Sometimes we are asked if our cleaning system works for textured ceilings, sometimes called acoustical ceilings or “popcorn ceilings” I guess because they are kind of lumpy! The answer to the question is no not normally unless it has been painted or sealed, however I shall discuss your options here.
1) Sponge it
2) Spray it
3) Paint it
4) Get rid of it
Safety Tip: When doing any work on this kind of ceiling wear safety glasses so you don’t get chunks of ceiling in your eyes. If you have one wear a neck brace to support your neck.
This has nothing to do with teenagers!
This basically involves using a plain old traditional squeeze sponge mop and hot soapy water. Before you attack the ceiling with such Hi-tech items you should inspect for cobwebs and loose dirt which can be vacuumed off (Do not press hard or agitate or bits will start raining down on you) or gotten rid of with diligent use of a long duster or soft brush. When this has been accomplished if you still have dirt and marks on the ceiling it is time for the mop. You need to be very gentle with the mop, get it soaped up and do not move it back and forth just press it lightly on the dirty area then choose another spot and keep going until it is all clean, Laborious? Yes. Time consuming? VERY! but it works.
There are spray ceiling cleaning products available that claim to “oxidise” the dirt from ceilings. Some of these have hydrogen peroxide or bleach in the list of ingredients so read the label well. If they do have these ingredients make sure your are wearing old clothes you don’t mind throwing away and cover all carpet, furniture etc and definitely wear glasses and a hat (who wants to turn white haired prematurely!)
If you tried the first two methods with no success then painting is an option. Again wear old clothes, cover everything and you should tape off the walls as well. Go to your local paint store for the best choice of paint to use and maybe hire a paint sprayer. Don’t try to brush or use a roller it will just end in tears. Be aware if you DO paint you will lose the acoustical property of the ceiling whereby sounds will bounce off it a lot more also you could possibly have made it less fire resistant.
Getting Rid of Textured Ceilings:
If all the above failed or just didn’t come out quite clean enough or cleaning it sounds like a mission, or if so much comes off when you even touch it lightly then you may want to just remove it and paint. The first thing to mention here though is the dreaded “A” word. Asbestos. A lot of earlier textured ceilings had asbestos in them so you should have your ceiling tested by an expert before even thinking about removal because inhaling asbestos can really badly effect your health, especially your lungs. If it does have asbestos then leave the removal to companies that specialize in this because they have rigorous procedures to protect you, their workers and the environment.
If it turns out your ceiling is asbestos-free then you can scrape your textured ceiling off yourself. It is quite a messy process but is surprisingly easy once you get started. First of all you should clear out the furniture and completely cover the floor with drop cloths, paper or plastic. Then section by section wet with a spray bottle or garden sprayer filled with water. This should not be a drenching, just get it wet enough to soften it up then with a wide drywall or gib knife/scraper held at a shallow angle and scrape it off. You can get a few pointers on doing this on Youtube for example at:
Once scraped clean you should fill any holes with filler compound and lightly sand then you are ready to seal and paint. It will probably end up with a better finish if you use a matte ceiling paint because they cover very well any slight glitches you have made while scraping whereas any other finish will draw attention to it! To keep this surface absolutely perfect be sure to have it steam cleaned every 2 to 5 years depending on how dirty it gets. Do not be tempted to rub it clean because you will leave rub marks on your nice new matte finish.