Best Ways to a Clean Popcorn Ceiling


Are you starting to notice that a lot of dirt and webs have accumulated on your popcorn ceiling? Maybe some stains are appearing in the kitchen, or the whole surface is yellowing over time.

You’re not alone; at some point, every homeowner with a popcorn ceiling faces the same problem. Their ceiling is in desperate need of cleaning or another solution to rid it of the dust, dirt, and stains.

How exactly do you clean such a rough surface?

We’ll walk you through the process step by step and give you a heads up about what you need to watch out for.

Let’s start with the most basic question.

If you spot a deep stain in your popcorn ceiling, it can easier to scrape that section away and replace it with new texture. To learn how, see our guide on how to scrape it with a popcorn ceiling removal tool.

Can You Clean Popcorn Ceilings?

While it’s possible to clean popcorn ceilings, it can be tedious to go through and clean between all the bumps and grooves. It’s not easy to do a thorough job without causing damage either, leading to more problems depending on the age of your ceiling.

Any popcorn ceiling built before the mid-1980s could contain asbestos, and any disturbance of the texture can release toxic fibres into the air. Inhaling or ingesting these fibres can increase the risk of developing mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Have your ceiling tested by an asbestos abatement team, or carefully send a sample to a certified lab before doing any work.

Also see: Are Popcorn Ceilings Dangerous?

How To Clean Popcorn Ceiling With Asbestos

If it contains asbestos, you can still clean your popcorn ceiling, but you must be gentle and work very carefully. You may not be able to do a deep clean to remove all the dust hiding in tighter areas either; it depends on how heavy the texture is.

No homeowner wants dust accumulating in their ceiling, especially if anyone living in the home has allergies or asthma. But safety has to be a top priority, and trying to dig out dust caught up in the grooves will only make things worse.

Is it Safe? Painted vs Not Painted

There’s always going to be a risk involved while cleaning a popcorn ceiling that contains asbestos. However, if your ceiling has been painted, it decreases the chances of accidentally releasing the asbestos fibres.

The paint seals the texture, making it far less crumbly and prone to damage. The hardened surface allows you to get a bit deeper into all of the gaps and ridges of your ceiling to clean.


If your ceiling hasn’t been painted, the safest decision, in the long run, would be to have it removed. Beyond the cleaning difficulties, chances are some form of damage will happen eventually, or your ceiling will start deteriorating over time.


If your ceiling has two or three coats of paint, then the process of cleaning them will be the same as any other type of textured ceiling, which we’ll cover next.

The Best Way to Clean Popcorn Ceilings

You can use multiple different methods to freshen up your ceiling. We’ll cover those in the following sections.

Here’s what you’ll need (you won’t necessarily use every item on this list; it depends on what methods you choose):

  • Drop cloths
  • Plastic
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Step ladder
  • Vacuum with a brush extension
  • Soft-bristled broom
  • Feather duster
  • Lint roller
  • Ducktape (optional)
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Bleach
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP)
  • Large bucket
  • Sponge or cloth
  • Spray bottle
  • Long napped roller sleeve and roller
  • Roller extension pole

Before applying any solution to a large area of popcorn ceiling, test it in a small inconspicuous place first. Water doesn’t mix well with the popcorn texture, so it could end up doing more damage if it gets too saturated.

Note: As always, make sure to protect your eyes and lungs when working around dust, chemicals or any potentially harmful substance.

How to Clean Dust and Dirt Off Popcorn Ceiling

Popcorn ceilings are a magnet to dust and dirt, which get caught in the many grooves of the texture. There is a couple of different methods you can use to clean them:

  1. Prepare the room by covering your floors and furniture with plastic or drop cloths. Some dust and debris will likely fall during cleaning, and you want to make sure your belongings are protected.
  2. Collect all the cleaning supplies you’ll need, including a ladder, dust mask and safety glasses.

