Timely tips for cleaning wallpaper

July 28, 2015

The most common wall covering is washable wallpaper, which is treated with vinyl for easier cleaning. But many other coverings exist, including delicate papers; fabrics such as cotton, linen, silk, rayon, hessian and velvet; and coverings made from grass, reeds, hemp, cork or leather. They generally are not washable, although some gentle cleaning methods are unlikely to harm them.

Timely tips for cleaning wallpaper

1. Is it washable?

To determine whether wallpaper is washable, wet an inconspicuous area with a solution of a little dishwashing liquid and water. If the paper absorbs water or darkens, or if the colours run, it's not washable and the cleaning solution will damage it.

2. Proceed with care

Here are some precautions to heed while cleaning washable wallpaper:

  • Don't flood the surface with water, over wet the seams or edges, or leave water on for more than a minute.
  • Don't scrub unless the manufacturer says the covering is scrubable.
  • Don't use harsh, abrasive cleaners.

3. To clean other types of wall coverings

  • Vacuum regularly, using the upholstery brush attachment.
  • Another acceptable cleaner is an old-fashioned product called wallpaper dough, which is sometimes available from hardware, paint or wallpaper stores.
  • Roll the dough into a ball and then roll it over the dirty area on the wallpaper. When the dough ball becomes dirty, knead the dirty part back into the middle, make a new ball and then continue.
  • You can use white bread in the same way.

4. Smudged wallpaper?

  • To remove fingerprints and smudges from wallpaper, try an art gum eraser (available from office supply stores), or melamine foam (available from supermarkets) for hard surfaces.
  • To remove greasy spots, make a paste of cornstarch and water. Apply to the spot, let it dry and then vacuum it off.
  • To remove wax, heavy crayon or grease, hold a double thickness of paper towels on the spot and go over it with a warm iron.
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