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

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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17 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.

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