Removing Grease from Painted Walls

AnswerLine calls are a great resource for blog topics.  Today’s blog comes from an AnswerLine caller who wanted to know how to clean cooking grease from a painted kitchen wall.

Grease stains on any surface can be an intimidating problem.  They are both unsightly and difficult to remove.  Due to meal preparations involving cooking, sauteing and frying, the kitchen is the most common area in the home where grease stains occur; not only are the spatters of concern, but also the fine mist that gradually collects on walls and other surfaces.  The longer grease, and especially cooking grease, is left on any surface, the more difficult it is to remove; over time it tends to gel and bond to the host surface.  Further, the more porous the surface is, the more difficult the grease is to remove.  Even after the stickiness is gone, there is often some discoloration to the surface, especially a painted wall, which will likely require repainting.  Since one can never be totally sure that all the grease has been removed, it is a good idea to prime the wall with a KILZ paint to make sure that the stain will not eventually show through the new paint.

Here’s some common household items that will help remove grease stains from painted walls:

  1. White vinegar.  Mix one part white vinegar with one part hot water.  Use a spray bottle to apply the solution to the grease.  Allow it to set for several minutes and then wipe with a clean rag.  Work in small areas and repeat as many times as necessary to get the wall clean.  If the area is large, use several rags to collect the grease.
  2. Baking soda. Make a paste of three tablespoons of baking soda with one cup of warm water.  Work the paste into the grease stain.  Gently rub the area with a nylon scrubber until the stain disappears.  Wipe clean with a clean damp rag.
  3.  Ammonia.  Mix two cups of household ammonia with one gallon of hot water.  Use a spray bottle to apply the solution and scrub with a nylon sponge or brush to remove the stains.  Gloves and ventilation are a must when using ammonia.
  4. TSP (Trisodium Phosphate). TSP is a strong cleaner.  It can cause irritation and even burn if it is used incorrectly.  Wear rubber gloves, safety goggles, and long sleeves to protect your skin and eyes.  Surfaces outside of the affected area should be protected from TSP splashes as it can discolor or de-gloss paint, wood, and metal.  A solution of ¼ cup TSP per gallon of very warm water is a good place to start.  For heavy grease build up, increase the ratio to ½ cup TSP per gallon of water.  Use a sponge to apply the solution, wringing out the sponge to avoid dripping.  Working from the bottom up reduces streaking.  Allow the solution to sit on the wall for two minutes to soften the grease before scrubbing with a nylon scrub pad.  Rinse the affected area thoroughly as any residue left on the wall could prevent paint from adhering.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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46 thoughts on “Removing Grease from Painted Walls

  1. Wow you love cooking greasy food for your kids EVERY DAY! And your concern is what it’s doing to your walls? Have a word with yourself!

  2. Marlene! Your vinegar recipe worked wonders after we splattered bacon grease all over the wall of our freshly painted kitchen! Thanks girl!!

  3. I appreciate this except…you really ought to distinguish between oil-based paint and latex-based paint in this article: most kitchen walls are oil-based paint. They’re already easy to wipe clean without pulling up paint.

    However, if someone were to come across this article thinking they could get children’s grease stains off of a regular latex based paint in regular rooms (like most apartment walls are), and they took your advice to use a harsh nylon scrubber on the walls or TSP, they could be in a heap of trouble. Distinguishing between the type of paint first is important.

    One can do this by using a small bit of acetone based nail polish remover on a rag, on an inconspicuous spot.
    If no paint comes up, it’s oil-based paint. If paint pulls up, it’s latex paint.

  4. Yes, you are absolutely right here. All these things are more important for us, either it can be related to perfection, protection and cleaning process. All are mandatory for us. So thank you so much for this lovely informational article.

  5. Would this work for walls in a child’s bedroom that are covered with Aquaphor behind the changing table?

  6. I just dropped a mayonnaise jar in my kitchen. Mayo is all over the walls and ceiling! The walls do not wipe clean easily at all, so I’m assuming it’s late paint. Will these suggestions work for mayo or do you have any tips to help? Thank you!

