What's the easiest way of washing a ceiling?
July 11, 2008 8:41 AM   Subscribe

What's the easiest way to wash a ceiling?

It's a flat kitchen ceiling that hasn't been washed for years (in preparation for painting). It's probably got greasy residue. How good are those Swiffer doodads? Will that work? Or am i going to have to go with a rag and cleaning solution?
posted by storybored to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd go rag, scrub brush and cleaning solution. Wear safety goggles so you don't get it in your eyes. Then I'd let it dry thoroughly and hit it lightly with some sandpaper on a big sanding block. Wipe it down one more time to remove particles, let it dry some more, then paint.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:47 AM on July 11, 2008

I'd be surprised if a swiffer would cut the grease. If you have an a paint roller with an extension handle (and a clean roller, of course), you might try dipping that in some cleaning solution- just make sure everything has time to thoroughly dry before you prime it.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:48 AM on July 11, 2008

Definitely don't forget goggles, whatever you do.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2008

Best answer: You really want to get up there close enough to use your elbows. Nothing on a stick is going to give you enough control or force. A ladder is probably the most important part of this. Or even better, a sturdy table.
posted by rokusan at 8:57 AM on July 11, 2008

Best answer: For your kitchen pre-painting needs, nothing beats TSP - Trisodium phosphate. It's not the most environmentally friendly chemical because it causes algal blooms in waste water, but for this specific purpose it's an excellent tool for the job. You can do 5 passes with a lesser product or 1 with TSP. A wipe down with TSP will cut grease and lightly buff the current finish. The new paint will adhere much better. (Just promise me you won't pour the remainder of the TSP down the drain.)

You can generally get real TSP, TSP substitute and 1/2 and 1/2. I generally get the 1/2 TSP and 1/2 substitute mix and it works fine.
posted by 26.2 at 9:09 AM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're going to be painting it, wouldn't you be stripping the previous coat the the grease is attached to anyway?

Just curious, as I would imagine anything that helps remove paint will probably take care of organic stuff like grease too.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:15 AM on July 11, 2008

Response by poster: To tell the truth XQ, i've never stripped old paint before putting on a new coat and so far it seems to have worked okay for me.
posted by storybored at 9:37 AM on July 11, 2008

You really want to get up there close enough to use your elbows. Nothing on a stick is going to give you enough control or force. A ladder is probably the most important part of this. Or even better, a sturdy table.

I disagree. If it's an 8 foot ceiling, figure out a stick approach. Something like, tying a sponge to the swivel-action thing that's used for sanding sheetrock. Or even just a kitchen sponge mop with a squeeze lever. Talk to the guys/gals at a real paint store, which is where you can get the TSP; they may have a specific tool for the job. You can get plenty of elbow grease transmitted through the stick. While standing on a ladder with your head bent sideways trying scrub is the pits.
posted by beagle at 9:40 AM on July 11, 2008

Best answer: I can vouch for the regular square foam mop sponge and TSP. As long it is not one of those cathedral ceilings in height or popcorn textured ceiling. Goggles, goggles, goggles and wear a headscarf (avast, yea scurvy dogs!) and cover any other parts that may get drippage.
posted by jadepearl at 9:48 AM on July 11, 2008

I had (ugh) mold on the bathroom ceiling when I bought my house -- flat 8-foot ceiling -- and TSP and a squeeze mop did the job.

If you're using TSP:

Wear gloves.
Read the instructions (that's a generic name and it has many manufacturers) and don't overdo it. TSP is no joke.
VENTILATE WELL. I am so serious.

26.2 is totally on the money about a TSP wipe being a generally good move when you're going to paint. Just ventilate well, for the love of God.
posted by Shepherd at 10:03 AM on July 11, 2008

TSP is really wretched stuff to work with. It cleans well - but... uggh!

I used to be in charge of keeping the ceilings clean when I was a kid - and both my mom and stepdad smoked in the house, not to mention loved fried food. So, needless to say, the ceiling was awful and I got really good at it.

