{five minute friday} How to Get Your Chalkboard Wall Back to Black!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ever since we first painted the magnetic chalkboard wall in our kitchen, I have been on a mission to figure out how to get it clean.  I mean really clean... as in back to the way it looked when it was new. Back to black!

How to Clean a Chalkboard Wall

The constant white/gray haze drove me crazy! Because our chalkboard wall reaches all the way to the ceiling, we never draw or write on the top of it, meaning that the wall isn't even consistently grey. Instead it is nice and clean on the top - and progressively worse as it gets closer to the floor {where little hands can reach}. Now I like ombre as much as the next girl, but this just isn't a good look.

How to Clean a Chalkboard Wall

I've tried repeatedly to the clean the wall with a damp cloth, with a sponge, you name it. With water it would look clean when it was wet, but as it dried the grey, smeary mess would reappear! My older son was always frustrated because it was hard to even see his drawings on top of the constant haze of chalk on our wall.


Months ago I did a bunch of research to find a better way to get the chalkboard clean, and I came across the same suggestion a handful of times. But I just couldn't bring myself to try it. It just made me too nervous. But finally I had enough and I decided it was worth a shot. So I popped open a can of Coke, enjoyed a few sips, and then used it to clean my wall.

Yep, that's right. Coke! Coke is apparently the secret to a clean, and I mean clean, chalkboard wall.

I was extremely skeptical about this. I envisioned it being a sticky mess! So I was shocked pleasantly surprised that it worked and it didn't leave any sticky residue or film on the wall!

Coke came up time and again when I researched how to clean the wall, but I couldn't find any good instructions. Maybe it's just my type-A personality, but I like instructions! So I thought I'd share my method. It was quick and easy, and in about five minutes my chalkboard wall looked like it was brand new!

Step 1: Clean the Wall with a Chalk Eraser

I started by using a chalk eraser to remove at least a little bit of the excess chalk from the wall.


You'll notice that our wall looks textured. It was actually a smooth wall when we started out, but the magnetic primer that we used under the chalkboard paint created a bit of texture. {For more details on magnetic primer, you can read my full review.} This texture makes our chalk wall extra hard to clean, because all of the chalk dust settles down in.

Step 2: Clean With Coke on a Sponge

I started by pouring just enough Coke to cover to bottom of my bowl {I ended up pouring more in as I went, but I'd start with just a little - no need to waste a good Coke!}. Because of the slight texture on the wall, I decided that a sponge would probably be more effective than a rag, so I cut a sponge in half {a better size to fit my bowl} and dipped the sponge in the Coke.


I squeezed the excess Coke back into the bowl so that sponge was wet, but not dripping.

Then I began to clean the wall with the sponge, applying moderate pressure. Immediately I could see that it was working.

Step 3: Rinse and Repeat

The sponge very quickly became covered in chalk. So I rinsed it off with water in the sink, wrang all water out of the sponge, and then dipped the sponge back in the Coke and continued to the clean the wall. I repeated this process until the entire wall was clean.

Some areas higher on the wall that were less chalk covered only required one thorough pass with the sponge to look perfectly clean, while the lower portion of the wall required that I wipe it down a second time to get it really clean.

Here's what the wall looked like with only one section left uncleaned. You can see that it is a drastic difference!

How to Clean a Chalkboard Wall

When I was done, the wall looked as good as the day we painted it!


Obviously it didn't stay looking like this for long, because as soon as my son saw it clean he immediately wanted to draw on it and use the DIY alphabet magnets that I made for him. Which was exactly the reaction I was hoping for!


I love seeing his scribbles on the wall, but I am also so happy to now know that I can get the wall clean when I want to. No more grey, smeary mess!

To get the full effect, here's the before and after! And don't forget to pin this so you'll remember the secret ingredient when you need it!

How to clean a chalkboard wall

45 comments :

  1. Good to knowI I am building one right now for my office and I just used magnetic paint as the base coat! Hope it is worth the smell! Thanks Angela! laura

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    1. Laura, did you see my review of the magnetic primer? It might give you a few good tips for taking advantage of the magnetic element. I can't wait to see you project.

