There are some areas of every house that get overlooked when cleaning. Whether because they’re hard to reach, or just hard to clean, popcorn ceilings are rarely remembered in most routines. However they attract dust and over time can start to look dingy, spoiling the appearance of the whole room. Here’s everything you need to know about how to clean a popcorn ceiling and get it looking as good as new.
What is a popcorn ceiling?
Popcorn ceilings can go by several names, including stipple ceiling, stucco ceiling, or acoustic ceiling. These ceilings have a bumpy, textured surface made using spray-on paint. The lumps in popcorn ceilings are usually made of vermiculite, a type of ground mineral, or polystyrene.
There are several reasons why popcorn ceilings may have been installed in your home. They’re often cheaper to install than flat ceilings, hide flaws well, and deaden sound. Whether you love or hate them, popcorn ceilings are extremely common, so cleaning them properly is a skill worth learning.
Pro Tip: Textured ceilings installed before 1979 often contained asbestos. Asbestos may even be present in some ceilings installed after this date, as contractors continued to use up old material supplies after asbestos was banned. If your ceiling was installed before 1990, it’s best to err on the side of caution and have an expert test for asbestos before disturbing it.
Learn how to protect your family from asbestos with this guide from the EPA.
How to clean a popcorn ceiling
The simplest way to clean a popcorn ceiling is to break out the vacuum cleaner. Use a brush attachment and gently run it across the ceiling. Don’t press too hard, as you’ll damage the ceiling texture. It’s a good idea to put down tarps or plastic sheeting first, as some pieces may still fall from the ceiling.
This method will remove dust, dirt, and cobwebs from your popcorn ceiling. However if your ceiling is stained or discolored, more intensive cleaning may be necessary.
TYPE OF STAIN/DIRT
BEST CLEANING SOLUTION
White vinegar and water
Bleach and water
3% hydrogen peroxide
Fungicidal cleaning spray
Water and dish soap
Pro Tip: Want the rest of the room to match your bright, clean ceiling? Find out how to clean baseboards as well!
The best popcorn ceiling vacuum attachment
Most vacuum cleaners come with several attachments, including extension wands, crevice tools, and dusting brushes. It’s the brush attachment you should use on a popcorn ceiling. Although some of the other attachments might deliver more suction and work faster, they risk damaging the ceiling. The brush bristles provide protection against scratching the finish with hard plastic, and also work to loosen stubborn dust and dirt.
What tools do you need to clean a popcorn ceiling
Depending on the cleaning method you decide to use on your popcorn ceiling, these are the tools you’re likely to need:
- Plastic sheeting
- Vacuum cleaner, soft-bristled brust, or feather duster
- Dish soap
- White vinegar
- 3% hydrogen peroxide
- Spray bottle
- Microfiber cloth
How to clean cobwebs from popcorn ceiling
Cleaning cobwebs from a popcorn ceiling doesn’t have to be difficult. You can use a vacuum cleaner, or alternatively a soft-bristled broom or even a feather duster. Consider how you will reach the ceiling during cleaning. Try to use long-handled equipment, or use a stepladder to reach safely.
Pro Tip: Don’t overextend yourself when standing on a stepladder, because it’s easy to lose your balance and fall. Instead, focus on cleaning a small area at a time, and move the ladder between each section of the ceiling. Learn how to use a stepladder safely by following the OSHA guide.
Cover carpets and furniture with tarps or plastic sheeting for easy cleanup. Then use a vacuum as above, or gently brush the ceiling with a broom or feather duster. If the ceiling is very dusty, you will need to clean your broom bristles or shake out the duster as you go. Cobwebs and dust tend to accumulate in corners of the ceiling, so pay particular attention to these areas.
How to clean popcorn ceiling dust
The center of your popcorn ceiling is more likely to be dusty than filled with cobwebs. Dust can be cleaned with a broom, duster, or vacuum. If you find these methods aren’t lifting the dust efficiently, try using a wool paint roller with a thick nap, or pile. Paint rollers are ideal for dusting ceilings because they’re designed to glide easily over the surface. Just remember not to press too hard, or you’ll damage the finish of the popcorn texture.
