How to Clean Drywall: Remove Stains (AVOID Doing This!)

Like anything at home, drywall is subjected to damage, dirt, and stains. The stains may come from spillings, leakings, rain…the list goes on and on.

Whatever the cause is, you’ve eliminated it and are now wondering how to get rid of the stains. Cleaning drywall is simple. All you often need is a sponge and a stain-removing spray, but when those fail, what can you do?

In our “How to clean drywall: remove stains” guide, we’ll show you how to easily remove or cover those stubborn stains from your wall.


How to clean drywall stains

Assess the Situation

Before attempting to remove the stains from the drywall, you need to take a moment and assess the situation. A couple of factors will affect how to deal with drywall staining. 

Those factors are the nature of the stain and the presence or absence of paint on your drywall. Both of them will change how you try to remove the stains.

The Drywall Isn’t Painted Yet

When your drywall is still waiting for its paint, you don’t have to try scraping off the stain and risk damaging the wall.

Your goal at this point would be to cover the stain prior to painting the wall. Before you do that, you need to make sure that the cause of the stain is fixed.

For example, if you have a water leakage, there’s no point in hiding the stain because it will simply come back again. Always make sure that you remove the main cause of the stain before dealing with the stain.

Drywalls can get dirty for several reasons so you will have to adjust your approach based on the source of the stain.

We have discussed how you can remove drywall dust here.

Now let’s learn how to get rid of the stain in two simple steps.

Step #1: Deal With the Roughness

Stains sometimes cause the outer layer of the drywall to roughen up. Grab a sandpaper of 120-grit or 220-grit and do a few sweeps over the stain.

Make sure that your sweeps cover an area around the stain as well. Using the sandpaper doesn’t only make the surface smooth, it also cuffs it up a little to allow for the subsequent layer to stay in place.

Step #2: Apply a Stain-Removing Primer

Use a paint roller to apply a stain removing primer on the stained surface. Make sure to cover a small margin around the stained area with your primer. 

Wait for the primer to dry. If you can still see the stain through the first layer of the primer, you should apply another layer.

Once the primer is dry, give it another go with your sandpaper to make it smooth. Your drywall is now ready to be painted and the stain won’t appear again.

The Drywall Is Painted

If an already painted drywall got stained, you can still use the previous two steps to hide the stain. The only difference is that you’ll need to cover the primer with a paint color identical to the old one. This may sometimes prove to be difficult.

If you don’t want to prime and re-paint, there are a few simple methods you could try. First, you need to determine the type of stain on the drywall. Dealing with oil stains is usually different than dealing with stains of other origins.

Your Drywall Has an Oil Stain

If you have oil stains on your painted drywall and you don’t feel like painting over them, you can still remove most of these stains using one of the methods we’re about to discuss.

Keep in mind that you might still notice a fade trace of the stain in most types of paint. However, our methods will hide the stain almost completely if the drywall is painted with enamel or limewash paint.

Method #1: Baby Powder

Yes, you read that right. If your painted drywall is stained, you can get rid of the stain using baby powder.

Use your fingers to cover the stain completely with baby powder and wait for an hour.

After waiting, remove the powder using a medium or hard toothbrush. The next step is using a 120-grit sandpaper to gently scrub over the stain. It should remove most (if not all) of the stain.

Keep in mind that this method is effective for Limewash paint only.

Method #2: White Chalk

You can use white chalk to remove stains on painted drywall. Simply scrub over the stain using the chalk, then wipe with a dry cloth or paper towel.

After that, use a wet cloth over the stain and it should disappear completely.

This method is most effective for Enamel paint.

Method #3: Flour

Just like the baby powder, you can clean stains off the drywall using flour. Apply the flour to the stain using the same way you did with the baby powder. 

After that, you’ll need to wipe off the flour using a dry towel, then wipe the spot with a wet towel.

The oil stain should be gone or mostly faded. You may repeat this method again until the spot disappears completely.

Flour is effective in removing oil stains from enamel paint.

Your Drywall Has Other Types of Stain

If your drywall is covered with other types of stains like marks and spilled liquid, you may attempt to remove them using toothpaste and a hard toothbrush. 

Toothpaste often contains 50% abrasive material. Utilizing that abrasive material and mixing it with the bristles of a hard toothbrush is a powerful combination.

Use that to battle the hard stains and marks on your drywall. Some marks will come out quickly while others may take some time. Try to be patient and consistent.

You’ve Reached the End

That’s it for our “how to clean drywall: remove stains” guide. To quickly recap everything, you should start by assessing the situation.

If the drywall isn’t painted yet, just cover the stain with a stain-removing primer. The following layer of paint will hide everything later on.

If the drywall is painted and stained with oil, use flour, baby powder, or chalk to cover the stains then wipe off. The type of your paint will determine which material you use.

If you have other stains on the drywall, use a toothbrush and toothpaste to remove the stains.