4 Easy Tips on How To Clean a Popcorn Ceiling Faster

Love them or hate them, popcorn ceilings are a world apart from their smooth counterparts. Despite what you might think, this article will help you learn how to clean a popcorn ceiling.

You just need the right tools and techniques in your arsenal. Knowing how to clean a popcorn ceiling could be the first step in learning to appreciate this maligned design element’s presence in your home.

Or it could be the push you need to invest in a ceiling you truly love! Either way, here’s everything you need to know to keep your popcorn ceilings clean and looking great:

What To Know Before Getting Started

To get a better idea of what a popcorn ceiling is and what you need to consider when dealing with any design, repair or removal read our guide: What Is a Popcorn Ceiling? 4 Pros And Cons Of Popcorn Ceilings.

Modern popcorn ceilings are safe and relatively easy to keep clean. The same can’t always be said of popcorn ceilings installed before the 1980s.

Unfortunately, asbestos was a common ingredient in popcorn ceilings installed in the mid-20th century. Living with an asbestos ceiling is possible if removal isn’t an option.

Asbestos is only dangerous when inhaled. But extreme care must be made not to disturb the material and release asbestos particles into the air.

If you don’t know when your ceiling was originally installed, testing for asbestos is an important first step before performing any maintenance (including routine cleaning).

The best way to test for asbestos is to hire a certified professional to come to your home. They may also recommend future steps for safely cleaning or removing the ceiling.

What You’ll Need To Begin

Cleaning a popcorn ceiling can entail many things depending on the circumstance. Most homeowners will need to tackle all of these techniques at some point.

There are several supplies you should have on hand for routine ceiling cleaning:


  • Face mask
  • Protective eyewear
  • Dropcloth or plastic sheeting
  • Ladder

Dust Removal

  • Long-handled duster
  • Broom
  • Handheld vacuum attachment
  • Tape or lint roller

Stain Removal

  • Spray bottle
  • Bleach
  • Dish soap
  • Vinegar
  • Sponge or rag


  • Popcorn ceiling patch
  • Ceiling paint
  • Paint roller

4 Easy Tips on How To Clean a Popcorn Ceiling

1. Prepare the Space

prepare the space

Preparing the entire living area prior to cleaning a popcorn ceiling might seem like overkill. But this extra step can save a ton of time and labor later on!

When cleaning a ceiling of any kind, there’s a chance that dust will fall to the ground. Liquid cleaners and paint may also drip down and damage the surface below.

In addition to covering the floor and furniture with drop cloths or plastic sheeting, it’s important to protect yourself.

Wear protective eyewear to prevent debris from falling into your eyes while you work. A face mask or respirator should be worn to prevent inhalation of dust and ceiling particles.

2. Remove Dust and Cobwebs

remove dust and cobwebs
Image: Ben Diehl

In many living spaces, dusting is all that’s necessary to produce a clean ceiling! Take care when dusting your popcorn ceiling to avoid damaging the raised texture.

Some popcorn ceilings may be more fragile than others. There are several methods for dusting a popcorn ceiling.

The right method for you will depend on the tools at your disposal and the general state of the ceiling in need of cleaning.

How to Clean Dust off a Popcorn Ceiling


A classic fabric or feather duster is a simple way to remove dust and cobwebs from a popcorn ceiling. Select one with a long or extendable handle to make reaching the ceiling a bit easier.

The downside to using a soft duster is that the fibers may snag on the ceiling’s texture. This could leave stray fibers stuck to your newly cleaned ceiling or increase the risk of damaging the texture.


A soft-bristled broom can be used in place of an extendable duster if needed. Just flip the broom “upside-down” and brush the bristles against the ceiling to remove dust and cobwebs.

While using a broom lowers the risk of snagging on the popcorn texture, it can increase the chance of damaging the ceiling. Do not use a broom with overly firm bristles.


Using a vacuum is a great way to remove dust from your ceiling and keep it out of the air. A vacuum with a long, handheld attachment is the best option.

Be sure to use a brush attachment to clean your popcorn ceiling. This will loosen dust while preventing damage to the textured surface.


For stubborn dust that won’t release from the ceiling, consider using tape or a lint roller. Gently press the sticky side to the ceiling to remove built-up dirt.

Tape that is too sticky or applied too roughly could break away some of the popcorn texture. Again, always use gentle pressure.

3. Treat Discoloration

treat discoloration

While dust is the most common of dirty ceilings, it doesn’t work alone. Popcorn ceilings located in bathrooms, kitchens, and similar spaces may be prone to more intense soiling.

Stains caused by grease splatter, mildew, cigarette smoke, and other household contaminants can often be treated with a homemade solution.

Spray the recommended cleaning solution onto the affected area, being careful not to over-saturate the ceiling. Gently blot the stain with a rag or sponge, then leave the area undisturbed until dry.

How to Clean Kitchen Grease From Popcorn Ceiling

For grease, a mixture of warm water and liquid dish soap in a spray bottle is recommended. The water’s temperature is key to loosening the grease stains.

To effectively clean kitchen grease from popcorn ceiling, spray the mixture on the stain, lightly dab it with a clean cloth, and let it dry.

How to Clean Cigarette Smoke From Popcorn Ceiling

For discoloration caused by smoke, mildew, and more, mix one part bleach to five parts water, and repeat the same process as above.

Alternatively, you can put hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle, lightly spray the smoke stain, and let it dry. Repeat as required.

Pro Tip: Test all cleaning products at an inconspicuous location before treating the entire ceiling. There’s always a chance that liquids will cause further discoloration or otherwise damage the ceiling.

4. Address Damage

address damage - how to clean a popcorn ceiling
Image: Enoch Leung

Cleaning a popcorn ceiling can reveal damage previously hidden by dust and build-up. And a freshly cleaned ceiling is the perfect starting point for repairs.

Small areas where the texture has chipped or eroded away can be repaired with a popcorn ceiling patch product. Larger areas may require the help of a professional.

Permanent discoloration of all or part of the ceiling can be covered with a fresh coat of paint.

Of course, you should always identify and treat the root cause of ceiling damage — i.e., a leak in the roof above — before cosmetically treating it!

Final Thoughts

Popcorn texture may no longer be the height of interior design but that doesn’t mean you need to live with a dusty, stained ceiling overhead. Cleaning a popcorn ceiling is surprisingly simple.

You just need to follow a few steps to ensure the safety of both you and the ceiling itself.

While cleaning a popcorn ceiling for the first time can be a long and arduous process, future dust and stain removal will be much easier once you’ve created a clean slate (no pun intended!).

So, even if living under a popcorn ceiling is a temporary solution for your household, spending the time and energy to clean the surface over your head is a worthwhile investment.