How to clean kitchen grease from popcorn ceiling
Although popcorn ceilings shouldn’t be used in kitchens or bathrooms, where the high moisture content in the air can damage the finish, many contractors didn’t get the memo! If your popcorn ceiling is suffering from kitchen grease stains, you can easily fix it with this solution.
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon dish soap
Mix the solution and dampen a microfiber cloth. Use it to dab the ceiling and lift old grease stains. Remember you shouldn’t get the ceiling wet, because it will damage the finish and maybe even make the popcorn layer fall down. Avoid scrubbing the ceiling for the same reason. Wring the cloth out well before applying it to the ceiling, and dab gently to clean.
Pro Tip: Keep that cleaning fever going! Learn how to clean your window blinds and shades now!
How to clean cigarette smoke from popcorn ceiling
Removing smoke stains from a popcorn ceiling can be tricky. Nicotine and smoke are notorious for discoloring ceilings, and can show up dramatically on popcorn ceilings as the textured surface tends to discolor anyway over time. Depending on the material used to create the ceiling, and the extent of the staining, this may be one you need to paint to cover up. But before you break out the primer, try misting the ceiling with 3% hydrogen peroxide.
Pro Tip: Got paint on your clothes doing some DIY? Find out how to clean paint out of fabric now!
Use a spray bottle, but be careful not to soak the ceiling. It should only be slightly damp. Allow the ceiling to air dry naturally. You can also use a fan to keep the air circulating and speed up drying. If the ceiling is still discolored, you can repeat this method 2-3 times, always taking care not to get the ceiling too damp, and allowing it to thoroughly dry between treatments.
Removing stains from a popcorn ceiling
If your popcorn ceiling has water or other stains, they can usually be treated with a simple cleaning solution.
- 3 tablespoons bleach
- 1 cup warm water
Combine the solution in a spray bottle and gently mist the stained area. Again, take care not to get the ceiling too wet. Allow the solution to air dry. If the stain remains, repeat as necessary, allowing the ceiling to dry between each application.
How to clean mold off a popcorn ceiling
Before treating mold, it’s a good idea to identify what caused it in the first place. Otherwise it will only continue to come back. Often mold and mildew appear in areas with poor ventilation and high humidity. Opening a window or placing a portable fan in a room with humidity problems can help keep air circulating. An antifungal cleaning spray can also help treat mold.
Mold can hide in the textured surface of popcorn ceilings, making it harder to remove. If the problem is extensive, it’s time to call in a professional. Otherwise, use a spray bottle to apply a fungicidal cleaner. The spray will help reach all the nooks and crannies. You may need several applications to treat the mold effectively. Ensure the room is well ventilated and wear a mask or respirator during treatment.
Pro Tip: Learn all about how to clean and get rid of mold in your home!
All purpose popcorn ceiling cleaning solution
Popcorn ceilings naturally tend to discolor over time, so if your ceiling looks gray and dingy, it may be time for a new coat of paint. However this all purpose cleaning solution can also help brighten up your tired popcorn ceiling and give it a fresh new look.
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup cold water
Combine the mixture in a spray bottle and mist the ceiling. Allow it to air dry, and repeat if necessary. For more stubborn discoloration, you can also apply this solution using a microfiber cloth. Just dampen the cloth in the mixture and dab the ceiling to lift dirt away.
Pro Tip: At Pro Housekeepers, we love vinegar. Learn all about the cleaning power of vinegar now!
Cleaning a popcorn ceiling can be tricky, but it isn’t impossible. You should try to clean your ceilings once or twice per year, or more frequently in areas that accumulate a lot of dust or stains. Add cleaning your popcorn ceilings to your spring cleaning routine and enjoy bright, airy rooms all year round.