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    2. Thank you for the Coke tip. I just created a similar wall. Where did you get your eraser? I can not find an eraser that works on my magnetic chalkboard wall.

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    3. I did the magnetic paint and then the chalk board paint in the office. I did need to do a few coats of the magnetic paint for it to really work. My office wall looked like yours with not getting it all off. Trying tomorrow Thank you !!

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  2. That's brillz. I need a chalkboard wall!

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  3. This is so great to know!!! I have a floor to ceiling chalkboard wall too! Thanks for doing the research friend :)

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  4. Awesome tip! Thanks for linking to Motivational Monday!

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  5. WONDERFUL! I just need to go out and buy a can of Coke! (I wonder if any brand will work, or Coke specifically...? I'll let you know if I try it.)

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  6. Such a great tip! We've been wanting to paint a small wall like this in our dining room but our worry was never being able to get it clean.

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  7. Awesome tip Angela! and your home is GORgeous!!!!!!! Love your style :)

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  8. Wow, that is amazing...and a little disturbing. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. This is a great tip, sadly it's coke but glad it works so good- I think I saw on Pinterest that coke is good for cleaning toilets too- scary :(

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  10. Thanks so much for this! I don't have a whole wall but the mess on my small chalkboard items drives me crazy. Call it OCD. lol

    Stacy

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  11. Hi Angela, thank you for the post. Your wall looks great! I have 2 questions though.
    1. Did you wipe down the wall with clean water after you applied the coke all over?
    2. Did you have to condition the wall again before writing on it?
    Thanks for your help.

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    1. Hi Natasha. Nope - I didn't do either of those things. I've read time and again that water is actually really bad for the chalk paint, so I didn't wipe it down with water - nor did I need to. It dries perfectly. And I did not recondition the wall either. We've cleaned the board this way many times now, and never had any problems at all.

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    2. Just to be more specific - the reason I chose not to recondition the wall is that conditioning requires covering the entire wall in chalk and then wiping it all off. If I did that, I would have been back to square 1 with needing to use the coke to get the wall clean.

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    3. I found that the only way to get mine this clean is glass cleaner with ammonia. Haven't tried coke tho and haven't tried ammonia free it might work just as well. I will even hair spray my art so it sticks really good and the glass cleaner takes it right off.

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    4. Ammonia will slowly destroy the paint over time, so I would hesitate to clean the wall with Windex.

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  12. Thank you! When we remodeled the dining room, we painted one wall with blackboard paint (after Dave sanded it three times!).

    It's so pretty, we haven't wanted to condition it because it looks so pretty in black. Thanks to you, I can condition without feeling bad.

    (Here from Hometalk)

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  13. Thank you! We recently moved my daughter's bedroom upstairs. She ran me crazy about making on wall chalkboard. Now that it's done we have issues of cleaning it. Can't wait to get off work to tell her about this. We will be trying this asap!

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  14. Hi Angela! We are redoing our kitchen and have a wall similar to yours and we have made it into a chalkboard wall also. We aren't even in the new kitchen yet, so no one has drawn on it, but I was already fretting about keeping it clean. I was happy to find your post. My question is - if I'm going to clean it with Coke, is it necessary to do the initial conditioning? I know you said above you wouldn't re-condition it so it got me thinking that maybe the initial conditioning was unnecessary? Thanks!

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    1. Sorry for my delayed response. I would still do the initial conditioning as called for my the paint. My understanding is that without that first conditioning, the very first things you write on the board might never clean off properly, so I wouldn't skip that step if it is called for in the paint instructions. The instructions on our paint didn't call for re-conditioning after each cleaning regardless of cleaning method, but I don't think that eliminates the need to condition and prepare the chalkboard for it's first use.

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  15. My only concern is bugs. I just tried this and it works great. We tried erasers, vinegar and water... Nothing worked. The coke made it look like a new wall! Coke has a lot of sugar so do I need to be concerned with bugs?

