A Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Popcorn Ceilings

A popcorn ceiling refers to a textured ceiling finish that was popular in older homes. It was common to see these ceilings among houses built between the 1950s and 1980s. Over time, these ceilings can collect dirt, grease, and dust. As a result, they detract from their appearance. Cleaning a popcorn ceiling helps restore its look and prevents further dirt buildup. 

If the idea of popcorn ceiling removal is not for you, the next best option is to clean it. Cleaning will help you to bring back the unique popcorn ceiling texture. Moreover, it will help you to enhance popcorn ceiling safety as well. Here are the steps that you must follow during DIY popcorn ceiling cleaning. 

Carefully Inspect the Popcorn Ceiling 

Before cleaning, inspect the ceiling for cracks or loose texture. Damaged areas should be patched and retextured since water could penetrate and cause stains. Also, you need to test for asbestos and may require special remediation. Wear a respirator mask regardless to avoid breathing in particles.

Gather All the Cleaning Supplies You Need 

For DIY cleaning, you’ll need a few cleaning supplies. Let’s take a quick look at all the supplies that you would need. 

  • A pump sprayer
  • Protective eyewear
  • Latex gloves
  • A tarp
  • Joint compound
  • Drywall knives
  • Premixed ceiling texture
  • An extension pole with a soft brush attachment

Optional supplies include a wheelbarrow, mixing paddle, compressor sprayer or airless paint sprayer.

Make Sure to Protect Your House and Belongings 

Cover the floor, walls, furniture, and vents with plastic tarps secured with painter’s tape. Seal off doorways with plastic sheeting to prevent dust from spreading. Turn off electronics and lighting fixtures to prevent water damage.

Mix the Cleaning Solution Properly 

Good cleaning solutions for popcorn ceilings include white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, Simple Green®, or TSP substitute mixed with water. Refer to product labels for proper dilution ratios. Mix the solution in a five-gallon bucket for use in a pump sprayer.

Go Ahead and Apply the Cleaning Solution 

Use an extension pole to spray the ceiling starting from the corner farthest from the entry door. Apply a light mist over small sections allowing the solution to penetrate for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing. Avoid over-saturation.

Gently Scrub the Surface

Use a soft-bristle brush on an extension pole to lightly scrub the moistened texture. Work in 3×3 foot sections applying additional solutions as needed until the section is clean. Completely rinse each section with clean water before moving on.

Allow Enough Time to Dry 

When the ceiling appears clean, use fans, a dehumidifier or sunlight to facilitate drying. Popcorn texture takes longer to fully dry so allow at least 24 hours before removing tarps or replacing furnishings.

Inspect and Repair Damage

Once dry, check for over-scrubbed areas, stains or damage that expose the drywall underneath. Use spray texture in a can to patch small spots. For large areas, mix joint compound and ceiling texture to match the existing popcorn finish.

Remove Tarps and Reset the Room

Take down plastic tarps and sheeting once the ceiling is dry. Replace furniture, decor and electronics that were removed before cleaning. Thoroughly sweep and mop the floor to remove any fallen debris.

Professional Popcorn Ceiling Cleaning 

For heavily soiled ceilings or to avoid the mess of DIY, hire a professional cleaning service. Estimated costs range from 30 cents to $1 per square foot depending on the ceiling’s condition. Professionals have commercial equipment that makes the process faster with better results.

Maintain the New Look with Regular Maintenance 

To make cleaned ceilings last, institute some preventative measures. Address moisture issues that can create stains if left unchecked. Also regularly dust with a microfiber mop. You must avoid touching the surface, when possible, as well. Consider applying a sealant that protects the texture while allowing it to remain breathable. With proper care, a freshly cleaned popcorn ceiling can stay looking revitalised for years.

Compare Popcorn Ceiling Cleaning Methods 

When it comes to popcorn ceiling cleaning, there are quite a few methods available. In addition to scrubbing, other methods can save time cleaning popcorn ceilings:

  • Power Washing: Uses pressurised water spray for deep cleaning. Fast but very messy and risk of damage.
  • Media Blasting: Uses abrasive materials propelled by air compressors. Works quickly but it is an even bigger mess.
  • Steam Cleaning: Heat softens and lifts grime for cleaning machines to suction away. Uses less water but is slower.
  • Infrared Paint Strippers: Heats grease and oils to liquify and detach from the surface. No scrubbing is needed but slow overall.
  • Vacuum Cleaning Attachments: Special brush heads dislodge dirt for shop vacs to remove. Less effective for heavy soil buildup.

Each cleaning company may specialise in specific methods. Get several estimates before deciding on the best option.

Tips on Painting Popcorn Ceilings

After eco-friendly popcorn ceiling cleaning, you will want to further enhance its looks. This is where you can go and paint your ceiling. Painting can further improve the look of cleaned popcorn. Consider these tips:

  • Only use high-quality latex ceiling paints
  • Opt for a flat or matte sheen to blend the texture
  • Backroll after spraying for even coverage
  • Apply primer first if changing colors
  • Use extension poles and mobile scaffolding
  • Start painting in the most inconspicuous area first
  • Maintain optimal temperature and ventilation

Properly painting smoothed down any raised grit while restoring brightness. This is one of the most important popcorn ceiling cleaning tips that you should keep in mind. Make sure that you focus on popcorn ceiling cleaning before painting. Otherwise, all the time and effort you spend on it would be in vain. 

Hiring Qualified Popcorn Ceiling Contractors 

Regardless of the popcorn ceiling cleaning cost, hiring an expert may look like a good option to consider. However, not all cleaners can deliver exceptional results. When bringing in professional cleaners, check backgrounds thoroughly:

  • Verify any EPA or state licensing required
  • Confirm compliance with asbestos training
  • Make sure that the company uses appropriate popcorn ceiling cleaning products
  • Review ratings on cost and service satisfaction
  • Check the documentation on liability insurance
  • Ask about their cleaning process and materials
  • Request before and after pictures of past jobs
  • Get at least three written estimates

Taking time to vet providers helps ensure a smooth cleaning experience.

Pros and Cons of Removing Popcorn Ceilings 

While cleaning restores the look, some homeowners opt to remove the texture entirely. Consider the pros and cons:


  • Removes loose material and eliminates dust traps
  • Opens up ceiling height in rooms
  • Allows for a modern smooth finish
  • Eliminates asbestos if present
  • Easier to repaint ceilings


  • More costly than cleaning
  • Very messy and labour-intensive
  • Risk of damage to drywall underneath
  • Special handling of hazardous waste
  • The textured finish cannot be replicated

Final Words 

Now you have a clear overall understanding of popcorn ceiling cleaning. Make sure that you are aware of popcorn ceiling cleaning mistakes to avoid them as well. On top of that, you should always take popcorn ceiling cleaning safety precautions.

If the cleaning process is too much of a hassle for you, you may seek expert help. This is where you can connect with Affordable Cleaning Services Parramatta. As a leading cleaning service, you can get all the support you need to clean your popcorn ceiling. All you have to do is to give them the job and experience peace of mind. Contact these experts today to get your quote.