Moldings are decorative strips that accent walls, ceilings, doorways, and furniture. Over time, moldings accumulate dust, dirt, grime, and even mold if moisture issues occur. Keeping moldings clean not only improves the look of a room, but also extends the life of woodwork. With some basic supplies and techniques, you can clean moldings thoroughly from top to bottom.
Why It’s Important to Clean Moldings
Moldings serve both decorative and functional purposes in a home. Wood trim and decorative carvings add elegance, while baseboards protect walls from scuffs and dings. When moldings become dirty, it detracts from their beauty and diminishes the feeling of a well-kept home.
Dust and dirt on moldings also provide a breeding ground for mold growth if moisture is present. Mold can thrive on wood and drywall, spreading spores that trigger allergies and asthma. Keeping surfaces clean inhibits mold growth.
In addition, grime buildup can actually damage wood moldings over time. Grease, dirt and oils from hands can penetrate the finish, dulling the wood. Gritty dust abrades the surface. By cleaning regularly, you can preserve the finish and integrity of woodwork.
How Often to Clean Moldings
Most experts recommend cleaning woodwork every 1-2 weeks for proper maintenance. High traffic areas like baseboards may need cleaning every week. Here are some signs it’s time to clean moldings:
- Visible dust, dirt or cobwebs
- Dull, faded appearance
- Darkened corners and crevices
- Fingerprint smudges on handrails and trim
- Baseboards looking dingy from shoes scuffing them
Seasonal deep cleaning is also a good practice. Do a thorough molding cleaning at least twice per year – in spring and fall. Check for grime buildup in winter when doors and windows stay closed. Clean any problem areas to keep your home fresh.
Molding Cleaning Supplies
Having the right tools makes cleaning moldings faster and easier. Stock your cleaning caddy with these supplies:
Vacuum – A vacuum with brush and crevice tools. Handheld vacuums are great for detail work.
Microfiber cloths – For dusting and drying. Choose lint-free cloths.
Soft scrub brushes – Old toothbrushes, paintbrushes, or specialty scrub brushes.
Cleaning solution – A mix of warm water, mild soap or vinegar, and essential oil.
Spray bottle – For applying cleaning solution. Use a pressurized sprayer for high moldings.
Gloves – Protect hands from chemicals and dirt. Disposable gloves are fine.
Dusters – Microfiber, feather, or lambswool dusters for ceilings and high moldings.
Ladder or step stool – For reaching upper moldings safely.
Drop cloths – Protect floors and furnishings from drips and spills.
Mixing a Molding Cleaning Solution
The cleaning solution you use depends on the material. For painted moldings, a mild soap solution works well. For unfinished wood, go with a natural oil-based cleaner. Here are recipes to try:
Soap solution for painted moldings:
- 1⁄4 cup liquid castile or other mild vegetable-based soap
- 3⁄4 cup warm water
- 5-10 drops essential oil (lemon, eucalyptus, peppermint)
Oil-based cleaner for wood moldings:
- 3⁄4 cup warm water
- 1⁄4 cup white vinegar or lemon juice
- 1-2 tbsp olive, coconut or other plant oil
- 5-10 drops essential oil
The soap solution cuts through grease, dirt and grime. The oil-based cleaner conditions wood while cleaning. Essential oils add a fresh, natural scent.
Mix the solutions well in a spray bottle. Shake before each use to combine. Always test cleaners in an inconspicuous spot first.
Cleaning Moldings from Top to Bottom
Always start cleaning moldings at the top and work down. This prevents drips and streaks from dirtying lower areas you already cleaned. Follow these steps:
- Vacuum – Use vacuum attachments to remove surface dust and cobwebs from moldings. This also cuts down on dust falling during cleaning.
- Dust – Use a microfiber duster or wand on upper corners, ceiling trim, and the tops of door and window frames.
- Spot clean – Dip scrub brush in solution and scrub stains, dirt buildup and scuffs. Take extra care on intricate carvings and corners.
- Spray and wipe – Mist molding surfaces with cleaning solution and wipe clean using a damp cloth. Work in small sections.
- Rinse – Wipe with a clean, slightly damp cloth to remove soap residue.
- Dry – Wipe away moisture with a dry microfiber cloth to prevent water spots on wood.
- Inspect and repeat – Look for any remaining dirt in crevices or corners. Reclean as needed.
Take care on intricate moldings and soft woods like pine that can scratch. Use gentle pressure and keep scrub brushes slightly damp.
Cleaning Specific Types of Moldings
Moldings in different rooms and made from various materials require adapted techniques:
Baseboards get kicked, stained and dusty. To clean:
- Vacuum and dry dust first.
- Use a specialty baseboard brush that extends under the lip.
- For stubborn grime, use a scrub paste of baking soda and water.
- Rinse well and allow to fully dry.
Chair rails and wainscoting
Chair rails and decorative wall panels have grooves that collect dust.
- Use a vacuum crevice tool to dislodge debris.
- Dip an old toothbrush in solution to reach corners.
- Lightly scrub wood grain with a damp cloth.
- Buff dry with a microfiber cloth.
Ornate medallions and crown moldings can be tricky to reach.
- Use a microfiber mop or duster on an extendable pole.
- Mist with cleaning solution and wipe to avoid heavy drips.
- Follow up with a dry duster to remove dust.
Stair rails get heavy use and need frequent cleaning.
- Vacuum and dust first before wiping down.
- Use a disinfecting solution of soap, water and tea tree oil.
- Rinse thoroughly with a damp cloth.
