Wall Prep Before Painting

Wall prep before painting can mean the difference between a professional looking finish and a hack job.

Read below to learn how to prep walls before painting.

wall prep before painting

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How do You Prep Walls Before Painting

Prepping walls before painting involves several steps. Getting that pro looking finish is a step by step process that is rewarding when you can sit back and admire your work. Check out these steps below.

  1. Wash walls
  2. Fill in holes/uneven areas
  3. Sand walls
  4. Sanding Clean up
  5. Taping
  6. Priming Your Wall

How to Prep Walls Before Painting: the Details

The prep for painting walls is easy, but a bit time consuming. Let’s go through the steps one by one and get into the details.

Wall Prep Before Painting: Should you Clean Walls Before Painting?

Yes! You should clean walls before painting to make sure that you remove and dirt, grime, grease, etc. and your primer adheres better to the wall. You also want to paint over clean walls because old stains CAN come through new paint.

How to Clean Walls Before Painting Them

There are a ton of products out there to clean your walls. Some work better than others. If you want to avoid using chemicals, you can even clean your walls with vinegar. Let’s go over how to prep your walls before painting with vinegar.

How to Wash Walls Before Painting with Vinegar

How to clean walls before painting with vinegar is fast and easy. You’ll need 2 ingredients: vinegar, and hot water.

Grab a bucket and combine about a cup of vinegar with a gallon of hot water and starting at the top, scrub your walls down.

We found that this works best with walls that are not very dirty, and don’t have a ton of stains. If you’ve got grease marks, like in your kitchen, you will need to combine dish soap with your vinegar and hot water. Read below for details about cleaning greasy walls.

Cleaning Greasy Walls Before Painting

You will need to wash all the grease off of your walls. Grease builds up so fast on kitchen walls and it will bleed through your paint no matter what paint you use. Even if the paint is called “stain blocking” it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Scrub your walls of grease thoroughly with a cleaner made for grease and very hot water. If the build up is over a few years, make sure to clean it twice.

One grease stain coming through your beautiful new paint job after a few weeks or months isn’t professional and will be a huge disappointment.

Cleaning Walls Before Painting with TSP

Preparing old walls, greasy walls, for painting and walls that haven’t been painted in many years may involve washing them first with TSP. TSP will remove very stubborn grease and grime that you may have, especially in your kitchens and bathrooms.

Please follow the directions on your TSP container for washing your walls and reminder to wear your safety gear like goggles, gloves and any breathing protection recommended.

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Easiest Way to Wash Walls Before Painting

The easiest way to wash walls before painting is to use either a Swiffer or a mop! What you do is you wet your mop in your bucket and then place it on the top of your wall. Then you move your mop up and down on the wall, from top to bottom.

We find that this works best for walls that aren’t very dirty. You will need to go back over the wall and spot clean if there are areas that are dirtier than others.

If you have walls that are very greasy or grimy, you can apply your grease cutting cleaner onto the wall with a mop or Swiffer and then go and hand scrub the walls after the grease cutter has soaked in for awhile.

Wall Prep Before Painting : Filling in Holes in Walls and Uneven Areas on Your Walls

Before you start painting, it’s important to repair any damage to the wall. This includes filling in any holes, cracks, or other imperfections.

Inspect your walls from all angles and with different sources of light i.e. window light, flashlight, and ceiling light. Get a friend or partner to also look over the walls and find any holes or uneven areas.

You will need to fill all of the holes with drywall compound and even out uneven areas. Apply the compound to the damaged area with a putty knife, smoothing it out as much as possible.

Once you’ve applied the compound and filled the holes, let it dry for about 24 hours. Go back over the walls again and double check that you’re filled every holes and uneven area before moving on to sanding.

For larger holes or cracks, use a patching compound or joint compound. Apply the compound to the damaged area with a putty knife, making sure to fill in the entire area. Once the compound is dry, use sandpaper to smooth it out.

Sand Walls and Sanding Clean up

Once the filled holes and uneven areas have dried, you will sand down the drywall compound until it’s smooth and flush with the wall. This will create a smooth and even surface for your paint to adhere to.

Sanding walls should be done with a finer grit sandpaper so that no marks are left on the walls when you’re finished. You can start sanding with a heavier grit, but always finish off with a fine grit sandpaper.

Make sure to wear a mask when sanding to protect yourself from dust. Then vacuum and sweep up all the dust from sanding before taping and painting.

Wall Prep Before Painting: Taping

You can either remove all of the light fixtures, outlets, and light switches, or you can tape around them so they don’t get paint on them.

You will have to tape around your windows and door trim so that your paint job looks professional. It also makes your job easier, since you don’t have to worry about getting paint on your trim.

Priming Your Wall Before Painting

After cleaning, repairing, sanding and taping your wall, it’s time to prime it. Priming helps to seal the surface, and provides a better base for the paint to adhere to. It also helps to hide any imperfections in the wall, such as patches or repaired areas. It can prevent old stains, smells and paint colors from bleeding through your new paint job.

To prime the wall, start by applying a coat of primer to the entire surface. You can use a paint sprayer to apply the primer (or a brush/Roller). Be sure to use a primer that is appropriate for the type of paint you plan to use. Learn about the best primers for paint sprayers HERE.

After the primer has dried, inspect the wall for any missed spots or rough areas. If necessary, sand the wall again and apply another coat of primer.

How long does it take primer to dry? Check out our detailed post here for all the info you’ll need.

Wall Prep Before Painting Conclusion

Wall prep before painting is mostly washing the walls, filling holes, and applying primer. The prep can take longer than the actual painting itself. With proper wall prep before painting, you will be rewarded with professional looking results every time.


What is the best paint sprayer for walls?

Check out our post on the best latex paint sprayers for detailed reviews and discussion.

How long should I wait after cleaning my walls before painting?

Allow your walls to dry completely after cleaning before painting. Depending on the humidity and temperature, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day.

Do I need to prime my walls before painting?

Priming your walls can help the paint adhere better and provide a smoother finish. It’s generally recommended, especially if you’re painting over a darker color or a wall with stains or imperfections.