My recommendation: Mr. Clean, straight out of the bottle on a well wrung sponge mop. Get on a stepladder if need be to make sure that you are never working directly under the mop. Once you've gotten the crud off of the ceiling, you can mop it again with plain water to remove most of the soap residue. Works great and NO SCRUBBING!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:28 AM on July 11, 2008

Rag on a stick, then (my old friend) a Squeegee - on a stick. (Works great in the bathroom after you steam it all up!) If it's possible to steam your kitchen... do it. Oh and to use the sticks you have to stay out from under it :) otherwise you're doing it wrong and getting wet.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 12:08 PM on July 11, 2008

Best answer: What's with the TSP hate? It's not environmentally friendly when used on an industrial scale, but it's one of the most nontoxic cleaners you're going to come across. It's even used as a food additive, pretty much any shrimp or scallops you've eaten that you haven't caught yourself are soaked in a TSP solution to help the meat retain moisture (Alton Brown talked about this in his shrimp episode). My only complaint is that it's so good at cutting grease, it washes all the protective oils out of your skin. A two day painting project will leave my hands dry and the cracked almost to the point of bleeding.

You can get a box of 100 disposable latex gloves for about $8 in the painting section of your local big box hardware. Buy them to save your hands, keep them for making hamburger patties, removing dead birds from the yard, cleaning toilets, etc.

Also, I think a ladder with a rag is a lot less tiring on the arms than any sort of sponge on the end of a pole. You're using your shoulder muscles more when you're scrubbing up close, you're working the middle and lower back muscles with a tool-on-a-stick. I get more back strains and twinges from that.

So to summarize my painfully-won opinion, if you want to get this done right on the first try you'll need a ladder, a rag, a bucket of TSP, gloves, and a bunch of cheapo plastic drop cloths.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:50 PM on July 11, 2008

One other thing, do you have a helper with this project? It's a good combo to have one person on the ladder with the rag, getting the corners and areas of heavy buildup. The other person takes care of any easy parts in the middle with the sponge-on-a-stick, and serves as gopher for the person on the ladder. More than doubles your efficiency.
posted by TungstenChef at 1:03 PM on July 11, 2008

Best answer: You will not believe how well TSP removes grease. You don't need to scrub at all; grease just gives up and lets go. Here's a floor-washing trick that helps a lot with the ceiling job: Use two buckets/containers, one with the cleaning solution and one with plain water. After wiping the ceiling, rinse the mop or rag in the plain water before dipping it back into the cleaning solution. You'll keep your cleaning solution clean and do a much better job. Change the plain water now and again.

Also, a thick sponge is good for this job if you're going to be on a ladder. You squeeze the sponge out thoroughly, and then wet one big surface of the sponge by dipping it (flat) into the cleaning solution only about 1/4 inch. When you hold that wet sponge face up to the ceiling, the rest of the sponge will absorb any extra, preventing it from dripping. You don't need to use a lot of pressure with the sponge, because TSP makes scrubbing unnecessary.

TungstenChef is right; a helper makes the job much less onerous, and faster as well.
posted by wryly at 2:22 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One more tip, what ever you use, don't rinse it in the cleaning solution bucket. Rinse the dirty sponge/mop/rag in another sink or bucket, then re-dip in your cleaning solution.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:02 PM on July 11, 2008

Response by poster: Whoa, thanks y'all for the great advice.

I went the TSP route as TungstenChief and others suggested!

You're right, wryly, I couldn't effin' believe how good that stuff is. I put 4 tbl in a half bucket of warm water. Used an old rag, wore plastic kitchen gloves and goggles. I expected I'd need some hard scrubbing, because this ceiling has not been touched for 12 years. I gave that rag a single wipe and the grease/dirt came off the first time! It actually started to be fun work!

I made sure to ventilate the place while I was working but I couldn't actually smell anything coming off the cleaning solution, so maybe the TSP i'm using is some of that 'substitute' stuff.

Also, thanks, Lesser Shrew for that little tip about separate buckets. Otherwise, the TSP solution would have been contaminated on the first rinse of the rag.
posted by storybored at 5:27 PM on July 12, 2008

Response by poster: Also no worries on dumping the rest of the TSP - I aim to keep the container around for future jobs....
posted by storybored at 5:27 PM on July 12, 2008

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