mix your soap, water, or vinegar, etc., in a pail and use a rag to clean the ceiling. You can apply the right pressure, get all the spots, and make sure the dirt is off. The drawback here is that it is labor-intensive, and you will be tired when you are done.

4. Specific Stains

  • Pencil Marks – How they got on the ceiling is anyone’s guess, but a school eraser will take care of these marks quickly.
  • Tough Stains – Use a little baking soda and water mixture to get these stains. Apply a little to a cloth and work the paste in before rinsing.
  • Grease Stains – This is best left to liquid dishwashing soap that has a grease cutter ingredient.
  • Soot Stains – Use TSP. Make a paste or let the cleanser soak in for a few minutes then rinse off with a damp cloth. Don’t go beyond the stain though.

When is it Okay to Skip Cleaning Your Ceiling

Woman with head leaning sideways into hand as if thoughtful

There will be those rare occasions where you may not have to clean your ceiling first before you paint.

  • Your ceiling is already clean
  • There is no grease stains or crayon marks
  • You do not have a wood-burning stove in your house or do not use your fireplace
  • There is little hand contact on your ceiling
  • You do not have pets in your home
  • You do not cook or bathe in the room

No matter what anyone says, it is your ceiling, and you should take the proper steps to clean it first. Even if your ceiling is clean, this precautionary step makes sure the paint will adhere to your ceiling and remain there for a long time.

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