How to Clean a Popcorn or Textured Ceiling

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Textured ceiling (Photo: @photovs via Twenty20)
Unlike a smooth ceiling, extra care should be taken when cleaning a popcorn or textured ceiling. Although the uniqueness of its surface adds character to a room, that same feature also attracts and retains more dust. This can create an unwanted dullness, which translates to a shadow over the whole room. It can also exacerbate allergy symptoms for those allergic to dust and dander.

The tools you’ll need for cleaning a popcorn or textured ceiling

Before you begin, it is important to have the right tools and materials on hand, including:
  • Step ladder
  • Drop cloth
  • Vacuum with extension hose and brush attachments
  • Duster with extension handle
  • Face mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Sponge
  • Spray bottle
  • Clean cloths
Make sure to put on your face mask and safety glasses before you start to protect your face and eyes from falling debris. Also, cover the floor and nearby furniture to keep them from getting dirty or stained.

Clean it with a duster

Depending on how dirty your popcorn or textured ceiling is, you may be able to simply clean it with a duster. Swiffer makes a heavy duty super extended duster designed to clean hard to reach areas and the grooves of a uneven surface. If you still need help reaching the ceiling, you can use your step ladder to assist you. Do not rub the ceiling too hard as you may dislodge or remove materials that can result in damage to the surface.


Sometimes a little suction power can help remove unwanted dust and cobwebs from a textured ceiling. Because all the nooks and crevices are the perfect place for dirt to gather, it can be difficult to remove with the soft touch of a duster. Using a vacuum with an extension hose and the right brush attachment can be an effective way to clean a popcorn or textured ceiling. The same advice applies in terms of not rubbing the surface too hard when vacuuming or you may damage the area.

Sponge and cleaner

When all else fails, you may have to use a wet technique. While not preferred for cleaning textured ceilings, sometimes it is the only thing that will get the job done. One of the most important things to remember is you do not want to saturate the ceiling as this will cause damage to the surface. Just as dust and dirt like to collect in a popcorn or textured ceiling, so does moisture.
You can use a store-bought cleaner designed to clean ceilings and walls, but you can use vinegar, too. Mix equal parts of vinegar and water. You can place the mixture in a bucket and dip a sponge into it. You can also put it in a spray bottle and spray on the sponge or directly onto the ceiling. Either case, make sure you remove any excess liquid from the sponge before using to clean away the dust and dirt. If you spray directly on the surface, wipe off immediately after so it cannot soak in and stain or damage the ceiling.
Special consideration: Older homes may have popcorn ceilings that contain asbestos. If your home was built before 1980, make sure to have a professional evaluate your ceiling before removing the texture or painting over it. When cleaning, take extra precautions and use a gentle touch to prevent from breaking off any of the peaks or other pieces. Asbestos can be toxic and damaging to your health.
Knowing how to clean a popcorn or textured ceiling can help you brighten your home and remove potential allergens. Who knows? Once you spruce up the ceiling, you may want to clean all your walls, too!