Using Murphy’s Oil Soap on Painted Walls

Murphy’s oil soap has been a cleaning staple in many homes for generations. Known for its versatility, Murphy’s oil soap can clean wood floors, finished furniture, tile, appliances and more. But is it safe to use on painted walls?

The short answer is yes, Murphy’s oil soap can be used to clean painted wall surfaces. When mixed with water and used properly, it can help remove dirt, grime, smoke film and stains from painted walls without damaging the paint. However, some important considerations exist when using Murphy’s oil soap on walls, so proper precautions should be taken.

Murphy's Oil Soap on Painted Walls

An Overview of Murphy’s Oil Soap

Murphy’s oil soap has been around since the early 20th century. The Murphy Door Bed Company originally developed it as a cleaning product for their wood room dividers and beds. The key active ingredient in Murphy’s oil soap is coconut oil. Other ingredients may include vegetable oil, olive oil, potassium hydroxide (lye soap), sodium chloride (table salt), borax, and essential oils.

The oils in Murphy’s oil soap work as a gentle cleaner and conditioner. The soap emulsifies grease and grime, allowing it to be dissolved in water and rinsed away. It also contains moisturizers that impart a protective finish on wood and other surfaces. This helps repel dirt and dust after cleaning.

Over the years, people realized Murphy’s oil soap was effective not just on wood, but on all surfaces – from painted walls to appliances to tile floors. It became a versatile household cleaner found in most homes.

Today, Murphy’s oil soap has different versions for specific uses. The original formula is best for unfinished wood. There is also a Murphy’s Oil Soap for finished wood and a Murphy’s Oil Soap specifically designed for use on painted walls and surfaces.

Is It Safe to Use on Painted Walls?

The short answer is yes, Murphy’s oil soap is generally safe to use on latex and oil-based painted walls. The ingredients are designed to cut through dirt, grease and grime without damaging or interacting poorly with paint.

Murphy’s oil soap contains surfactants that emulsify grease and dirt. This allows the grime to be lifted and rinsed away without abrasive scrubbing that could mar the paint finish. The oils also act as a conditioner that can leave walls looking revitalized.

When used correctly, Murphy’s oil soap can safely:

  • Remove dirt, dust, grease and grime from painted walls
  • Get rid of sticky residues or smoke film on walls
  • Clean scuff marks and help remove stains
  • Condition the paint and leave walls looking fresh

However, there are a few precautions to take when using Murphy’s oil soap on walls which will be covered next.

Mixing a Murphy’s Oil Soap Cleaning Solution

Murphy’s Oil Soap concentrate must be diluted with water before cleaning walls. This helps control the strength of the cleaner.

Here is a typical dilution for cleaning painted walls:

  • 1/3 cup Murphy’s Oil Soap
  • 1 gallon warm water

Pour the concentrate into the water and mix thoroughly until the soap is dissolved. You can use less soap for lighter cleaning. More concentrated solutions can be used for tougher cleaning jobs.

Warm or hot water helps dissolve and activate the soap. But hot water can dry out paint, so warm water is ideal.

You can apply the Murphy’s solution to walls using:

  • A sponge or soft cloth
  • A rag, chamois or microfiber cloth
  • A bucket and sponge mop for large wall areas

Avoid abrasive scrub brushes or scouring pads as these can damage the paint. A soft cloth, sponge or rag is safest.

Cleaning Painted Walls with Murphy’s Oil Soap

Once mixed, the Murphy’s oil soap solution can be applied to painted walls. Here is a step-by-step process for cleaning walls:

1. Prepare the Area

Sweep the floor and remove any items from the walls. Cover or tape over electrical outlets. Have a bucket of clean rinse water ready.

2. Apply the Solution

Dip your cleaning cloth, sponge or rag into the Murphy’s solution and wring it out so it’s not dripping. Apply the solution to a small wall section using gentle overlapping circular motions. Work from top to bottom.

3. Let It Sit

Let the Murphy’s solution sit on the wall for 2-3 minutes. This gives the soap time to penetrate and emulsify grease and grime. Don’t let it sit too long or it may dry.

4. Gently Scrub

Gently scrub the wall section using circular motions to help loosen dirt. Apply light pressure with your sponge or rag. Never aggressively scrub or you may damage the paint.

5. Rinse

Use a clean wet rag to rinse the Murphy’s soap off your cleaned section. Wipe diagonally across the area to rinse effectively. Rinsing prevents residue buildup.

6. Work in Sections

Do one wall section in 3′ x 3′ areas. Soap, gently scrub, then rinse before moving to the next section. This keeps the soap wet and active.

7. Detail Clean

Use a small brush and concentrated Murphy’s solution to detail clean corners, moldings, edges and ceilings. Rinse promptly.

8. Final Rinse

Once the entire wall is cleaned, rinse from top to bottom using a hose on shower setting or wet rag. Let walls air dry.

9. Clean Up

Rinse all your cleaning rags, sponges and brushes in water to remove leftover soap before storing them.

This process allows you to safely clean painted walls without damaging the finish. Always test first in an inconspicuous spot and take care on flat and matte paints.

Tips for Using Murphy’s Oil Soap on Walls

Follow these tips when using Murphy’s oil soap on painted wall surfaces:

  • Always dust walls first with a microfiber cloth to remove loose dirt. The soap solution will work better on a lightly pre-cleaned surface.
  • Test the soap dilution on a small area first to observe any effects on your specific paint. Check for damage, discoloration or smudges before proceeding.
  • Take extra care on matte and flat paints prone to showing marks and shiny spots when cleaned. Use minimal pressure.
  • Don’t use abrasive scrub pads or brushes. Stick to soft sponges, rags and microfiber cloths. Scrub gently in the direction of the grain.
  • Work in small sections and rinse promptly. Don’t let soap residue dry on the walls.
  • Wear protective gloves, since prolonged exposure to concentrated soap can dry out skin. Open windows for ventilation.
  • When cleaning heavily soiled walls, let the soap sit for 5 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing. This allows it to penetrate built-up grime.
  • Don’t use too much pressure when scrubbing or you may damage the paint. Take a gentle approach.
  • Rinse walls multiple times to remove all soap residue which can leave an oily film.

