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Washing Latex Wall Paint

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Less Is More. The best approach to washing a wall is to start with the least aggressive method - water on a soft cellulose sponge.

If this is not successful, use a mild, non-abrasive, weak solution of dish detergent. Be sure to dilute your mixture to avoid harming the paint film.

Cleansers Not to Use
Most standard glass and household spray cleaners should not be used on painted surfaces, as they contain strong solvents that can damage the paint finish.

When to Wash
Wait at least two weeks after you apply any latex coating before washing it, to allow it time to fully cure. Low VOC products generally require up to 30 days.

With some products, deep color will have some some color rub-off, especially with flat or low-sheen finishes. This doesn't mean your paint is inferior or defective—once your surface is dry, the paint should appear uniform.

Paint may be affected if:

  • The paint has not been allowed to properly cure
  • The Surface is cleaned with an abrasive cleaner or one containing strong solvents

How to Wash
Always wear rubber gloves to protect your hands when you use the following steps:

  • Use one bucket for washing solution, and one for clean water rinsing.
  • Separate sponges should be used for each bucket.
  • First try washing or spot-cleaning painted surfaces with water. If this is not successful, advance to a weak mixture of water and mild, non-abrasive, dish detergent.
  • Begin washing at the bottom of the wall, working upwards so the cleaning solution doesn't run down your dirty wall and cause streaks that are difficult to remove.
  • When cleaning, rub gently in a circular motion to avoid damaging the paint.
  • After washing, dry off excess moisture with soft, absorbent cloths.
Tips to Remember
Darker, flat paints are more susceptible to damage and pigment rub-off when they are scrubbed too harshly.

Gloss and semi-gloss enamels withstand cleaning better than flat or latex paints with the exception of Benjamin Moore Regal® Matte Finish N221 with Advanced Particle Technology® .

If your walls are very dirty, use a stronger alkali solution, such as two tablespoons of ammonia or two tablespoons of laundry detergent powder in 1 gallon of warm water. Remember that stronger cleaning solutions may remove some of the pigment in the paint.

Test your cleaning solution in an inconspicuous corner first. If your wall color and finish look the same, but cleaner, it is safe to continue washing your entire wall.

Always rinse off any wall with clean water after using any type of cleaning agent.

Warning: If you scrape, sand or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. Lead is toxic, and exposure to lead dust can cause serious illness, such as brain damage, especially in children. Pregnant women should also avoid exposure. Wear a NOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. For more information, please visit www.epa.gov/lead/.
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