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Alternatives to tsp for cleaning walls

Updated March 23, 2017

Although TSP (trisodium phosphate) is neither carcinogenic nor neurotoxic, and it's safer than many other household cleaners, many people don't like using it. TSP can burn skin and be irritating to breathe. It is an effective wall cleaner and safe on most types of wall coverings, but there are less-caustic alternatives for getting your walls clean.

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Vinegar and Water

Vinegar can be used on enamel and latex paints, as well as many types of wallpaper. It can remove most stains and crayon marks. Use warm, undiluted vinegar for heavy oil stains.

For all-purpose cleaning of most types of wall coverings, mix a 50/50 solution of distilled white vinegar and warm water.This diluted vinegar solution works well for spot cleaning around light switches and high-traffic areas where there are a lot of fingerprints.

Alkali-based Cleansers

If a wall is badly stained from soot or smoke, an alkaline cleaner, such as washing soda, ammonia or washing powder, is an effective option. Ammonia, however, is caustic to breathe and must be used in a well-ventilated area, while washing soda and washing powder are much milder.

Start with a weak solution of 1 cup of ammonia or ¼ cup of washing soda or washing powder to a gallon of water, and test it on a hidden area before washing the rest of the wall. These products are effective cleaners, but if the concentration is too strong, they can remove paint.

Cleaning Flat Paint

Enamel and latex paints are generally washable, but flat paint is much harder to clean. Flat paint absorbs stains, and the cleaning process can make them worse. Fingerprints, food stains and crayon marks can all very difficult to get rid of.

Before scrubbing stained flat paint with water and a cleanser, try covering the stain with a dry paper towel and pressing it with a warm iron, to draw the oils into the paper. If the stain doesn't come out, try the vinegar solution, but test it in a hidden area first.

Cleaning Wall Coverings

To clean fabric wall coverings, vacuum them regularly to remove dust, and spot clean according to the manufacturer's instructions. Keep in mind that some fabric and fibre wall coverings should be cleaned only by professionals.

Washing Walls

Both paint and wallpaper should be spot-cleaned weekly, to prevent more serious staining; but sometimes you have to wash the entire wall. Always use a soft sponge. Start at the top with your dilute vinegar or alkaline solution, and work your way down. Wipe away dirty drips and streaks as they run down, so that they don't stay on the wall for too long; they can leave stains. Wash one section of the wall at a time, and dry each part as you go. Most paints are not water resistant if the water sits on the surface for more than a few minutes.

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