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How to Clean Baseboards and Stop Them From Getting Dirty

Updated
Basic baseboard tidying tips.
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Baseboards add a nice finish to a room, but they can be a source of disgust if you neglect cleaning them. They get very dusty, mucky, and stained — even more so if you have pets!

If you’re wondering how to clean baseboards and trim, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a tried and tested multiple-step method for cleaning both painted and wood baseboards.

We’ll also provide you with some impressive hacks that make this pretty tedious chore that little bit easier!

How to Clean Baseboards (Painted and Varnished Wood)

Start by vacuuming or dusting the baseboards. Make a cleaning solution of warm water and dish soap. Add one tablespoon of vegetable oil for varnished wood baseboards. Dampen a cloth in the solution and wipe the baseboards from top to bottom, side to side, working in small sections. Dry them well with a separate cloth.


How Often Should Baseboards be Cleaned?

It depends on your household and how dirty the baseboards and trim get. Making it part of your weekly cleaning routine is a great idea if you have pets and kids — since they bring in more dirt.

If you live alone or notice your baseboards don’t get that filthy, cleaning them monthly is enough.

When cleaning, be careful not to get any of the solutions on your walls, as it can damage the paint.

How to Clean Painted Baseboards

When cleaning painted baseboards, you don’t need fancy cleaning products. We’ll show you the best way to clean baseboards with dish soap and water without removing paint.

  • Time: 30 minutes (per room)
  • Difficulty: Easy

What You’ll Need

  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Microfiber cloths or rags
  • Duster or vacuum

1. Vacuum or Dust

The first thing you need to do is vacuum or dust the baseboards. If you skip this step, your cloth will just get very dusty and grimy, making the cleaning method way trickier.

So whip out your trusted duster and wipe down the top and front of the baseboards. You can use the dusting brush attachment on your vacuum for maximum cleaning power if you’d prefer.

2. Make Cleaning Solution

Mix warm water with a few squirts — about one tablespoon — of dish soap in a bowl. Use a spoon to combine until the water is soapy.

3. Clean Baseboards

Dip a cloth or rag into the cleaning solution and wring it out well. You don’t want a sopping wet cloth. Otherwise, your floors will get wet, and you could ruin the paint on the baseboards.

Run the cloth along the top of the baseboards first. Working from top to bottom ensures that you pick up any fallen dirt at the end. Then move in horizontal strokes along the rest of the baseboards. Follow with vertical strokes, so you don’t miss a spot.

Work in small sections to make it easier for you.

Rinse out and re-soak the cloth as necessary. If it becomes really gross, switch to a new cloth. There’s no point in cleaning your baseboards with a dirty cloth!

4. Dry Baseboards

With a separate dry cloth or rag, wipe it over the baseboards to dry it. Don’t leave the baseboards wet as this could damage the paint and the wood underneath.

Caution

There’s a chance the dish soap could damage the paint, so always check in an inconspicuous spot before starting. We recommend using a gentle dish soap if in doubt.

How to Clean Wood Baseboards

Cleaning wood baseboards is slightly different from painted ones because you don’t want to dehydrate the wood. We’ll be using dish soap, water, and oil to add some moisture back into the wood for this method. Just note that this is for varnished wood rather than unfinished.

If you’re planning on painting your wooden baseboards, make sure to follow this method before painting. If you paint without cleaning your baseboards, you’ll notice all the dust and debris gathered beneath the paint, and it will look scruffy.

  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

What You’ll Need

  • Vacuum or duster
  • Microfiber cloths
  • ¼ cup dish soap
  • One tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • Large bowl
  • Spoon
  • Water

1. Vacuum or Dust Baseboards

It’s important to do this first to remove surface-level dust and debris. Use your vacuum’s dust brush attachment or a duster to do this step.

2. Wipe Baseboards

With a dry microfiber cloth, wipe the baseboards. This is an extra step to remove any missed dust and debris. This is so that nothing is left behind on the wooden baseboards. Otherwise, you could end up with scratches. We recommend microfiber cloths for this because they are super soft and won’t damage your wood.

3. Make Cleaning Solution

Mix warm water, ¼ cup of dish soap, and one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a bowl. Use a spoon to combine the ingredients.

Optional

If you don’t want this cleaning solution to get on your floorboards, lay down some towels before moving on to the next step.