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    1. I have never had any problems with bugs, but I can only speak to our experience. We live in Denver, and bugs are not a problem here in general, but I don't know how it might be different in other regions/climates. In all the research I did prior to trying the Coke on our wall, I never read any comments about any one having problems with bugs.

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  16. Do you know if Pepsi is a working alternative? I don't mind wasting a "good" Pepsi :)

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    1. That's a good question, Matt. I haven't tried Pepsi, and I can't find any mention of anyone else using Pepsi. If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes!

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  17. Thank you for this post! I have a wall in my kitchen that has a small white board on it, and I have been dying to convert the whole wall to a chalkboard wall, but the idea of having to cover the whole wall with a layer of chalk after I clean it has had me holding off. So glad to hear that you haven't had the need to do that after the initial conditioning. I'll definitely read the back of the paint cans before I purchase. Thanks!!!

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  18. You are the chalkboard wall cleaning ANGEL.Thank You

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  19. Amazing method! I have tried it at home. It made my board black like Batmobile. :) I am so glad I have found your post. Greetings! Keep posting!

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  20. Thanks for the post! I am definitely going to try this ASAP! On a side note, I love the 4 piece picture you have on the wall in the back of the pic. Where did you find it?

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    1. Hi Krista! Thanks for your comment I actually painted the four pieces on the back wall myself. It was super easy - just four large, square canvases and some black and silver acrylic paint.

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  21. hi! ive try your method but my wall ended up being really sticky :( i had to clean it with water and stills gummy

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    1. I'm very surprised to hear that, as I've used the ethos at least 20 times with no sticky residue and I've heard from many others who have had no problems at all. Did you use regular Coke, or some other cola? I'm not sure the results would be the same if you used diet or a different brand.

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  22. totally unrelated...what color are your walls? i love that shade of blue...

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  23. I know this is sort of unrelated, but... When your blackboard wall was fresh (as in not yet a week old), and if/ when you wiped it down with water, did you ever notice it begin to smell a bit again? I confess to having applied two coats of paint in the same day. But after that I let it dry for four days before touching it, finally rubbing chalk all over it and promptly erasing it with a damp sponge/ cloth kind of thing. My son and I have only used the thing twice at this point, so it definitely is fresh. But if the paint is totally dry and cured beyond the recommended wait time, why am I getting a fresh(er) paint smell upon wiping it down? Am I erasing too hard or doing something else wrong?

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    1. Breanna, I'm so sorry that I missed your question before. I didn't have this problem at all, so I don't know for sure what may have been happening. I have heard though that cleaning the wall with water can damage the paint. If your chalkboard paint was water based, I wonder if each time you used water to clean it, maybe you were reactivating the paint somehow and that's why it smelled like fresh paint?

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  24. Thanks for the tip. What type of eraser do you use. I have a similar wall and can not find an effective eraser.

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    1. The eraser I have is a Melissa and Doug brand that I picked up at a toy store... but I wouldn't say it's really that effective. In the photo above, you can see that it really just spread the chalk dust around and left a white haze on the chalkboard. When I clean the wall with coke, I just use a white rag. My boys still do like having the eraser though to use when they are drawing on the wall in between the times that I clean it off completely.

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  25. Are you supposed to wipe it down with a water soaked sponge or something? I'm worried that it will be all sticky without using water after the coke.

    -Maddie

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    1. No - water is supposed to be damaging to chalkboard paint, so the point is to not use water. I was skeptical about it being sticky, too, but it's not at all!

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  26. Thank you very much! I have a giant chalkboard wall that the kids use for art/homework. I've cleaned it a million times & it still looked horrible - the coke made it look brand new!

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  27. Hi there! I just found your site via Pinterest and am saving it for future reference. I am getting ready to paint a small wall in my kids bathroom with chalkboard paint. Any tips on painting it? I was told the wall can't have any texture, but our walls do have texture. Should I not paint it? And is there a problem later on re-painting over it? Thanks for any insight!

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    1. I haven't painted over mine yet, so I can't really answer that part. As for the texture on your walls, it really depends on how textured they are. If it's a "knock down" or "orange peel" texture, it may be really hard to write on the wall due to the texture.

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