The complete guide to cleaning baseboards
Following a regular cleaning routine helps you keep on top of all the little chores that can quickly pile up around the house. But how often do you clean your baseboards? If it’s been a while since your baseboards had a little TLC, they’re probably collecting more dust and grime than you realize. With our Pro tips, you’ll learn how to clean baseboards in no time, without breaking your back.
How often to clean baseboards
How often should you clean your baseboards? A lot will depend on your lifestyle. If you have pets who shed a lot of hair, you’ll probably have to clean them more regularly than other folks. As a quick and dirty(!) rule, aim to clean your baseboards once a month. If you notice they’re very grimy when you clean them, switch to cleaning every two weeks instead. And if you find your baseboards stay clean, you might only need to clean them every couple of months instead.
Baseboard cleaning hacks
There are a few ways to make cleaning your baseboards faster and more efficient. When you’re vacuuming, use the brush attachment on the hose to give your baseboards a rub-down. This removes dust, dirt, and pet hair, preventing it from building up.
Another tip is to use dryer sheets to wipe down your baseboards. Not only do they attract dirt, they also coat the boards with a dust-repellent sheen that will prevent them from getting dirty in the future. Extra Pro tip? Stick your dryer sheets to a Swiffer mop to clean your baseboards without bending over.
No cleaning equipment? No problem! Simply use an old sock over your hand to give your baseboards a rub down. You can use a sock with or without cleaning solution, just remember to ensure the solution is skin safe, or wear rubber gloves underneath.
Ready to give your baseboards a thorough clean? If our how to clean baseboards hacks aren’t cutting it, here’s how to do a thorough job.
How to clean walls and baseboards
The first thing to consider is your walls. You might not realize, but walls collect dust and dirt just like every other part of your house, especially if they’re textured. Look at high-traffic areas, and see if you can see grubby marks in spots that people frequently touch. The areas by stairs and doorways are usually top culprits.
Eventually dust that clings to your walls falls, where it collects at your baseboards instead. So to get your baseboards really clean, you need to deal with the dust hanging around above them. You can wash your walls with a simple soap and water solution. Dust them first (or use the brush attachment on your vacuum) to remove as many loose particles as possible. Pay extra attention to the corners, and around light fixtures.
Then make a solution of warm water and dish soap, at the same concentration as you’d use to wash dishes. Get a soft sponge or microfiber cloth and dampen it with the water. Take care not to soak it, because you don’t want to damage the paint or drywall. You can place towels around the area you’re working to protect your floor, but you shouldn’t spill more than a few drips.
Test an inconspicuous area first to check the soap won’t react with your paint or wallpaper. Then start at the top of the wall and wash downward using circular motions. Don’t press too hard, because this can leave marks behind. Some areas might need a little extra TLC, but a little concentrated soap, or even a dab of white vinegar, should be enough to remove everyday grime.
If you see drips running down the walls, wipe them up and wring out your sponge or cloth. You only need enough water to attract dust and lift it from the surface. Once the wall is clean, finish by rinsing your cloth or sponge in clean water and wiping down the walls to remove soap residue.
Now your walls are clean, it’s time to work on your baseboards. While almost any gentle cleanser will work, along with a brush, microfiber cloth, and a little elbow grease, some tips are more effective for different types of baseboard. Check them out.
How to clean wood baseboards
Stained wood is a durable and attractive material for baseboards, but it can become warped or discolored if it gets too wet, or if it dries out completely (did you know the timbers in your house are around 6-8% water?). The good news is, you can balance the moisture content of your baseboards with two simple steps:
- Don’t use too much water when cleaning wooden baseboards
- Finish the baseboards using oil to lock in moisture
To start, dust or vacuum your wood baseboards. Then make the following mixture:
- 1 gallon warm water
- 4 tablespoons dish soap
- 1 tablespoon mineral oil
Use a sponge or microfiber cloth to clean the baseboards using the cleaning solution. Wring the sponge out well so you don’t get too much water on the wood.
Once the baseboards are clean, use a cloth dampened with clear water to do a final wipe down and remove any soap residue. The oil will remain behind to condition the wood.
As a final step, buff your baseboards with a dry cloth, and use a dryer sheet to help repel future dust from settling there.
Pro Tip: Other sites might suggest using vegetable oil as an all-purpose wood conditioner. However vegetable oil goes rancid over time, and can create unpleasant odors. Mineral oil, or a dedicated wood treatment oil, is always your best bet.
