How to Clean Baseboards – The Ultimate Guide

While you’re getting into your spring cleaning, make sure to spend some time cleaning baseboards. Although they might seem insignificant, once they’re clean it’ll make a big impact. Not sure how to go about cleaning baseboards? Don’t worry, I’ve put together an easy-to-follow guide for baseboard cleaning.

There are some parts of the house that are easy to clean, but there are others that are far too often forgotten and overlooked. The baseboards are one of these.

When you spend time cleaning a room, sweeping, mopping, and dusting, something as simple as a stained baseboard will ruin the clean effect. Because baseboards are near the ground, they pick up a lot of dust and dirt especially in hard to reach areas. They’re also especially susceptible to spills and splatter.

1 Dirty Baseboard
Here’s a shot of my baseboards before cleaning. Pretty bad, huh?

2 Cleaned Baseboard
Here’s the baseboard post clean. Definitely looks better.

When To Clean Baseboards

I want to clarify that I don’t think you need to clean the baseboards as often as, say, you wash dishes. However, it’s not a bad idea to clean these off every time you dive into deep cleaning.

If you’ve never cleaned your baseboards, you’ll want to set aside some time for an intense clean. However, once you’ve done your first cleaning, you’ll be able to spot clean as necessary and only do a thorough cleaning a few times a year.

Baseboard cleaning should be the last thing to get done when you’re cleaning a room. If you clean the baseboards, then sweep and mop, the dust will stick to the wet baseboards and undo all your progress.

For any kind of deep cleaning project, I suggest doing one room at a time so you can give it your full energy and motivation instead of trying to clean the entire house haphazardly.

DIY Baseboard Cleaner Spray

You don’t necessarily have to go out and purchase an array of cleaning solutions to get your baseboards clean. One of our favorite recipes uses vinegar’s natural cleaning power to wipe away baseboard grime. It’s a nice all-purpose cleaner for any type of stain, and it’s both eco-friendly and on-toxic. You’ll need: 

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap

All you have to do to create this powerful DIY cleaning solution is to mix all of the listed ingredients in a bucket and use it to clean the baseboards. You can also use this as an all-purpose cleaner throughout your home. If getting up and down to clean is difficult for you, you an add this cleaning solution to a spray bottle and squirt it where you need before using a long-handled mop to wipe it away. 

DIY Baseboard Cleaner Two – Dawn Dish Soap

All you’ll need for this very simple cleaner is Dawn dish soap or Castile soap. Pour three to four drops of your chosen dish soap into a bucket of warm water. Mix it around to create a nice lather. Get a microfiber cloth and scrub at your baseboards to remove any grime. As a bonus, dawn can slice through greasy films. 

How To Clean Baseboards – Step-by-Step

Step One:

Before you get out your soap and water, you want to get the initial layer of dust off your baseboards. If you haven’t cleaned your baseboards in a while, there’s probably a solid layer of dust from sweeping and general day-to-day activity.

I’ve found that the best way to clean and remove this layer of dust is to use the arm attachment of a vacuum cleaner. Depending on the amount of dust, you can use the thin plastic attachment or the brush addition.

Just run it along the top and bottom of the baseboard and your cleaning will be much easier. If you don’t have a vacuum, you can also use a duster for this. You can also just use a broom to sweep along the edges of the baseboard as a way to clean.

3 Vacuum Dust
The brush attachment of a vacuum cleaner gets the first layer of dust up in no time.

Step Two:

Now it’s time to really get into cleaning. Start by gathering your supplies: warm water with either dish soap or vinegar, a sponge or magic eraser, and a cotton swab or toothbrush.

If your baseboards are stained instead of painted, you’ll want to use wood cleaner instead of dish soap or vinegar, and you may want to use a sponge instead of a magic eraser for a gentler cleaning.

Dip your sponge into the warm water, rinse as much as you can, and start scrubbing along the edge of the baseboard. As with cleaning most things, it’s best to start high and work your way down.

Use either a toothbrush or a cotton swab to clean the corners and the edge where the baseboard meets the floor, since that’s where a lot of dirt accumulates. After scrubbing with a toothbrush, run over this area with the sponge to make sure you’ve picked up any dirt.

You can also use the toothbrush to scrub at particularly difficult stains or spots that aren’t coming off with the sponge.

4 Magic Eraser
A magic eraser works great for cleaning baseboards, especially when combined with the warm water and soap.