Following these tips, Murphy’s Oil Soap can safely clean painted walls and leave them refreshed. But it’s vital to take precautions against damaging paint.

Can Murphy’s Oil Soap Remove Paint?

If you’ve ever gotten Murphy’s oil soap on your hands, you may have noticed it can feel slightly slimy or slippery. This oily texture makes some wonder, can Murphy’s remove paint from walls if you scrub hard enough?

The answer is yes, Murphy’s oil soap does have the potential to remove paint from walls if used improperly. Here’s why:

  • Abrasive Scrubbing – Murphy’s contains surfactants that can break down paint molecules when coupled with aggressive scrubbing. Scrubbing too hard can wear away the paint.
  • High Concentrations – Using too much Murphy’s concentrate in your cleaning solution can make it strong enough to interact with paint. Always dilute it well.
  • Flat Paints – Flat and matte paint finishes are softer and more prone to damage from scrubbing or cleaning. Murphy’s should be used very gently on these surfaces.

Always test Murphy’s oil soap on a small spot to avoid stripping paint from walls. Make sure your dilution ratio isn’t too concentrated. Scrub gently using minimal pressure. Take extra care on flat and matte paints.

Murphy’s oil soap can safely clean painted walls with the proper precautions. But used incorrectly, it can potentially damage and remove paint from walls. Dilution, application and gentle scrubbing are key.

Using Murphy’s Oil Soap on Antique and Vintage Painted Surfaces

Murphy’s Oil Soap has been used for generations as a gentle cleaner for antique wood furniture and other vintage items like painted ceramic tiles. But is it safe for use on old antique-painted walls and murals? The answer is a qualified yes, but extra care should be taken. When used correctly, Murphy’s Oil Soap can safely clean painted antique surfaces without causing harm. However, antique paints are more delicate and prone to damage than modern latex and enamels.

Here are some tips for using Murphy’s Oil Soap on old vintage painted walls and murals:

  • Test a small, inconspicuous area first to observe any effects on the old paint. Old paint may have a fragile binder that can be disrupted.
  • Dilute the soap well, starting with just 1/8 cup soap per gallon of warm water. Increase strength slowly as needed.
  • Use only soft sponges, rags or very soft bristle brushes. Avoid any abrasive scrubbing.
  • Work extremely gently using minimal pressure. Antique paints are delicate and scratch easily.
  • Work in small sections to keep the soap wet and prevent buildup. Rinse thoroughly after each section is cleaned.
  • Avoid excess moisture that can seep into cracks or make paint swell. Use a lightly dampened cloth.
  • Rinse repeatedly to remove all soap residues which can leave an oily film on old paint over time.
  • Let the soap sit for 2-3 minutes before gently scrubbing to allow dirt penetration. But don’t allow it to dry on the surface.
  • Avoid cleaning antique wallpaper, as the soap may cause stains or bleeding of colors.
  • Check for any signs of paint swelling, cracking, clouding or bleeding during cleaning. Stop immediately if observed.

With proper dilution and gentle application, Murphy’s Oil Soap can clean soot, dirt and grime from antique painted walls without damaging them. But take precautions, test first, and stop immediately if any concerns arise. Consult a professional art restorer for guidance if needed.

Alternatives to Murphy’s Oil Soap for Cleaning Walls

While Murphy’s Oil Soap is a popular cleaning choice, some people prefer not to use it on their painted walls. Others may find it leaves too much residue. Here are a few alternative cleaners to consider:

Dish Soap –

A mild dish soap like Dawn mixed with warm water can be an effective painted wall cleaner. Use a couple drops of soap per gallon of water. Rinse walls thoroughly after cleaning.

Vinegar –

White vinegar is a natural cleaner that can cut through grease and grime. Mix 1/2 cup vinegar with 1 gallon of warm water to clean walls. The vinegar smell dissipates quickly.

Baking Soda –

Make a paste with baking soda and water to scrub off dirt and stains from walls. Rinse completely afterwards. Baking soda is abrasive so scrub gently.

Commercial Wall Cleaners –

There are specialty wall cleaners available that are designed just for cleaning painted wall surfaces safely. Many contain detergents that are effective yet gentle.

Ammonia –

A dilute ammonia solution can dissolve grease and clean walls. Mix 1/2 cup with 1 gallon water. Never mix ammonia with bleach. Rinse surfaces thoroughly after use.

Hydrogen Peroxide –

Hydrogen peroxide can help lift stains like crayon marks from painted walls. Use 3% concentration, test on a small area and don’t leave on too long before rinsing.

With the proper precautions, these alternatives can safely clean painted walls without Murphy’s Oil Soap. As always, test first on an inconspicuous spot before full cleaning.


Murphy’s Oil Soap is designed as a gentle, versatile cleaner for all surfaces, including painted walls and murals. When diluted properly and applied carefully, it can effectively clean painted walls without posing damage. However, precautions must be taken especially on flat, antique and vintage paints by scrubbing gently and rinsing thoroughly after cleaning. With proper use, Murphy’s Oil Soap can safely clean painted wall surfaces and leave them revitalized. But alternatives like dish soap, vinegar and commercial cleaners are also available if a Murphy’s-free option is preferred.

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