When to wash your walls before painting and when you can do without it

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Painting the interior walls of your home is one of those tasks that seems pretty simple and quick, but usually ends be a lot more work than expected. That’s because it’s not just about brushing or rolling over a fresh coat of paint, there’s also all the prep and cleanup work that goes with it. (and tends to be edited from TV shows featuring house makeovers).

And on top of the prep work, like moving furniture around and covering everything with drop cloths, there’s the matter of washing the walls. This is where it can get confusing. Most DIY tips and paint can instructions state that washing the walls before painting them is a crucial step.

But if you’ve seen professional painters at work, you may have noticed that they often skip this step. So what is it ? An important part of the process or a part that is not really necessary? Here’s what you need to know.

When should you wash your walls before painting?

Washing walls before painting them is the rule, not the exception. However, as spruce emphasizesinstructions on exactly how to wash your walls vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, ranging from wiping them down with a sponge and hot water, to cleaning with TSP (trisodium phosphate) – a powder that is mixed with water to form an alkaline solution used to dissolve grease and oil.

Generally speaking, if you are going to paint interior walls, it is best to wash them first.

When can you avoid washing the walls before painting

The reasons professional painters tend not to wash walls before painting depend on on the situation, but if they’re paid by the job (rather than by the hour), it’s not hard to see why they’re skipping this step.

Beyond monetary reasons, some professional painters, like Eric Regan of Mission Painting & Home Improvements in Overland Park, Kansaslet’s say that most of the time, the interior walls of certain rooms in your house do not need to be washed before painting, even if you do the work yourself.

So how can you tell if you might be able to skip this step? First of all, if you’re painting your kitchen, bathroom, or any other room where you cook or bathe, there’s no getting around at least wiping your walls. The same apples to vertical surfaces in any room, like trim and ledges.

Other than that, according to The Spruce, if you absolutely insist on washing your walls before painting them, they should answer all, otherwise most of these conditions:

  • Not be excessively dusty
  • Absence of crayon and/or grease stains on the walls
  • The house does not have a wood-burning fireplace
  • Walls have little or no hand contact
  • There are no animals in the house

Even if all of the above criteria apply to the room you are going to paint, you still need to wipe the walls down quickly (dry) to remove any lingering dust or debris that you might not be able to see.


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