  7. After using the vinegar and soda to clean wall how long do u have to wair before you can paint iver it

  8. I used the vinegar and water method on a custom faux painted hood I have over my la corne stove unfortunately it did not work it remove the paint I did it several times still no luck

  9. I need help,— process, materials information to clean the ceiling area (~ 10’X12′) of a screened in porch (14X24″) that has been above family BBQ cooking unit for a # 0f years. Really greasy and dirty ceiling area.. Ceiling is mildly smooth manufactured aluminum with a white manufactured finished paint, Very durable(can tolerate scrubbing) with, I think paint applied in the factory manufacturing finish process.I would like to protect the wood deck flooring, which is latex paint with some archtectually painted symbols on and would take care to cover it as reasonable with sheeting during cleaning process.
    Thank you in advance for any information assistance you can provide.
    Bob Drummond

  10. Bob, I am doing my best to understand your problem. This is what I think I am reading. Painted white aluminum ceiling of a screened-in porch has an accumulation of grease and soot from a number of years of bbq cooking. The floor is wood painted with a latex paint. I’m not sure I understand the part about the painted symbols. Nonetheless, the grease and soot on the ceiling are a problem and using the wrong products will result in the possible stripping of the ceiling paint. Beyond consideration of products, the very nature of the chemical bond that may or may not have taken place over time between the paint and the grease/soot is another worry for stripping the paint in that as the residue comes off, so does the paint. A degreaser product is likely what is needed but I cannot recommend one for aluminum. Perhaps a trip to your hardware store to see what products are available and where they can be safely used would be useful. There are specific products for cleaning aluminum like those used on boats, etc. If you are successful in removing the grease/soot without removing the paint, there may still be a yellowing of the area cleaned. Lastly, use a plastic drop cloth to cover your wood floor.

  11. Would this work on the stains from those sticky hand toys? My child has marked the wall in the bedroom with it and it hasn’t come off.

  12. John, thank you for your query. I must admit that I am unfamiliar with “sticky hand toys” so am a little at a loss on how to advise. Have you tried a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser? These sponges do a marvelous job of removing many different things from walls. Baking soda paste gently rubbed into scuff marks also works fairly well. Rubbing alcohol might also be affective but may also dissolve paint so be careful and test in an inconspicuous. The kind of paint used on the wall can also make it easier or harder to remove stains. A flat paint tends to absorb stains easily and therefore are almost impossible to remove. Satin paints are less absorbent and easier to clean. Semi-gloss paints provide the most protection and are easiest to clean but are not always desirable for bedrooms because of the gloss.

  13. I have bare textured plaster walls with the color in the plaster. When I moved my bed I found a discoloration where the head of the bed was, I’m assuming from where my pillow rested. Logically it’s from body oil. Do you have a suggestion about how to clean it?

  14. Suzanne, thank you for contacting AnswerLine. I am unsure of what bare textured plaster walls with the color in the plaster is and therefore, I’m not sure how it should be treated. If the walls are something like textured walls with flat paint, I would suggest sponging lightly with white vinegar in as warm of water that your hands can stand. Vinegar is good at breaking down oils but there is some chance that the oils have been absorbed by the wall and may be permanent. If so the only way to fix is to clean, cover stains with a stain eliminating paint, and then repainting the wall. By the way, I love your art!

  15. Hi Pamela, as the blog states, grease on painted walls is a difficult problem as overtime, grease tends to embed itself into the paint. Baking soda works kind of like a scouring powder but in a much gentler way. As such it may need the help of hot vinegar water or an equal mix of baking soda and Dawn dishwashing soap along with some orange essential oil. Either combination should be allowed to sit on the wall for at least 10 minutes before wiping away. If the grease has bonded to the paint, the only option is to clean as best as possible, cover with a stain fighting primer, and repaint the wall.

  16. I am sorry that none of these suggestions worked for you. If the grease has soaked into the wall it might be necessary to repaint.

  17. A good grease cutting soap may work depending on how long the stain has been there. Try mixing a teaspoon of a grease cutting soap, that you would use in your sink to wash dishes, in a cup of water. Dip a cloth into that soap water mixture and carefully wipe that spot avoiding getting the spot too wet. Blotting is important since hard scrubbing may be hard on the paint. We always recommend when trying any cleaning product to test it in an inconspicuous place to be sure that the paint isn’t harmed by the cleaner. Be sure to wipe with a clean damp cloth to remove any soap that may be remaining. If the spot has been there a long time it will be difficult to remove. You could also call the WD40 company to see what they recommend using. They can be reached at 1-888-324-7596.

