Tricks of the trade to clean ceilings

If you want to brighten your overhead view, take aim at that grubby ceiling. Ceilings attract airborne dirt, cigarette smoke and grease. Cleaning them is a project that's tempting to put off, since ceilings are hard to reach and awkward to clean. But a few tricks of the trade can minimize the misery.

Tricks of the trade to clean ceilings

1. Dusting the ceiling

  • Whenever possible, use long-handled tools instead of balancing on a ladder or stepladder.
  • Dusting the ceiling is sometimes all that's required, and to do that, all you need, from a hardware or homeware store, is a long, extension-handled duster that will capture and hold fine dust and dirt and also eliminate cobwebs without smearing.
  • A long-handled lamb's wool duster or a vacuum with a brush attachment also works well.

2. To clean a dirty ceiling

  • This job must be done by hand. First, put down drop cloths or newspapers to protect furniture, electronic equipment and floors.
  • Wear safety goggles or other eye protection, because you're likely to dislodge small particles you can't really see coming at you.
  • You may want to wear rubber gloves as well.
  • You can use a sponge mop with an extender handle, but you'll have to be careful to apply even pressure and get an even distribution of the cleaning product so it won't streak.
  • Or you can use a dry foam-rubber sponge, which means hauling out a stepladder. Take care to follow basic safety rules, such as placing the ladder securely on a level surface to prevent tipping, and never standing on the top step.
  • For painted ceilings, whether they're covered with oil-based or acrylic paint, a general-purpose cleaner, or even liquid sugar soap, works well. Mix 60–90 ml (4–6 tbs.) of a general-purpose cleaner in 4 litres (4 quarts) of water (or follow product instructions), dip your sponge in the solution, wring out the excess and wipe the dirty area.
  • Rinsing is necessary only if the ceiling is heavily soiled, but whether or not you rinse, you'll need to wipe away excess moisture with a dry towel to prevent bead marks.

3. To clean a rough surface

A spray-on acoustical finish on a ceiling has a rough surface that is best cleaned using a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment used for cleaning upholstery.

4. Acoustical ceiling tiles

An easy remedy for dirty acoustical ceiling tiles can be found in your medicine cabinet: hydrogen peroxide, an environmentally friendly product containing powerful oxidising agents.

5. Vinyl-coated ceiling tiles

  • Buy three per cent hydrogen peroxide solution (rather than the special industrial-strength version), which is widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies.
  • Wear goggles to keep debris and the peroxide mist out of your eyes.
  • Mix about 30 ml (2 tbls.) of hydrogen peroxide in 1 litre (1 quart) of water and pour it into a spray bottle. Peroxide, a mild bleach, will whiten the tiles.
  • Best of all, no rubbing is required — simply spray the mixture on the tiles, applying it evenly and let it air dry.

6. Non-coated ceiling tiles

  • For these tiles — which generally aren't washable — use a dry sponge cleaner or a special microfibre mitt. Dry sponges are made from natural rubber and are sometimes treated with mild detergents.
  • When using a dry sponge or mitt, wipe the ceiling tiles with an even, sweeping motion.

7. Face up to a drippy situation

If you use liquid cleaners to clean your ceiling, there's a better than even chance that some of that liquid will come dribbling down your arm onto your clothes or into your face. The solution is to wear rubber gloves and fold the ends up into cuffs, so anything that drips from your hands stays in the glove.

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