Dirty walls are one reason many renters fail to get back their whole security deposit. However, it is a repairable issue. Whether you’re dealing with dirt, grease, crayons or markers, ink or water stains, there is usually a cleaning product that can address the mess. One of the most important tips to keep in mind is to start gently and work your way up to a tougher solution.
The following article will provide information on the best techniques to clean your walls and other painted surfaces. If you follow these tips, you’ll stand a better chance of getting back that security deposit.
Telling Damage From Normal Wear and Tear
Sometimes it can be tricky to tell damage apart from regular scuff marks. Your landlord may use your security deposit to repaint, but it’s helpful to know when reasonable wear and tear has occurred as opposed to more severe destruction. The Rental Housing Act states that a property needs to be in an acceptable clean state once a tenant has vacated the property. However, the security deposit can only be used for damages and not to freshen a property for a new tenant.
That said, the matter depends on the contractual agreement presented in the lease. The landlord must be specific if he or she requires repainting, carpet cleaning or other maintenance before a tenant vacates the premises. If the lease does demand clean walls upon leaving, there are ways to ensure that you don’t leave permanent damage and maximize your security deposit.
How to Clean Your Walls
Before you get started, evaluate the walls to determine the level of cleaning you’ll need to do. Sometimes a simple all-purpose cleaner or eraser may be your ticket to a fresh residence. Other times, more aggressive methods are required. To avoid any unnecessary work, follow our steps for spotless walls.
- Try to figure out what kind of paint is on the wall: If you’re an experienced handyperson, you can probably tell at first glance whether the walls are painted with a semi-gloss, enamel, flat, stain or eggshell finish. If not, ask your landlord.
- Dust the walls: It may seem silly but running a vacuum attachment over the wall can be a simple way to remove surface dirt, which is often a main cause of visible wear.
- Lay towels or sheets on the floor for protection: The last thing you want is to damage the floor while you’re cleaning the walls. Laying a protective barrier on the floor can catch any water or paint drips.
- Obtain a cleaning solution: This is possibly the most critical part of the process. Start by wiping the walls with a damp cloth. Water can usually remove most surface dirt that isn’t ingrained in the paint. If water doesn’t suffice, create a mixture using warm water and a bit of dishwashing soap. For even tougher stains, carefully mix half a cup of vinegar, one fourth cup of baking soda and a cup of ammonia into a gallon of water. You could also make paste with baking soda and warm water. In any case, don’t scrub too hard because you risk chipping the paint.
- Use proper cleaning techniques for maximum effect: Start at the top and move downward to cover every area of the wall. It may also help to have one bucket for the cleaning solution and one for clean water. Use a damp — not wet — sponge, cloth or rag. Dry with a separate towel to avoid streaks or further damage.
In some cases, stains can’t be removed with water or basic cleaning solutions. Scratches, holes or deep scuffs on the wall may need to be sealed and repainted if the damage is too great. Hopefully you can catch any issues before they get too serious. However, knowing the root of a problem could maximize your security deposit return and save you the headache of an argument with the landlord.
Author bio: Steve A. Parker is Director of Communications at Raider Painting, a California-based commercial and industrial painting company. It is committed to providing solutions that enhance and prolong the life of your workspaces and equipment.