It’s time to clean; choose one of the following methods to get started. You may find one works better than another in your situation, so feel free to experiment:

Vacuum & Brush Attachment

Using a vacuum with a brush attachment is usually the quickest and easiest way to rid your ceiling of dust particles.

Using the widest brush attachment available, gently vacuum over your ceiling to remove the dust and debris. Be careful if your brush has any hard plastic edges, as this can break off the texture.


A soft-bristled broom can also do the trick by gently sweeping over the ceiling. Be sure you’re wearing safety glasses because this method causes the dust to fall instead of getting sucked up by the vacuum.

Lint Roller

A lint rollers design is great for collecting hair, making it effective for removing surface dust, dirt, and debris. By slowly rolling it across the ceiling, you’ll also catch any pieces of texture that break off.

Alternatively, you can attach duct tape around a soft paint roller, which covers a bit larger of an area than a standard lint roller.

How to Clean Cobwebs From Popcorn Ceiling

You can use any of the methods mentioned before to clean cobwebs from your ceiling. But, we’ve found that using a feather duster is the most efficient method, especially for webs gathered in corners.

If you find that microfiber dusters get caught and pull off bits of texture, try using an old-fashioned reusable one instead.

Now that you’ve gotten rid of the dust and debris, it’s time to tackle grease and stains.

How to Clean Grease Off Popcorn Ceiling Above Your Stove and Around Vents

Grease buildup in the kitchen is a common problem considering all the cooking happens there. Follow these steps to clean grease and grime:

  1. Mix one quart of warm water and one teaspoon of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle.
  2. Lightly spray the grease spot and dab it with a rag or sponge, being careful not to saturate the area too much.
  3. Let the area dry for several hours and repeat the process if needed.

How to Clean Cigarette Smoke or Smoke Damage From Popcorn Ceiling

Smoke stains or smoke damage can be a little tougher to take on; you’ll need to use something a little more powerful. There are a couple of different methods that have the highest success rate:

Bleach & Water Solution

  1. Make a mixture starting with one part water to four parts bleach and add to a misting bottle.
  2. Lightly mist the stained ceiling and let it dry for a few hours or overnight if necessary. If the stain persists, try again using a stronger water and bleach solution.

Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)

  1. Mix the powdered TSP and hot water in a large bucket. For heavy-duty cleaning, use 1/2 cup of TSP per two gallons of water. And for light household cleaning, try using only 1/4 cup of TSP and 2 gallons of water.
  2. Dip a sponge into the TSP solution, wring out the excess water and lightly dab the smoke stain until it lifts.
  3. If you have an entire ceiling to clean, use a long napped roller dipped in the TSP solution and gently roll it on. This method can be tricky, as you don’t want to saturate the ceiling or knock off too much texture.
  4. Let the ceiling sit overnight and keep the room well ventilated. Have fans running if possible to help the drying process.

How to Clean Popcorn Ceiling Stains

There’s one more product with a proven track record for dark or stubborn stains, and it’s incredibly straightforward.

Hydrogen Peroxide

  1. Take a spray bottle and fill it with hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Mist the stained area and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
  3. Gently dab the stain with a damp cloth or sponge.
  4. Let dry and repeat the process if necessary.

Prime and Paint

Sometimes, nothing you do works to remove the stain. In that case, you can always choose to prime and paint your ceiling. A couple of coats of paint can do wonders for a ceiling, and it’ll be ready to prime right away from the cleaning.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning your popcorn ceiling can take up a lot of your time in a day, but worth it in the end. Not only is it healthier for individuals who have allergies or asthma, but it also looks much nicer after having a good clean.

While cleaning them once a year is a good place to start, they may need it sooner depending on where you live and how much dust and dirt your ceiling attracts.

  • Gregory A Seely
  • Gregory A Seely

    Greg is a self taught home renovator and writer for RenoViso. His shares his experiences with Southern Living, Traditional Home and other publications.

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