The majority of apartment leases include a pesky little clause stating that, should anything be wrong with the apartment upon your leaving (from major property damage to a small hole in the carpet), you’ll get slapped with a pricey surcharge that gets deducted from your original security deposit.
And for anyone who has ever been the victim of that particular surcharge, keeping a rental clean, especially at the end of the lease, is one of the most important items on their to-do lists, year-round.
We’re here to help with one of the biggest steps of that process: cleaning painted walls of scuffs and stains. It may seem like an easy task at first, but there are certain stains that require a little bit more work.
So if you’ve been angrily scrubbing the same spot on the wall for more than 10 minutes, check out the helpful tips below. They just might be enough to take care of even the toughest stains.
If you’re renting, you likely didn’t paint the walls yourself. And short of asking your landlord for the exact brand, color, and type, you’ll never know all the specs.
But there are a few important qualities that you can surmise just by looking at and touching the walls.
Most importantly, feel for the texture of the wall. Paint is often categorized into satin, semi-gloss, and glossy finishes. Glossy will be the shiniest and also (usually) the easiest to clean. The shine makes it easy to scrub away many different kinds of stains.
Satin walls are the most difficult to clean. They’re also merciless when it comes to showing off the smallest of discolorations. Even failing to dry the wall quickly when washing can leave easily visible stains for everyone to see.
Before digging in with the actual cleaning, gather up some highly absorbent towels or rags that you can lay along the baseboard.
They can collect errant drips of water and cleaning fluid to help keep you from doing water damage while trying to get the place in tip-top shape.
Having towels nearby will also be handy when you need to dry the wall once the washing is done. As we mentioned earlier, letting a wall air-dry can leave unseemly water marks and streaks.
Before breaking out the heavy stuff, try starting your cleaning session with a mild cleaning solution. Method’ all-purpose cleaner is a good option and relatively affordable. Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Cleaner is also a mild option often found in health food and grocery stores.
With the help of a mild cleaner, you have a good chance of getting rid of stains without stripping away the wall paint itself.
If the mild cleaner does nothing for toning down the problem stain, then we recommend putting together a new cleaning mixture.
For this one, all you have to do is add a few drops of standard dishwashing soap to a bucket of water. The resulting soapy mixture should be a bit more powerful than many surface cleaners while also still being relatively mild and harmless to the wall as a whole.
Try scrubbing in small circular motions with moderate pressure. If any part of the stain gets loosened in the process, make sure to absorb it and not spread it around other parts of the wall.
If you’re not seeing any significant changes and you’re spiraling into thoughts of losing your security deposit and the cool things you could have purchased with all that cash, then it’s about time to break out the big guns.
This one requires some disparate ingredients that most people already have in their kitchens anyway. But if you don’t do a lot of baking you might need to make a quick run to the grocery store.
You’ll need 1 cup of ammonia, ¼ cup of baking soda, and ½ a cup of vinegar. Mix them all into about a gallon of water, preferably warm.
Just for fun, feel free to give this special concoction a name of your own. Perhaps “Agent Orange,” or maybe “Mike’s Special Stuff.”
As we mentioned above, whether each step is successful or not, dry the walls when you’re no longer scrubbing. This will save you the effort of having to clean them again only a couple of hours later.
A dry towel can also help soak up any stain substance that has been dislodged by your highly skilled cleaning efforts.
If you’re really having trouble getting your walls (or your apartment in general) spiff and spam, don’t lose your mind just yet.
Look into some local cleaning services in your area. Yes, it will cost a bit to have someone come out, but in the end, it will be much less expensive than whatever your building management company would have deducted from your security deposit.
The other plus side is that you can kick back a bit and wait for the spots to be cleaned without your help. It may sound like a luxury but it’s worth the investment.
Should all of these efforts fail, think about coming clean to your landlord and ask for the name and brand of the paint, and where you could get some more. Then offer to make the touch-ups yourself.
Your landlord will be motivated to give you exactly the correct information so that your touch-ups don’t do any more damage.
Giving an entire wall or the entire apartment a fresh coat of paint will have it looking like new. You probably have a lot more cleaning to do, walls and all, so we won’t take much more of your time.
Just remember, you’re far from the first to run into this problem, and security deposit or no, it’s all going to shake out just fine. What's most important is trying your best in the time that you're given.