How To Clean Wallpaper and Remove Stains

Your wallpaper is often put on the backburner when following a house cleaning checklist. However, a dirty wall can quickly transform a modern interior into something that resembles an old horror movie scene. It can also instantly devalue your home, so it’s important to keep wallpaper clean and in good condition.

Wallpaper is continually subjected to abuse, from fingerprints and smudges to scuff marks and grime. Not to mention, if you have kids or pets, they’re more likely to see even more wear and tear. In this guide, we’ll show you how to clean wallpaper, so you can keep your home looking its best.

Wallpaper cleaning supplies

  • Vacuum Cleaner
  • Broom
  • Cloth
  • Putty Knife
  • Iron
  • Gum Eraser
  • Soap and water solution
  • Toothbrush
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Dry cleaning sponge or putty

Washable Wallpapers

Washable wallpapers can be cleaned with a damp cloth, sponge, or brush. You can also use a mild soap and water solution, and apply other liquids such as white-vinegar to remove tough stains. The following are the most popular washable wallpaper types:

Vinyl Wallpaper

This is the most common type of washable wallpaper. Vinyl is made of durable synthetic materials, so it can withstand a lot of wear and tear. It’s also waterproof and primarily used for rooms that are prone to moisture, such as the kitchen and bathroom.

You can usually clean vinyl wallpaper with just a damp cloth and dish soap.

Fibreglass Wallpaper

Fibreglass is a highly durable wallpaper and even flame-resistant, making them fairly easy to clean. Like vinyl wallpaper, you can use a dish soap and water solution to spot-clean and remove stains. However, you still want to avoid harsh chemical cleaning solutions as they can damage the surface and cause discolouration.

How to Clean Vinyl and Fibreglass Wallpapers

Vinyl and fibreglass wallpaper are low maintenance options that are highly resistant to staining, and easy to clean. They’re also water-resistant, meaning it can be wiped down with a damp cloth and liquid cleaners.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to clean fibreglass and vinyl wallpapers:

Vacuum and Dust Your Wallpaper

Vacuum Cleaning

First, it’s best to do a thorough surface clean by removing all dust and debris. The easiest way to do this is with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a soft brush attachment.

Plug your vacuum in and move the brush attachment from your wallpaper’s top to the bottom. Be sure to go over each section multiple times to ensure that all the dirt has been removed. If you can’t reach harder-to-reach spots, use a ladder or step stool to get the job done.


Once you’re finished vacuuming, use a broom to sweep away any cobwebs or dust that might be lurking in your ceiling’s corners. If dust is stuck to the surface, put a microfiber cloth over the broom’s bristles and gently go over the wallpaper again. Just ensure your cloth isn’t too dry as it needs to absorb the dust instead of just moving it around.

Deep Cleaning

Once your wall is free of surface debris, fill a bucket with warm water and add your multi-purpose cleaner. You’ll then want to fill in a second bucket with just plain, warm water to use as a rinse.

Dip your microfibre into the soapy solution, wring it out and gently wipe your wallpaper from the top to bottom in circular motions. When your cloth becomes too dirty, rinse it out in the second bucket and continue cleaning. Just ensure not to soak the surface as this can compromise its adhesion and deteriorate old or damaged wallpaper.

When you’re finished, dip a clean, microfibre cloth in the bucket of plain water and give your wallpaper a final rinse. Wring out your cloth before wiping down the surface to avoid saturating the wallpaper.

Non-washable Wallpapers

Non-washable wallpapers cannot be cleaned with water or any other liquid solutions. The only way is by using a dry cleaning method, which can be in the form of a dry cleaning sponge or putty. The following are the most popular non-washable wallpaper types:

Fabric Wallpaper

Fabric is used for various purposes such as couches, clothing, and of course – wallpaper! This material can be very expensive due to it including silk, velvet or linen so excessive scrubbing or water damage should be avoided.

We recommend simply dusting and vacuuming this type of wallpaper regularly – perhaps once a month. And if you need to spot-clean or deep clean, contact the manufacturer or a cleaning expert for specific instructions.

Bamboo Wallpaper

This stylish and sustainable wallpaper is made out of bamboo vines that have been glued on. However, due to its natural material, bamboo wallpaper isn’t water resistant and can swell when it gets wet. As a result, you’ll want to avoid water entirely.

Cellulose Wallpaper 

Cellulose is known for its historical patterns and traditional designs. It’s primarily made out of cellulose, which are plant fibres originating from wood pulp.

This material is not water-resistant and discolouration can occur if it gets wet, so avoid soaking or harshly scrubbing this type of wallpaper. Instead, use a dry cleaning sponge or putty to remove stains.

How to Clean Non-washable Wallpaper

Since many wallpapers cannot be washed with water, you’ll want to avoid using any cleaning solutions that contain water. These can damage and discolour the material. Instead, you need to use dry cleaning alternatives, which we’ll go through below:

Vacuuming and Dusting

Like your standard washable wallpaper, kick things off by vacuuming and dusting your wallpaper. This will help remove any surface dirt, dust or debris that might be present.


After identifying what stains you’re dealing with, you can begin spot-cleaning them using two dry cleaning methods. The first is to use a dry cleaning sponge to gently wipe the stain – its porous cells can lift soot or smoke effectively without spreading it across the surface.

The team from My Post Renovation Cleaning shares that taking care to avoid rubbing too hard or using excessive pressure is crucial, as it can cause further damage to the wallpaper. They also emphasize the importance of testing the cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area before proceeding with the entire surface.

Alternatively, you can use a putty-like product intended for dry cleaning. Its non-abrasive surface will not cause smearing or abrasion, making it ideal for delicate wallpapers. Simply roll the dough on your wall covering until the stain has lifted, and then pick the putty off.