5 Toothbrush
I was amazed by how well if you use a dry toothbrush you can reach the cracks and corners to clean your baseboards.

Step Three:

Now that you’re done scrubbing, you might want to dry the baseboards so the room doesn’t pick up moisture. You can gently rub a clean microfiber cloth over the baseboards (use a dry microfiber cloth first, followed by a damp microfiber cloth) or just place a rotating fan in the room to speed up the drying process.

If you have to move furniture in order to clean the baseboards, it’s important not to put furniture back against the walls until the baseboards are dry.

Step Four:

The final step is completely optional, but it’s worth it to do it. Get an unused dryer sheet and run it along your baseboard lightly. You don’t have to scrub with it. First, the dryer sheet will work to leave a clean, fresh scent behind that lingers for several days. Dryer sheets also contain properties to help them repel dust. So, this can help to keep your baseboards clean for a longer period since dust won’t stick straight away. 

6 Dirty Wall
When cleaning your baseboards, this is a great time to also clean the wall. Here’s my before.

7 Clean Wall
I can’t quite explain how much better the kitchen looks now that the walls and baseboards no longer have food splatter! 

Other Cleaning Methods to Consider

There are also several other cleaning methods you can consider if you don’t get satisfactory results with the first method. Working through them will help you find one that works best for your needs. 

1. Magic Eraser Method

Grab a few Magic Erasers (or whichever brand you prefer) and a bucket of vinegar and water or just warm, soapy water with liquid dish soap. Dip the Magic Eraser in the bucket of your chosen cleaning solution and wring it out before you wipe your baseboards so they don’t get too wet. If you don’t have paint on your baseboards, use a wood cleaner with the Magic Erasers. They’ll take care of dirt, dust, grime, scuffs, and more. 

2. Cleaning Wipes Method

Many people have a box or two of cleaning wipes laying around, and you can grab a box and wipe at your baseboards with them. This is a good method if you have a smaller home or if you’re crunched for time. However, you will have more waste with this method because most cleaning wipes are single-use. 

3. Broom Method

If the baseboards aren’t too grimy but you can see dust, you may just need to give them a quick dusting. You can make this process much easier on yourself by getting the correct tools. Use a mini handheld broom or a clean paint brush to dust your baseboards. If you do want to dust your baseboards, make sure you vacuum when you finish to pick up the dust or hair that you sweep off so you don’t step in it and drag it everywhere. If you have a sweeper accessory with bristles on your vacuum, you can use this to dust your baseboards. 

4. Sock Method

Get an old sock and pull it over a disposable toilet wand. Spray the sock with your chosen cleaning liquid. This cleaning liquid can be wood cleaner, dawn with water, or vinegar and water. Swipe at your baseboards. You may feel a little silly using this method, but it works decently for light cleanup jobs. 

5. Multi-Step Thorough Method

Maybe you’ve just moved into the house and you noticed that the baseboards are grimy, or you haven’t cleaned them in months because you’ve been busy. If so, this multi-step cleaning process works well. It’s a great starting point to get them really clean so all you have to do is minimal cleaning later. To start, dry brush the dust off first using a clean paint brush, vacuum with a brush attachment, or a mini handheld broom. Get a warm microfiber cloth or sponge with warm water and soap and wipe everything down. For the corners, you may want to dip cotton swabs in your water and wipe at them. 

6. Baby Wipes

Baby wipes are a very versatile invention, and you can use them to do routine cleaning on your baseboards. All you have to do is open a pack of the wipes, take a few swipes at your baseboards to clean off the surface grime, and let them dry. Again, you’ll have more waste with this method, but it’s nice if you’re short on time. 

How to Clean Painted Baseboards – Step-by-Step

A lot of homes have baseboards and trim with paint on them that comes specifically designed to withstand hard wear and tear. Some paint is much more durable than others, and it can also be less prone to showing dirt or grime. For example, if you have a paint that has a glossy finish on it, this finish can help repel grime and dirt while being durable. 

Generally speaking, it stands up better than a flat paint. No matter which type of paint you use on your baseboards, cleaning it isn’t hard. However, it does require ongoing maintenance once a month to keep them looking their best. 

Step One:

Using a vacuum cleaner that has a brush attachment on it, you want to vacuum along the length of your baseboards. You should start at the top and then move to the floor. Pay very close attention to the corners and other crevices where your trim meets the floor because these are areas where the dust accumulates. 