4. Clean Baseboards

Dip a clean microfiber cloth into the cleaning solution, wring it out well, and start cleaning the baseboards. Start at the top and work your way down so that you clean any drips and debris as you go. Move-in horizontal sweeps, then vertical, so that you don’t miss a spot.

Swap out the cloth as necessary whenever you feel it’s too dirty or spreading dirt around your baseboards. You might need to apply a little extra elbow grease where you have stains.

5. Dry Baseboards

This step is super important with wood baseboards, as you don’t want to oversaturate them and cause a moisture problem. Take a clean, dry microfiber cloth and wipe the baseboards dry.

Cleaning Baseboards Hacks

You now know the best way to clean baseboards, but if you love tips and hacks as much as we do, check these out.

With a Vacuum

A vacuum is an excellent tool for cleaning baseboards, especially if you need to make it a weekly occurrence! A dusting brush attachment will suck up most dirt and debris, leaving your baseboards visibly clean. You should still deep clean the baseboards monthly with a damp cloth and cleaning solution.

With a Broom

Similar to how you would vacuum your baseboards, you can also sweep them with a broom. This is handy if you don’t want to take your vacuum out of storage or if it’s charging. Just sweep a broom across your baseboards. Remember that the dust and debris might settle on the floor, so it’s a good idea to do this before sweeping your floors!

With Vinegar

If you want a completely natural baseboard cleaner, you can mix a 5:1 ratio of water and distilled white vinegar in a bowl or bucket. Following the same steps as above, just swap out the dish soap solution for this cleaner.

This is safe for both painted and wooden baseboards. But if cleaning wooden baseboards with this hack, remember that you should still moisturize your wood often as the vinegar and water can dry it out. You can always add a little oil to the vinegar solution if you’d like!

With a Magic Eraser

These Magic Erasers are, well, magic! To use, dampen your Magic Eraser, squeeze it out and clean your baseboards from top to bottom, side to side. Work in small sections to make this easier for you.

This is a great hack for scuff marks and dust. For stains, apply a little elbow grease and some patience, and your baseboards will be super clean in no time.

With Baby Wipes

If you’re in a pickle and have baby wipes at hand, you can use them for cleaning your baseboards. Simply wipe them along the baseboards, working from top to bottom, side to side. Swap them out for a new one whenever it’s looking dirty and dusty.

With Dryer Sheets

You can use fresh dryer sheets or used dryer sheets. It’s very resourceful! Wipe baseboards from top to bottom, side to side. The dryer sheets can also help create a thin layer that repels dust.

With a Sock

If you don’t have all the necessary cleaning tools, such as a microfiber cloth, you can use a sock instead. It’s great at collecting dust and debris. You can replace the cloths and rags in our above methods with the sock.

Another way to use the sock is to stick it on the end of something long — like a yardstick — and wipe your baseboards while standing up. This is a great hack if you want to clean without kneeling down.

How to Clean Baseboards With a Bad Back

We get it. Baseboards aren’t the easiest to clean if you already have a bad back. We can show you how to clean your baseboards without kneeling to save you some pain.

Most importantly, whatever tools you use, you want them to have a long handle. For instance, make sure your vacuum has a long handle so you don’t need to bend over. If using a duster, make sure you use one with an extendable handle.

The Buysenton Store Duster is an excellent option since it has a reach of 100 inches! You can use the duster head to remove surface-level dust and debris. Then you can use the Microfiber chenille duster head to swish it around in your cleaning solution and clean the baseboards that way.


How to Keep Baseboards Clean

Now you know the best way to clean baseboards, but how do you keep them clean? We’ll share some final tips for protecting your baseboards and preventing them from getting dirty quicker. But keep in mind you should still clean them at least monthly.

  • Dryer sheets: We mentioned this already, but finishing your cleaning routine with a dryer sheet can create a fine layer that protects your baseboards. This prevents dust and debris from sticking to the baseboard, making it easier to clean next time.
  • Touch up baseboards often: If your baseboard is slightly textured from dehydrated wood or chipping paint, the dust and dirt will gather in these small cracks, bumps, and crevices. So make sure to touch up your baseboards whenever necessary.
  • No shoes inside: It’s dirt and dust that gathers on our baseboards. One of the easiest ways to bring dirt inside is from your shoes. Take your shoes off at the door, and you’ll quickly notice that it takes a lot longer for your baseboards to get dirty.
  • Groom your pets: Another main culprit for dirty baseboards is our pets. They shed hair, and it gathers in all the least convenient places. Groom your pets often to minimize hair from floating around in your home.
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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!