How to Clean Popcorn Ceilings Without Creating More of a Mess

Textured ceilings, commonly known as popcorn ceilings, became popular in the 1950s and 1960s. They have gone in and out of style and are currently enjoying a resurgence among homeowners who have rediscovered this inexpensive, sound deadening, imperfection concealing and easy to install ceiling covering.

However, popcorn ceilings have some disadvantages. The delicate material crumbles easily, making cleaning the textured surface a dusty mess. And because of its texture, the material is a magnet for dirt, dust, cobwebs, pollen, smoke and even mildew, meaning these types of blankets need to be cleaned more often than smooth-surfaced blankets. This guide will help you address two ways to clean a popcorn ceiling—dust and stain removal—and provide guidelines for a safe and (relatively!) mess-free cleaning.

Jay Wilde

Before you start: What you should know about popcorn ceilings

Textured ceilings made by spraying a mixture of Styrofoam and stucco, called popcorn or cottage cheese ceilings, were a popular choice in 20th-century American homes. In addition to their eye-catching looks, popcorn ceilings were an inexpensive way to provide soundproofing and hide construction defects.

Popcorn blankets have a bad rap for the toxicity of their original manufacture: prior to 1978, they typically contained asbestos, a known carcinogen now banned in the United States. If your home was built after 1978, when asbestos was banned, its popcorn ceiling should not contain asbestos. However, because existing stocks remained available to builders, it’s possible that popcorn ceilings installed in homes in the 1980s may contain asbestos. If your home was built before 1990, you should consider having your popcorn ceiling tested for asbestos before attempting to clean it.

How to safely clean a popcorn ceiling

First and foremost, it’s important that you make sure your popcorn ceiling does not contain asbestos before attempting to clean it.

Once you’ve determined that the material is asbestos-free, there are other safety considerations to consider when cleaning a popcorn ceiling. Popcorn tops are more delicate than traditional tops, and the textured bumps that give them their “popcorn” or “cottage cheese” appearance can easily break off. This is especially true during cleaning, which is likely to result in ceiling particles showering the area below – and the person performing the cleaning.

To avoid a mess and protect yourself when cleaning a popcorn top, it’s important to follow these three prep steps:

  • Remove furniture from the room or cover it with plastic sheeting, tarpaulins, or drop cloths to protect it from dust and dirt.
  • Cover the entire roomincluding the floor and any furniture left in place with plastic sheets, tarpaulins or drapes to protect them from dust and dirt.
  • wear protective gearincluding a dust mask, safety goggles, work gloves and long sleeves to protect your eyes, mouth, throat, lungs and skin from dirt.

How to dust a popcorn ceiling

At least once a year, a popcorn ceiling should be dusted using one of three methods to remove dirt, cobwebs, and other environmental debris that can make it look dirty and dingy.

What you need

  • Plastic sheets, tarpaulins or drapes
  • dust mask
  • safety goggles
  • working gloves
  • Vacuum cleaner with dust attachment, long-handled feather duster or long-handled sticky roller

1. Vacuum the ceiling

Vacuuming is the best choice for most people when it comes to removing dust, cobwebs, and other debris from a popcorn ceiling that gives it a messy appearance. Fit your vacuum cleaner with its brush attachment and carefully run it over the ceiling in sections so as not to disturb the structure and break it off. One benefit of vacuuming is that the machine sucks up loosened dirt and leaves less of it on anything underneath.

2. Clean with a duster

A long-handled feather duster or microfiber duster can also be used to clean a popcorn ceiling. This method is particularly suitable for smaller jobs, such as removing a cobweb, but can also be used to clean surfaces.

When choosing the right duster for the job, opt for a reusable feather or microfiber duster over disposable nylon or polyester dusters that can snag, tear and snag on the textured ceiling.

3. Clean with an adhesive roller

Adhesive rolls can also be used to remove dust and cobwebs from a popcorn ceiling. Long-handled or jumbo-sized sticky rollers can help make this method quicker and less tiring than using a regular lint roller.

How to remove stains from a popcorn ceiling

Because of their texture, popcorn tops are easily soiled by residue from grease, smoke, and environmental pollutants such as dust and pollen. They are also prone to mold and mildew growth. A mild cleaning solution of dish soap and water will remove most stains from popcorn tops, although mold and mildew stains may require a mild bleach solution.

If you’re cleaning a stained popcorn ceiling, start by dusting it off using the method above. Then test an inconspicuous area with the cleaning solution appropriate for the stain to make sure it won’t cause any damage. The popcorn texture can be water sensitive and overexposure can cause it to disintegrate.

What you need

  • Plastic sheets, tarpaulins or drapes
  • dust mask
  • safety goggles
  • working gloves
  • spray bottle
  • sponge
  • dish soap or bleach

1. Use dish soap solution

To clean a popcorn top soiled with grease, smoke, or environmental contaminants, mix 1 tsp. Dishwashing liquid with 1 liter of warm water in a spray bottle. Spray the dish soap solution on the stains, being careful not to soak or soak the popcorn material, as excess moisture can cause it to disintegrate.

Gently blot the stains with a sponge, then allow the blanket to dry overnight. If you live in a humid climate or experience wet or humid weather, place fans in the room to speed up drying time.

2. Mix up a bleach solution

To remove mold or mildew stains from a popcorn ceiling, combine 1 part bleach to 4 parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the stains with the bleach solution and gently blot with a sponge. Be careful not to soak or soak the popcorn material, as excessive exposure to moisture can cause it to disintegrate. If the stains are still there after a few hours, make a stronger bleach solution and repeat the process.

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