Step Two:

Once you get all of the loose dust and dirt off your baseboards, it’s time to tackle the buildup and stains. Dip your sponge or cloth into a mixture of liquid dish soap and water before scrubbing at the stains or scuffs. You’ll have to take your time and use some elbow grease to scrub out any stains or stuck-on grime. 

Step Three: 

A cotton swab can help you reach small crevices and your corners. Dip the cotton swab in your cleaner or choice and twist and push into the corners or crevices to remove the grime and dirt. You’ll probably go through a fair amount of cotton swabs until they come back clean. 

Step Four: 

Get a clean microfiber cloth and get it slightly damp with warm water. Wipe down your baseboards one more time with it to remove any residue left from the cleaner. This will prevent a film from forming and make them look cleaner. 

Step Five: 

Rub a fresh dryer sheet over your baseboards just like you would in the original steps. It works to repel dust and leave a clean scent behind. 

How to Clean Stained Wood Baseboards – Step-by-Step

Staining wood can add character, enhance the look of the trim, and bring warmth to your room. If you have stained wood baseboards, you will need to pay special attention to them to help maintain your wood’s natural glow. So, be very careful about the commercial cleaner you use. There are inexpensive, safe baseboard cleaner alternatives that work just as well as commercial-grade ones without dulling the stain. 

Step One: 

Vacuum your baseboards just like you would for any other type, and then get a dry, clean microfiber cloth and run it over the baseboards. This will lift away any other dirt and dust that the vacuum missed. Don’t leave any fibers behind that could get snagged on splintered wood on your baseboards. 

Step Two: 

To make a baseboard cleaner for unpainted wood, you’ll use slightly different ingredients. Get a bucket of warm water and add 1⁄4 cup of dish soap and a tablespoon of vegetable oil in. This formula works on a huge range of wood types. The liquid soap is mild enough that it won’t cause any damage, and the oil can polish the baseboards and renew it. Get a sponge and dip it into the solution and start scrubbing at the baseboards. You only need a little cleaner at a time to prevent a slippery mess on the floor. 

Step Three: 

Just like painted baseboards, it’s now time to clean any small crevices or corners. Dip your cotton swab into the cleaning solution and work it into any tight spots or corners to pull the dirt out. Toss the cotton swabs as they get dirty and swap out new ones. 

Step Four: 

Rinse the sponge you used to clean the baseboards very thoroughly in hot water to get any oil or soap residue off. Wring it out as much as you can and wipe down your baseboard to remove any leftover cleaning solution. It’ll strip out the soap and leave the vegetable oil to soak in further to protect the wooden baseboards. 

Step Five: 

Buff the baseboards when you finish with a clean, dry microfiber cloth. Finish by wiping them down with a dryer sheet to help repel dust. 

4 Wood Baseboards
IMAG1300 by Jesus Rodriguez / CC BY 2.0 Cleaning wood baseboards takes more care than traditional painted baseboards because you have to protect the wood’s natural luster while making it shine. 

How to Deep Clean Your Baseboards 

At least once or twice a year, you should make a point to deep clean your baseboards. Grime and stuck-on debris can build up, even if you clean them each month. A deep clean will get rid of them. You’ll need: 

  • Add a gallon of warm water to a bucket and mix in ¼ cup of Pinesol or all-purpose cleaner. 
  • Get a microfiber cloth, dip it in your cleaning solution, and wipe down your baseboards. 
  • If you have very dirty baseboards like in your living room or kitchen, you’ll need more cleaning power. Get a small brush like an old toothbrush and scrub along the edges and in the corners of the baseboards. Continue dipping into your cleaning solution as you move along. 
  • Get a wet Magic Eraser and remove any stains or stuck-on grime that doesn’t come off easily with the first pass. 

Tip: Fold up your microfiber cloth in fourths. This gives you eight clean sides to use when you clean, and it can reduce your cleaning time overall. 

How to Clean Moldy Baseboards 

Although mold is common in your shower, it can also grow on your baseboards. But, you can create a mold-killing solution and use it on your baseboards by: 

  • Mix ½ cup Borax, ½ white vinegar, and 2 cups of warm water in a bucker or in a spray bottle. 
  • Apply your mixture over the moldy areas on your baseboards. You can spray to saturate it or soak a microfiber cloth and pass it over. 
  • Allow your solution to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  • Get a Magic Eraser and scrub at your baseboard to strip away the mold. Use a toothbrush to get in the corners or crevices. 
  • Repeat the cleaning process as necessary. 

