Interior Painting Step 5: Touch Up and Clean Up

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Time required:

1 to 2 hours for an average size bedroom

Equipment list:


Ready to finish painting the room and get on with your life? Yeah! Don’t stumble just short of the finish line. Follow these instructions to give everything a nice, finished, snappy look.


Congratulations, you’re done painting the room! Well, not quite done. 🙂 Now it’s time to do some touch up and clean up.

First, check the ceiling. Did you bump it with the roller when painting the walls? Now is the time to touch it up. Dab at it with a brush to mimic roller stipple so the touch up will blend in more. (Throwaway foam brushes can work well for this too and then you don’t have to wash your real brushes.)

Also take a look at the line between the ceiling paint and the wall paint, assuming they are different colors. As mentioned in Step 3: Painting the Walls, it’s best if the wall paint runs just slightly (1/32-inch) up onto the ceiling rather than having ceiling paint wavering down onto the wall. However, if you accidentally ran it more than that and you see some noticeable wavering, use the ceiling paint to cut it back a little and straighten it out. Just don’t run the ceiling paint back down onto the wall even one little bit!

Next, inspect all the lines where the trim paint meets the wall paint and fix any obvious messes. If the trim paint wavers out onto the wall anywhere, you can fix it by taping off the trim with blue painter’s tape and brushing the wall lightly with a “dry brush,” which just means the brush isn’t dripping with paint. Make sure you press the tape down VERY hard with your finger immediately before brushing, then remove it immediately after. By using a “dry brush” and removing the tape quickly you minimize the chances of 1) paint leaking under the tape; and 2) the tape damaging the fresh paint on the trim.

NOTE: In Step 4: Painting the Trim, I warned against applying tape to recently painted walls because it tends not to stick well. However, for some reason putting a little blue tape on recently painted wood trim sticks better, at least temporarily, and this can really help straighten out any wavering. See the video for tips on how to do this.

Next, touch up any wall spots that need it. Be surgical with a small brush (or foam brush) when touching up walls, using a dabbing motion to mimic roller stipple rather than brush strokes. You can also try a mini roller for larger areas of touch up. However, be aware that, especially with dark colors, touching up a big spot in the middle of a wall can “flash” with a slightly different sheen, and that spot will remain visible. If there is a lot of touch up needed, consider re-rolling the entire wall (no need to cut in again). But for little spots on the wall, just dab with a brush to mimic roller stipple.

When you’re satisfied the touch up is done, it’s time to remove any remaining tape and paper still adorning the room. You can use the corner tip of your 1-inch putty knife to gently score the paint bridge before removing the tape, but be careful you don’t go off track and mar the trim or wall. Once you pull tape off something, use a wet rag wrapped around the tip of your putty knife to clean any errant paint that leaked underneath (onto door hinges, natural wood trim, etc.). If you get it right away it’s easy to clean.

Now you are ready to put the switch plates and outlet covers back on (consider buying nice new ones). Put the door back up if you took it down to paint it. Then roll up the drop cloths up, take them outside, shake them out, fold them and store them.

Vacuum the floor of the room thoroughly. If any paint leaked through the drop cloths and stained the carpet, see my video Cleaning Latex Paint Off Carpet as soon as possible because you don’t want that paint to harden. If you’re really concerned, call a professional carpet cleaner as soon as possible. If the paint DOES harden, try rubbing it off with 80-grit sandpaper. It actually works well to remove dried paint from carpet threads!

Once the room is clean, you can start putting it back together—move in the furniture, put up the pictures, hand up the curtains, etc.

Of course, the final step is to clean and store all your equipment. I usually throw out the roller covers after letting them dry thoroughly on a piece of cardboard (I like to buy new ones for each job). The brushes, on the other hand, can last for many years if they are cleaned properly, so see the video Cleaning a Paint Brush in the Kitchen Sink.

Okay, now you’re really done. Congratulations on your beautiful room!

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