- Let dry completely to avoid slick surfaces.
Window and door frames
Frames and sills collect dirt, smudges and dead insects.
- Use a small vacuum nozzle for corners and crevices.
- Scrub sills and tracks with an old toothbrush.
- Mist glass cleaner on mirrors and wipe clean.
- Buff hardware with a dry microfiber cloth.
Cleaning Moldings by Material
Moldings come in various materials that require specialized care. Follow these tips:
- Dust first before wiping woodwork down.
- Use an oil-based cleaner and damp cloth to condition wood.
- Rub scratches with walnut oil to help hide small dents and dings.
- Reseal unfinished wood every 1-2 years with tung oil.
- Use a mild soap and water solution. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
- Rinse thoroughly to prevent soap buildup on paint.
- Touch up paint chips and scratches to protect the surface.
- Repaint every 3-5 years to refresh the color.
- Dust first before wiping down to avoid scratching.
- Use a mild all-purpose cleaner and rinse thoroughly after.
- Avoid excessive moisture that can warp plastic over time.
- Remove tarnish with a metal polish paste and soft cloth.
- Use a stainless steel cleaner on chrome or nickel fixtures.
- Prevent rust by sealing outdoor ironwork every few years.
- Gently dust detailed plaster moldings and cornices.
- Use a barely-damp microfiber cloth to wipe clean.
- Avoid excessive moisture that damages plaster.
Cleaning Moldings Room by Room
Moldings in high-use rooms need frequent attention. Follow these tips:
Kitchens are prone to grease splatters and food stains:
- Use degreaser on soap-resistant gunk around stoves.
- Scrub dried food and sauce off walls or backsplashes.
- Disinfect surfaces like window sills and baseboards.
- Wash cabinet trim and above refrigerator regularly.
Bathrooms harbor soap scum, mildew and mold:
- Use an antibacterial cleaner on surfaces near water.
- Remove mildew stains with vinegar or baking soda paste.
- Disinfect surfaces like countertops, windows, baseboards.
- Keep grout clean to prevent mold between tiles.
Living room moldings
Heavy furniture can scuff baseboards and door trim:
- Vacuum and dust behind furniture before moving it.
- Inspect for damage after moving furniture.
- Touch up paint chips or apply wood filler as needed.
Bedrooms need frequent dust removal and disinfecting:
- Dry dust corners, crown molding, baseboards every week.
- Disinfect surfaces like headboards, windows and doors.
- Vacuum and launder bedding regularly to control dust.
Tips for Cleaning Intricate and High Moldings
Ornate or high moldings present cleaning challenges. Use these approaches:
Use tools with reach. Extendable microfiber mops and wands allow you to easily dust and wipe ceiling medallions, crown moldings, and top edges out of reach.
Bring moldings to you. Carefully take down framed art or mirrors to access the surfaces behind them. Place large furniture on drop cloths and pull away from the wall to clean behind.
Use a sprayer. Pressurized spray bottles help apply cleaning solution high up. Adjust the nozzle to a targeted stream to reach corners.
Set up proper lighting. Use flashlights or portable work lights to see dirt in crevices. The right lighting helps you thoroughly clean every spot.
Enlist help. Have someone hold a ladder while you clean high areas safely. Or hire a professional cleaning service equipped for tall and intricate moldings.
Cleaning Moldings: Avoid These Mistakes
While cleaning moldings, beware of these common mistakes:
- Skipping the vacuum step – Always vacuum first before wiping surfaces.
- Spraying too much water on wood – Excess moisture can damage wood over time.
- Using harsh abrasive cleaners – These can scratch delicate surfaces.
- Forgetting to dust ceiling corners – Cobwebs and dust bunnies accumulate out of sight.
- Failing to rinse soap – Left behind residue creates buildup and streaks.
- Letting moisture linger – Quickly dry wood and other surfaces after cleaning.
- Using dirty cloths – Bacteria and dirt transfer to other areas. Replace rags frequently.
- Moving on before inspecting – Scan for leftover dirt in crevices before finishing the job.
Supplies to Make Molding Cleaning Easier
Specialized tools make cleaning moldings faster and reduce strain. Consider investing in:
Microfiber mops and dusters
Microfiber mops extend 6-12 feet to reach ceilings and walls safely. The flat mop head fits easily along moldings to dust or damp wipe. Interchangeable pads attach for washing.
Microfiber dusters with extendable poles are great for ceiling corners and lighting fixtures. Choose different head sizes to fit various spaces.
Baseboard cleaning tools
Specialty tools designed for baseboards have angled heads that fit under upper lips and long handles to reduce bending. Replaceable microfiber pads attach to scrub.
Look for small scrub brushes, toothbrushes, or paintbrush sets to scrub crevices. Soft-bristle options prevent scratching.
Keep an assortment of spray bottles for different uses. Use pressurized sprayers for reaching high moldings. Have smaller bottles for spot cleaning trim and windows.
Paint touch-up kits
Keep small containers of matching paint to quickly fix chips and scratches on moldings as they occur. This protects the surface from additional damage.
Molding cleaning solutions
Buy or make natural, gentle cleaning solutions for woodwork. Keep soap-based and oil-based formulas handy for different needs.
Hiring a Professional Molding Cleaning Service
For frequent deep cleaning or hard-to-reach areas, consider hiring professional cleaners. Look for:
- Experience – Seek companies specializing in molding and woodwork cleaning. Ask about their process.
- Proper equipment – They should have commercial-grade vacuums, ladders, lighting, and cleaning products.