After you apply this cleaner, the ingredients will kill the mold spores while the Borax will prevent new spores from growing. Now that your baseboards are clean, you can keep them this way by adding a few steps to your monthly maintenance routine. Each time you clean your home, try to remember to dust the baseboards with a duster or microfiber cloth. Damper the cloth with water and run it over the baseboards to get rid of any stuck-on grime that the first pass didn’t cover. 

How to Clean Pet Urine From Your Baseboards

Owning a pet like a dog or cat can bring a huge amount of joy to your household. However, they also bring a lot of grime to your baseboards, like dander, pet hair, and dirt or mud from paws. There are also the occasional accident you have to worry about and try to clean out of the baseboards. 

Cat Urine

Cat urine has a very strong smell to it. It also takes much longer to clean if it gets on your baseboards. You can create a DIY solution to help remove it using: 

  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon of dish soap
  • 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide

Start by soaking up as much of the cat urine as possible. Combine all of the ingredients in the list in a spray bottle and apply a liberal coating onto your baseboards. Allow this solution to dry on the baseboards overnight. You can brush or wash the baseboards if it leaves a white residue. 

Generally speaking, it’s not usually a good idea to leave your baseboards wet for several hours, the possibility of a little water damage is a small price to pay when you consider how lingering cat urine can smell. 

Dog Urine

Dog urine isn’t usually as strong as cat urine is, but it’s not a smell you want lingering around your home. You can get rid of it with baking soda. You should simply soak up as much dog urine as you can first. Cover the entire area with a thick coating of baking soda. Allow the baking soda to sit overnight because it’ll keep absorbing the odor and moisture. In the morning, you can vacuum the leftover baking soda up. 

Extra Cleaning Tips

Here are some extra tips to help you clean your baseboards effortlessly, quickly, and efficiently:

  • Before you start, make sure you have access to all the baseboards you want to clean. This means moving furniture and other objects out of the way before you start.
  • Try to clean all the baseboards in a room at once. It’ll be hard to tell where you stopped if you only clean part of a room.
  • If your knees hurt from kneeling to clean, try folding a yoga mat or clean towel to kneel on as you work.
  • Set a reminder to get up and stretch every ten minutes or so. Bending over to clean can be hard on your back, so remember to sit up and focus on your posture.
  • Listen to music while you work! Music always makes cleaning a little easier.
  • After you’ve cleaned, you can spot clean with clorox wipes or a paper towel with some soap and water.

Frequently Asked Questions

5 Baseboard FAQ
Finally… Baseboards! By bay_dragon / CC BY 2.0 If you’ve never cleaned your baseboards, it’s common to have questions about the process. You want to clean them without causing any damage, so these questions can help. 

1. Can you clean baseboards without bending over?

If your vacuum cleaner comes with a longer wand on it, you can walk around your home and vacuum the baseboards without having to bend over. Fill a bucket with a cup of vinegar or a few squirts of dish soap and a gallon of warm water and wipe them down with a microfiber cloth attached to a mop. 

2. How often should you clean your baseboards?

Ideally, you’ll give your baseboards a light clean once a month. If you can’t, make a point to clean them at least once every three months to collect dust, dirt, and other grime buildup. 

3. Can you use bleach on your baseboards?

If your baseboards are extremely dirty, you can use a bleach and water mixture to get the grime off. Allow your baseboards to air dry when you finish cleaning them before running a dryer sheet over them to help make it harder for dust to stick to the baseboards. 

4. How do you clean dirty caulking off your baseboards?

Get a bucket of warm water, Magic Erasers, and liquid dish soap. Mix the water and soap before dipping your Magic Eraser into it and wringing it out. Scrub at the spots on your baseboards. If you don’t have painted baseboards, swap out the dish soap for wood cleaner. 

5. Can you paint over water-stained baseboards?

Before you reinstall your baseboards, you will need to allow the wall to dry completely. The swelling in the wall from the water has to go down, and you have to remove any peeled paint before reapplying it. You may need to sand the boards down too if there are warping problems. 

Bottom Line

Now you know several ways to clean your baseboards, and you can apply them to your own home. In turn, you’ll get sparkling clean baseboards that look and smell great for weeks at a time. Depending on your home size, this could be a large project, so plan accordingly. 

0. How to Clean Baseboards

How to Clean Baseboards 1 How to Clean Baseboards 2