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How To Clean Discolorations from Painted Surfaces

Whether it's due to busy schedules, a change in furniture arrangement or purchase of used furniture, or being a renter rather than a homeowner, it is not uncommon to be confronted with mysterious discolorations on painted surfaces, particularly painted walls. Try these simple tips to alleviate the discoloration. Paint finishes and base materials can vary widely, so test all cleaning solutions and application techniques in an inconspicuous  location before using them in a wider area.

First examine the stain closely and see if you can make a good guess as to the cause. Things to think about are whether the stain looks oily/greasy, has a distinctive color, has a distinctive odor, or has other qualities that you can identify. If you feel like you can reliably identify the source, refer to the specific articles in this section for the identified stain. If a wall or ceiling stain looks damp and smells of mold or mildew, there may be an issue of ongoing water damage that should be prioritized over stain removal. Furniture or other objects with painted surfaces that exhibit persistent discoloration and are smelly could have significant damage to the base material. You may wish to consult a professional or the home improvement section of this website.

For light-colored paint surfaces, a good all-purpose solution is to make a poultice of fuller's earth and water to make a thick paste. Apply the paste to the discoloration, and allow to dry. Fuller's earth is absorbent with a light bleaching effect, and will aid removal of both greasy and pigmented stains from light colored walls. Once dry, remove the poultice and wash the affected area with a lightly sudsy solution of mild pH neutral dish liquid diluted with water and applied with a clean soft sponge. Allow to dry.

For darker paint surfaces, the above remedy can be performed with cornstarch alone, omitting the fuller's earth. For cloudy whitish stains, these may be the result of damage to a varnish, finish or coating of the painted surfaces. Dampen the corner of a clean rag with mineral spirits. Work gently on the clouding, in a buffing motion, or to match the direction and quality of any pre-existing texture. Allow to dry, and repeat as necessary. Follow with a light overall cleansing of the affected area with a lightly sudsy solution of mild pH neutral dish liquid diluted with water and applied with a clean soft sponge. Allow to dry.

Caution: Never mix cleaning agents or chemicals, the result can be dangerous or deadly. Before cleaning, always test the agent on an inconspicuous location to determine its suitability and to make certain it does not damage the material. Wear appropriate clothing such as gloves and protective eyewear, and work in a well-ventilated area. Accidental inhalation or ingestion of cleaning agents can be hazardous and even fatal, particularly to pets and children.

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