How to Clean High Ceilings That Are Nearly Impossible to Reach

By Marilyn Syarto


Psychological studies show that high ceilings symbolize a sense of freedom to our brains. Because of this, realtors consider it a selling point if a home has ceilings soaring over eight feet high, says Fast Company Magazine, and the sweet spot is between nine- and 10-feet tall ceilings to be considered a high-end home.


So how do we clean all that liberated space up there? As desirable as high ceilings are, they tend to collect spider webs, dust, and dander that’s hard to reach on your weekly house cleaning rounds. And many cathedral or vaulted ceilings include long spans of decorative beams, skylights, and ceiling fans, all of which are the ultimate dust catchers.


Our guide gives you the tips to learn how to clean high ceilings with minimal muss and fuss so you can enjoy more time gazing up at the pristine walls and less time pointing out dirt.

double-story living room with high ceilings

Photo via Celia Sasser Interiors


How Often to Clean High Ceilings

Dusty, dirty ceilings of any height can create unhealthy air quality in your home. Dust mites lurking high above can cause you and your family to develop allergic reactions and possibly lead to asthma symptoms. Oftentimes, you can’t even see the dust when it’s so high up, which means it’s building up and choking the air in your home. With that said, experts recommend cleaning high ceilings every two weeks.


Don’t Forget the Walls

Dust will collect on the walls, too, so don’t forget to clean them at the same time you’re cleaning the ceiling. This is also important if you have a wall treatment or border near the ceiling that can trap dust and dirt.


How to Dust High Ceilings

This is the first step in cleaning your high ceilings. You can dust regularly, and wash more infrequently (see steps below). Dusting can be relatively easy if you have the correct extension poles and telescoping wands.


For dusting a ceiling, we recommend a lambswool duster. A lambswool duster has lanolin, which creates static electricity that grabs dust faster and easier than other types of dusters, according to Sweeping Dimensions Cleaning Service in Chicago.


Doesn’t Gravity Help?

When undisturbed, dust and grime doesn’t fall from higher places as we may think. Instead, it collects up there, according to Austin Professional Cleaning Services. This is due to frictional forces on surfaces that end up grabbing and trapping all that dust.


Tools and Materials Needed:


Step 1: Protect Furniture and Floors

Cover furniture and floors with plastic sheeting, tarps, or old sheets so the dust that does fall won’t become trapped below.


Step 2: Flood Lighting into the Room

To find hidden corners and pockets of dust and grime, you need all the light you can get into the room. Turn on all the lights, open all the window treatments, and if you have a headlamp, use that when you are on the ladder.


Step 3: Place Ladder and Put On Protection

For safety, place the ladder a few feet away from a wall and work from the edges of the ceiling inward. Be sure to put on your face mask and eye equipment for protection against dust.


Step 4: Vacuum Ceiling

Vacuum along the edge of the ceiling where the ceiling meets the wall. Move your ladder around as needed.


Popcorn Ceilings

If you have a popcorn ceiling, it might be best to skip the vacuuming step. Popcorn ceilings installed before the 1980s are known to contain asbestos, and disturbing the ceiling too much could release asbestos particles. We also have a guide to removing popcorn ceilings (when it's safe to do so).


Step 5: Wipe Fixtures

After vacuuming, use a dry microfiber cloth attached to an extended pole to dust any light fixtures, piping, vents, or other high-up accessories, move your ladder around as needed.


Step 6: Vacuum the Walls

After dusting the ceiling, vacuum the walls so you can eliminate the dust that landed on your vertical surfaces.


Step 7: Remove Sheeting

If you are done dusting and don’t need to wash, remove the sheeting from furniture and floors and vacuum the floors. If you want to wash or remove stains, keep the sheeting on and use the following steps on washing high ceilings and removing stains for a deeper clean.

woman cleaning ceiling using long paint roller

Photo via Shutterstock


How to Wash High Ceilings

After dusting, you may want to do a deeper cleaning by “washing” the ceiling. Washing the ceiling will brighten your room as it removes another layer of dust and grime that’s just sitting on the surface of your ceiling. It’s also the best time to wash skylights.


Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Large spray bottle
  • Water
  • Liquid dish detergent
  • A few teaspoons of white vinegar (for each batch you mix)
  • Paint roller and roller head
  • Extension pole
  • Dry microfiber cloths
  • Rubber bands to attach cloth to roller head


Step 1: Mix Cleaning Ingredients

Mix the liquids in the spray bottle and vigorously shake to blend. The proportions of water and detergent won’t really matter—try 50/50, and if that seems too much or too soapy, reduce the amount of detergent a bit.


Step 2: Spray Paint Roller

To avoid patches, spray the paint roller with the solution. Do not soak the paint roller—you don’t want it dripping, just get it damp enough to be effective.


Step 3: Roll the Ceiling

Use the damp paint roller to roll over sections over the ceiling, adding more solution to the paint roller as it dries out. Roll in patterns for a consistent look. Dab a bit at any subtle stains you spot, but roll over them after dabbing.


Step 4: Dry the Ceiling

Use an extension or a dry roller head with an attached clean, dry cloth to go over the ceiling to absorb any excess water or dampness.


How to Remove Stains on High Ceilings

If you have some stains high up that you know you can clean (unlike stains that may have been the result of leaks), this will involve deeper cleaning and a few more ingredients. Here are three ways, from simple to most complex, to attack stains after dusting and washing the ceiling. These are all only doable if you are able to physically reach the ceiling with your hands:

  • Melamine Foam Eraser: If you can reach the stain, try a slightly dampened melamine foam erase to eliminate the problem. Gently rub the eraser on the stain. If the stain doesn’t lift immediately, move onto the baking soda paste.
  • Baking soda paste: Mix baking soda and water to make a paste. Using a clean rag, rub a minimum amount of the solution on the stain in a circular motion. Rinse with a slightly damp cloth, then dry with another cloth.
  • TSP: If you have a high ceiling with soot or smoke stains, it’s best to use trisodium phosphate (TSP) diluted with water. TSP is a heavy-duty cleaner (found in any hardware store or home improvement retailer) often used to clean grimy, greasy, and nicotine-stained kitchen cabinets and walls before painting. It also eliminates the odor of nicotine and tar. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the label for safety. Warning: Wear a face mask, eye protection, and gloves when using TSP.


When to Call a Professional

There are times when it’s important to call in cleaning professionals to help eradicate the dust, dirt, and other stains on your high ceilings. Here are a few instances where you should count on the pros:

  • If you are physically unable to climb and reach the ceiling with cleaning tools.
  • If you are time-constrained and you haven’t cleaned your high ceilings in over a month or two.
  • If you have run-of-the-mill stains, like food or crayon marks (maybe your family likes to throw things high up for fun!), and you can’t reach the stains, then it may be helpful to have a pro come in and concentrate on erasing the problems.
  • If your high ceiling has a decorative medallion, painting, chandelier, or other delicate artistic work that needs special care when cleaning, call in a pro.
  • If you had a leak or other type of roof damage that resulted in stains developing on your high ceilings, you may need more than cleaning pros to help—you may need a ceiling repair or patch job.


Have we missed any tips and tricks to keeping a high ceiling clean? Let us know in the comments below!

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