Wallpaper Cleaning for Stain Removal

Depending on your wallpaper’s material, you’ll want to use a different cleaning solution. If your walls are made out of a more durable material like vinyl, try the methods below to remove stains and clean your wallpaper:

Handprint stains

All those times you’ve touched the wall to open a door or adjust a picture frame have left their mark. To get rid of fingerprints, try using an art gum eraser. Just lightly rub the eraser over the stained area and the marks should come right off.

If that doesn’t work, mix distilled white vinegar with warm water to make a cleaning solution. Dampen your fresh cloth into the solution and gently rub stains. Once the fingerprints are significantly reduced, rinse the area with warm water and towel dry the wallpaper.

Crayon marks

Submerge a clean toothbrush into soapy water and rub the bristles over the crayon marks. Right after, dip a microfibre cloth into warm water and wipe down any remaining crayon debris.

If your crayon stains are particularly stubborn, grab a putty knife and scrape off as much of the wax as possible. Once clean, cover with a paper towel and set an iron at a low heat temperature. Gently press the iron over the paper towel for 1-2 minutes until the wax has transferred onto it.

Grease stains

The accumulation of oil and grease can quickly turn a white wall into something that looks yellow and grimy. This is a common problem in areas where food is prepared, such as the kitchen or even the bathroom where you might do your makeup.

To remove grease stains, mix 1/4 dish soap into a bowl of water and mix until you have a foamy solution. Next, use a clean cloth to apply the suds directly to the stain and scrub to soften the grease. Finish by rinsing with warm water and drying with a clean towel.

If your grease stains are extremely stubborn, use 1/3 of distilled white vinegar and 2/3 water to make a cleaning solution. Soak a clean cloth in the mixture and apply it to the stain. Gently rub the area until the grease has lifted and lightly rinse with warm water.

How to Deep Clean Painted Walls

When cleaning painted walls, the idea is to remove any surface dirt without damaging the paint job. Furthermore, a deep cleaning goes beyond spot-cleaning as it involves the entire wall>

Furniture Removal and Vacuum

To deep clean painted walls, start by removing any obstacles like picture frames, furniture, or curtains that might be in the way. Once you have a clear path, use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to suck up any dust and loose debris.

Deep Cleaning

If you have a semi-gloss or satin paint finish, mix 1 gallon of warm water with 1/4 cup of liquid dish soap in a bucket. With a second bucket, fill with warm water to use as a rinse. Dip a soft sponge into your soapy solution and thoroughly wipe down from the wall from bottom to top, then from side to side.

Once your sponge starts to look dirty, rinse it out in the second bucket of clean water and continue cleaning. You’ll also want to dry your wall with a clean cloth to avoid dripping and water stains. Repeat this process until the entire wall is clean, then dry with a clean towel.

For extremely dirty walls, try using this more potent solution:

  • 1 cup of non-sudsing ammonia
  • 1 cup of white distilled vinegar
  • 1 gallon of warm water
  • 1 cup of borax

Before going ahead and trying this solution, test on a small, inconspicuous area first to make sure it won’t damage or discolour your paint. You can even try it on another painted surface altogether like your baseboards. If the test area looks good, mix all the ingredients together in a bucket and follow the same instructions as above.

General Wall Cleaning Tips

  • Avoid liquid cleaners for fabric, bamboo or celular wallpaper to prevent any damage.
  • Wipe in circular motions when cleaning to avoid streaks.
  • Avoid bleach or other harsh chemical solutions as these can damage certain wallpapers.
  • Be extra careful when cleaning textured wallpaper as you don’t want to end up tearing it.
  • Always place paper towels at the base of your wall before cleaning. This will catch any drips and avoid water stains.

Wallpaper Cleaning FAQ

What is the best way to clean wallpaper?

The best wallpaper cleaning method depends on the wallpaper’s material. For vinyl, fibreglass or other washable wallpapers, using a dish soap and water solution usually does the trick. For tougher stains, use the white vinegar and water solution.

Fabric, bamboo or other delicate wallpapers, meanwhile, must be dry-cleaned to remove stains. In this case, you can use dry cleaning putty, a dry cleaning sponge or contact the manufacturer for specific cleaning instructions.

How often should you clean wallpaper?

Wallpaper cleaning frequency will primarily depend on its installation area.

High-traffic areas like your kitchen or living room might need to be dusted every two months and deep cleaned 2-3 times a year. Lesser used spaces like a guest bedroom can probably get away with a yearly deep clean with dusting every 4 months. This is because kitchen walls are more susceptible to grease, food stains, and fingerprints, while living areas might see more foot traffic and dirt build-up.

Can you wipe clean wallpaper?

Yes, washable wallpapers can be wiped down with a natural sponge or cloth with soapy water. However, you still don’t want to soak the wallpaper or use any harsh cleaning solutions which will cause discolouration. Always wring out your sponge or cloth before wiping down the wallpaper to avoid any dripping and water stains.

What happens if you neglect cleaning your wallpaper?

If you don’t clean your wallpaper regularly, dust, dirt, and grime can build up and cover your walls. The same goes for smoke, soot, and other airborne particles. All of this can lead to your wallpaper looking discoloured, faded, or otherwise damaged. In some cases, it can even shorten the lifespan of your wallpaper.

Get Professional Cleaning from Sidepost Today

If your interior is in need of a fresh start, contact Sidepost today. We offer professional cleaning services for all types of wallpapers and surfaces. Our team of experts will have your home looking like new in no time. You may also check out other cleaning services we offer such as tile and grout cleaning, spring cleaning, roof cleaning, driveway cleaning, exterior house washing, bathroom cleaning, and end of lease cleaning.

We service all across Australia, including major cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, Gold Coast and Canberra. We also offer vacate cleaning in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and many cities all across the country. Contact us today for a free quote!