When it comes to cleaning, baseboards tend to fall into the “out of sight out of mind” category. Sure, they show sign of wear and tear and can accumulate dust, pet hair and grime (especially after mopping). But they’re low to the ground and easy to ignore because, really, who wants to get down on their hands and knees to scrub them? Yet after some time, it can be hard to ignore the buildup, plus a dirty baseboard can make the rest of the room look less clean. That’s why we asked professional cleaners for their tips on how to clean baseboards easily (including ways to do it without having to bend over) and how often they really need our attention.
What is a baseboard?
The primary purpose of baseboards is to cover the joint between the wall and the floor in your home. Another benefit of baseboards is that they provide an extra layer of protection for your walls. Baseboards are designed to put up with a ton of wear and tear since they take a beating from kicks, furniture dings, dust, dirt and more. “Baseboards are often left out of the cleaning checklist, which is why they start gathering dirt with time,” says Alex Varela, General Manager of Dallas Maids, “especially If you live in an area with bad air quality, such as Dallas, where a lot of air filled with dust and bacteria coming into your home constantly.”
The good news: Once you know how to clean baseboards (and how simple they are to maintain) you’ll be able to forget about them once again!
The best way to clean dirty baseboards
There are three basic steps to cleaning your baseboards; however, the method (and level of elbow grease) varies slightly based on the level of debris, dirt and grime you’re cleaning up.
And whether you’re cleaning wood or painted baseboards, the same basic cleaning method applies thanks to the durability of the actual baseboard finish. Most stained wood trim is finished with a coat of polyurethane, which adds a durable layer designed to help cleaning go quickly. Painted baseboards are often painted with a semi-gloss finish paint that is known for being super durable and wipeable. If properly cleaned and maintained, your baseboards should look like new for years to come.
Step 1: Remove debris. If you’ve got pets that shed or live in an area of the country that has a lot of dust in the air, you’re going to need to remove that layer of dirt on the top of the baseboards. There are three ways to do this, depending on the level of effort required:
- For light buildup: Grab a Swiffer duster (Buy from Amazon, $9.84 for a pack of three) or microfiber duster (Buy from Amazon, $7.99) and use to attract and remove the layers of dust. If you’ve got back problems, look for a duster with a long handle so you don’t have to bend over as much.
- For medium buildup: Use your vacuum cleaner with brush attachment. This method works great for removing the dirt particles and cleaning them up quickly.
- For heavy buildup: Have a layer of grime, stuck on hair or large dust particles? Use a soft-bristle brush to gently brush off the larger particles.
Step 2: Clean the baseboards. Depending on the level of dirt accumulation or your time constraints, the three best solutions:
- For relatively clean baseboards: The simplest cleaning method is warm water, a microfiber cloth and elbow grease. If your baseboards are relatively clean, this is the most effective, chemical-free method.
- For when you’re in a hurry: “Using baby wipes is an easy and efficient way to quickly dust off your baseboards,” says Caroline McNamara, Fabuloso brand expert. If you’re trying to reach back behind furniture or don’t want to bend over, McNamara recommends placing a wipe on the end of a flat-headed mop and swiping it along the baseboards.
- For really dirty, sticky baseboards: Try a more concentrated cleaning solution such as Krud Kutter (Buy from Amazon, $8.97) which is easy to spray on and wipe up quickly. Amazon reviewers swear by the commercial cleaner: “We bought an older house that has filthy baseboards. Before painting I wanted to really deep clean the baseboards and trim. This did the trick. Very easy to use, just spray, give it a couple of minutes, and wipe the gunk away.”
Step 3: Remove scuffs. Once the baseboards are clean, you may discover scuffs along the baseboards. Grab a Magic Eraser (Buy from Amazon, $5.48 for a pack of six), dip it in water, and use the damp sponge to gently buff out the scuffs. The key here is to go easy on the baseboards. It’s important to not apply too much pressure while you’re cleaning with the sponges because they’re abrasive. And while they do an incredible job at removing the scuffs, you want to make sure they don’t remove any of the baseboard paint or finishing coat.
How to clean intricate baseboards
The cleaning method for both simple and intricate baseboard trim is the same; however, if you’ve got more intricate baseboards, there’s more room for dirt to stick so they may require a bit more effort and time. “Take your time and be thorough to effectively clean all the areas of the intricate baseboards,” says Muffetta Krueger, cleaning expert and founder of Muffetta’s Domestic Assistants.
If you’ve got tight corners or nooks and crannies to clean, grab a toothbrush. The super small bristles can get in small spaces and make the actual cleaning process easier. “You can also invest in a detailing brush or a keyboard brush, which have the perfect size and shape to reach intricate baseboards,” Varela says.
What *not* to use to clean baseboards
Varela cautions against using Clorox wipes to clean baseboards. They are fantastic at cleaning a lot of things, but they are not recommended to clean baseboards.“They often have abrasive chemicals that will damage your surface over time,” she says.
This video shows a step-by-step guide to deep-clean baseboards.
How often should you clean baseboards?
This is a point of contention, but it truly depends on the conditions in your home. Generally speaking, you should include baseboard cleaning in your regular cleaning schedule, ideally when you’re vacuuming your floors. “If you’re living with pets, dealing with allergies, or if your home tends to be more susceptible to dust, you might need to step up your baseboard cleaning game to a biweekly routine,” McNamara says. “Sticking to a regular cleaning regimen not only eases each subsequent cleaning session by minimizing dust and grime buildup, but frequent checks can help you adjust the cleaning frequency as needed.”
Are there any baseboard cleaning hacks?
“I regularly use dryer sheets to clean my baseboards, and it’s been a game-changer in terms of both effectiveness and efficiency,” says Tina Dawson, manager of Toronto Maids. “A dryer sheet will not only remove dust and grime, but it also leaves behind a residue that helps to repel dust, with just a swipe.”
How to clean baseboards without bending over
Look for tools that have telescoping handles. You probably already use the wand on your vacuum cleaner, but you can also use a Swiffer duster wand that expands. Cleaning your baseboards doesn’t have to be a back-breaking chore.
Want to learn more about how to clean effectively? Check out these articles:
Rachel Weber is an award-winning journalist with a passion for all things lifestyle, home, and garden. She started with Better Homes & Gardens as an editorial apprentice in 2006 and has been writing and editing ever since. She teaches journalism classes at Iowa State University, works at a boutique public relations firm and loves to write about all the things she learned when she was homeschooled. She’s worked on brands like Allrecipes, Lowe’s Creative Ideas, Shape, and Better Homes & Gardens doing everything from recipe testing to designing kitchens.
Rachel holds a B.A. in journalism and psychology from Iowa State University and an M.A. in communication leadership from Drake University. She loves to crack a good dad joke and listen to Taylor Swift. She’s also pretty proud of her alphabetized spice rack and color-coded closet. A breast cancer survivor, Rachel is passionate about early detection and healthcare advocacy.
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