Freshen Up A Room With This Frugal Alternative To Painting The Walls

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frugal wall paint alternative

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to give a room a facelift is to paint it. But what if painting isn’t in the budget?

There’s another way to give your paintwork a lift and it’s a whole lot cheaper than painting.

We’re well into spring, so now is the time to get serious about spring cleaning (so I keep telling myself).

Spring cleaning was always an important tradition, especially in cold climates, where houses were closed up for the winter. Rooms needed to be aired after a long hibernation and soot and smoke from wood fires had to be washed out of bedding, curtains and off walls.

Which brings us back to the economical way of giving your paintwork a lift: cleaning the walls.

It’s amazing what a difference a good clean can make. It can make a room look brighter and fresher, without the expenses of a new paint job.

While you can use commercial sugar soap to clean walls, you probably have everything you need right in the pantry.

Here’s how to freshen your paintwork the frugal way.



Before you get started, remove posters and pictures and move furniture out of the way. I’ve tried cleaning walls straining around furniture – it takes longer in the long run.

Be careful when removing Blu-Tack because that stuff is really good at ripping great chunks of paint off the wall, especially if it’s been there a while and dried hard. Slow and steady does it.

Once everything is out of the way, give your walls a vacuum, using the upholstery/brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner, to remove dust and cobwebs. Alternatively, you can use a broom or a mop to give the walls a going over.

If you have carpet, you might want to put down an old sheet or towels to catch any drips as you wash the wall.


The next step is to give your walls a good clean. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A clean white rag
  • A clean white old towel (old terry nappies work a treat)
  • A bucket
  • Warm water
  • Dish detergent
  • White vinegar

The white or light coloured rag is so you don’t transfer any stain from the cloth to your walls. An old t-shirt works well here.

Put some warm water in a bucket and add a squirt or two of dish detergent and a splash of vinegar.

With your rag, wet it in the soapy water and wring it out so it’s not soaking wet. You don’t want to saturate the paint.

Then starting at the top corner, wash the wall, rinsing out the rag regularly in the soapy water.

When you’ve done a section, wipe over it again with the dry towel to remove any excess moisture and dirt.

It’s a bit of work, but your walls will look almost brand new, and it’s free exercise at the same time.

And while you’re freshening up a room here are some other things to do:


Some people swear by those magic erasers, so if you’ve got one of those handy, use it on stubborn stains according to the directions on the box (having never tried them, I can’t comment on their efficacy). If you’re not wanting to go to the store or spend money, there are other ways to get stains off your walls.

For crayon and pencil marks, a regular pencil eraser will remove them. To start with, it will seem like you’re making the marks worse, but they disappear after a bit more rubbing.

If crayon has been on the wall for a while, the pigment might stain, even after you’ve rubbed most of it away. Bicarbonate of soda is a miracle stain remover and can get out just about anything. To use, sprinkle a little on your damp rag and rub onto the stain until it has gone.

An alternative to bicarb soda is eucalyptus oil, which can also get out pen marks as well. Again, blot a little onto a damp rag and wipe onto the stain.

IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE that both bicarb and eucalyptus oil might affect the paintwork, especially if it’s old. So ALWAYS do a test patch first in an inconspicuous spot to make sure it’s not going to take off the paint.


The cheapest and easiest way to quickly hide dings and scratches on your wall is to colour them in with a pencil or crayon that is the same colour as your wall. It’s not a perfect solution, but hiding the dings can make it seem like the wall has been painted.

Alternatively, you can get a sample pot of paint from the hardware store to match the existing paint as closely as possible (unless you’re lucky and you still have a tin of the original paint hiding in the back of the shed).

Either way, it’s not going to be a perfect cover up, but it will hide dings from casual glances and will they will only be revealed upon closer inspection (and few people closely inspects walls).

If the marks and dings are beyond a small patch-up, strategically place your furniture and pictures to cover the marks. Photo collages are good because you can space the frames in a pattern across a wall to hide random marks. A hardy pot plant, in the right spot, is another great way to hide marks on the walls.

If you want to give a room a lift, but it’s not in the budget to paint, giving it a deep clean is the next best thing. Washing the walls will clean off the inevitable grime that you don’t notice accumulates on the walls until you start to clean.



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  1. These are great tips, thank you! We’re not painting our walls until the kids are older, and stop drawing on them / driving toy trucks into them, so this will be great to do in the meantime.

  2. I don’t even want to touch the walls, the paint is bubbling so badly. We’re not allowed to put stuff over it either, unless we can hang it from the picture rails – so trying to think of what we can do cheaply and elegantly about that.

  3. I washed my porch in exactly this way and my realtor, who had just sold me the house, asked if I’d painted. :) Great tips!