How to clean painted baseboards
If your wooden baseboards are painted, you don’t need to treat them with oil. The paint already protects the baseboards from the elements, and this also means you can use more water and pressure when you’re cleaning, making your task easier.
Step 1: Remove loose dust and dirt from the baseboards
Step 2: Add dish soap or a gentle, all-purpose cleaner to warm water and clean the baseboards with a sponge or microfiber cloth
Step 3: If you encounter any obstinate stains, a magic eraser can help lift them
Step 4: Rinse the cloth with clean water and wipe down the baseboards to remove soap residue
Step 5: Use a dryer sheet to keep your baseboards dust-free
How to clean baseboards before painting
If you intend to spruce up your baseboards with a fresh coat of paint, it’s best to get them clean first. This will give you a better finish for the end result. Because you’re going to refinish the paint anyway, you can use more force to make sure you’ve removed all traces of stains and scuffs. A magic eraser will remove most dirt, and a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and hot water will cut through grease stains.
Pro Tip: Make sure your baseboards are completely dry before painting, and always check the Light Reflective Value (LRV) of your paint before applying it to PVC baseboards. Dark paint absorbs too much heat and can cause warping and cracking.
How to clean white baseboards
White baseboards look elegant, but they can quickly show dust and scuffs. If your white baseboards are painted wood, follow the tips above. If they’re made from PVC, follow these tips instead.
Step 1: Dust or vacuum your baseboards as normal
Step 2: Use a mixture of dish soap and warm water to wipe down baseboards
Step 3: If you have a lot of scuff marks on your PVC baseboard, use an all-purpose cleaner and a magic eraser to lift the dirt (always do a spot-test first!)
Step 4: To keep your baseboards gleaming white, make a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts hot water and spritz the boards. Leave for 10 minutes and then wipe down with a clean, damp cloth
The best cleaners for each type of baseboard
Water, dish soap, and mineral oil
Water and dish soap or all-purpose cleaner
Water and white vinegar
How to clean pet urine from baseboards
Owning a cat or dog can bring a lot of joy to your life, but also a lot of dirt to your baseboards! Pet hair, dander, dirt from muddy paws… it all ends up on your baseboards. And then there are the occasional accidents you have to clean up. Here’s how to do it.
How to clean cat urine from baseboards
Cat pee can smell particularly strong, and it takes a strong cleaner to get rid of it. The good news is, you can use this DIY solution to get the job done.
- 1 cup hydrogen peroxide
- 1 tablespoon dish soap
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
Soak up as much cat pee from the area as possible. Then combine the ingredients and then spray the baseboards liberally. Leave to dry overnight. If a white residue appears, it can be washed or brushed away.
While generally getting your baseboards wet isn’t a great idea, the potential water damage is usually the lesser evil compared with the smell of cat urine!
How to clean dog urine from baseboards
Dog urine doesn’t usually smell as bad as cat pee, but it’s still not something you want hanging around. The good news is, you can handle it with baking soda. Simply wipe up as much pee as possible and then cover the area with a generous layer of baking soda. Leave it overnight to absorb the moisture and odor, and vacuum up the dry powder in the morning.
How to clean baseboards with a bad back
If you suffer from a bad back, there’s nothing worse than spending an extended period hunched over. It can be tricky to know how to clean baseboards without bending over or kneeling, but it is possible. Here’s some of our best tips:
- Use a long-handled vacuum attachment to clean dust and dirt without bending
- Use a spray bottle to squirt cleaning solution at your baseboards, then use a mop or Swiffer baseboard cleaner to wipe and clean
- Baby wipes are fast and effective at picking up dust and leaving baseboards clean if you need to work quickly
- A handheld steamer with a wand attachment can remove dust and dirt in seconds. Just remember to mop up any condensation afterward
DIY baseboard cleaner spray
You don’t need a lot of fancy cleaning solutions to get your baseboards sparkling. Our favorite recipe uses the power of vinegar to clean baseboards. It’s a great all-purpose solution for any type of baseboard or stain, and it’s non-toxic and eco friendly.
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dish soap
Simply combine the ingredients in a bucket and use the solution to clean all your baseboards. In fact, you can use this recipe as an all-purpose cleaner almost anywhere. If getting on floor level is difficult, add the mixture to a spray bottle and squirt where it’s needed instead.
Baseboards are frequently overlooked from most cleaning routines, but spending a little extra time each month getting your baseboards cleaned will brighten your whole room. That’s not just good for appearances either, studies have shown that a clean home helps you live longer. So what are you waiting for? Roll up your sleeves and give your baseboards a good cleaning today!