  18. I would like to know the health concerns around greasy walls, not so much the damage to wood or paint nor how it looks but potential of attracting microbes, mold etc
    Thank you

  19. Cheryl, you’ve posed a very difficult question. I can find nothing in the literature that specifically answers your question. However, grease does attract dirt and dust (dust mites) both of which can harbor potential health risks, especially for anyone of high risk or is immunosuppressed.

  20. My walls are textured and the surfaces that need cleaned are flat ledges. Which would be the least abrasive. Would not consider the last one as the ledges are near the ceiling and there would be no way to provide adequate ventilation.

  21. Hi Carol, since the ledges are near the ceiling, I would probably try either 1 or 2 or a combination of the two. Baking soda (2) will provide gentle abrasion. Grease is really a difficult culprit so I wish you the best.

  22. I purchased some small wooden, painted Easter decorations. I foolishly thought the top of the microwave, on the small ledge where it juts out from the cabinets, would be a good place to put one. Well, when I took it down, the bottom third of the decoration was stained with grease. So to be clear, this is a fairly thin painted piece of wood. Is there a good way to clean the grease off without ruining the paint, or is there a way to prepare the surface so it can be re-painted without the grease showing through again? Thank you.

  23. Hi Janice, since I have no idea what kind of paint is on your decorations, I would start by carefully washing them with a dish detergent like blue Dawn and see if that will clean them up. If you wish or need to repaint, I would suggest that you start with a pre-coat with a Kilz stain-blocker product or something similar.

  24. Hi, Aquaphor is greasy but different that cooking grease. Before trying the methods suggested in the blog, you might want to start with a cornstarch and water paste that you can apply to the walls and let dry. Leave the paste on the wall for at least 2 hrs before brushing it off. Cornstarch soaks up grease. Another alternative is to rub Dawn (blue) into the grease area and then rinse with a sponge until the soap is gone. If you choose to try these ideas, I would start with the cornstarch paste as it is the easiest to clean up. While Dawn works well for greasy stains, it is more difficult to clean off the walls later. I hope that one or both will do the trick for you.

  25. If the stain is fresh, No 2 should work. Make a paste with baking soda, work the paste into the stain, and let it sit on the stain for several minutes–at least 15. TThe baking soda absorbs the grease. Wipe clean and then wash the area with a good dishwashing detergent like blue Dawn. Rinse. The dish detergent breaks down any fat residue remaining on the wall.

  26. Hi, love these suggestions. I have a similar situation on our rental walls. We have a&d ointment grease stains along with petroleum jelly stains due to my daughter. They have been there for a while and I tried cleaning them with the dawn method but it didnt work well. I have tried magic erasers but they still show up and worse the paint comes up with each cleaning. (Likely due to it being cheap paint.) Would the cornstarch method help or should I use use kliz and paint over it with the rental paint after?

  27. Hi Jenny, using cornstarch or a paste of baking soda and water may work and certainly worth a try; the paste should be left in place for at least 15 minutes. Both of these products absorb grease. After giving time for the grease to be absorbed, follow with a good dishwashing detergent like the blue Dawn to remove any fat residue that may remain on the wall. However, you mentioned that the grease stains have been there for awhile; what often happens is that the grease and the paint begin to bond to one another and when that happens, there really isn’t a good method to remove them. Thank goodness for the advent of Kilz paint. It is quite likely that Kilz will be the problem solver in the end. Best of luck!

  28. Hi Marlene hope you are well, I’ve was wondering how to tackle some coco butter oil stains on my wall. They’ve been there for some time and i am not sure how to get rid of them. Is there any tips you could give me. Thank you love BIG JOHN X

  29. Old oil stains are very difficult to remove as the oil and paint seem to bond to one another. It also depends upon whether the walls are painted with flat, satin, or semi-glass paint. The best methods are found in the blog and work well on fresh stains. If the stains are set into the paint, the next step is a repaint starting with a stain-fighting primer. Kilz is one such brand. A stain-fighting primer is formulated to prevent stains from bleeding through newly applied paint.

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