How do I Remove Ceiling Stains?

Jessica F. Black
Jessica F. Black
A step ladder offers a stable platform for cleaning ceilings, as opposed to a chair.
A step ladder offers a stable platform for cleaning ceilings, as opposed to a chair.

There is a series of methods that can be used to remove ceiling stains, often caused by water or mildew. The source of the damage should be located and once the cause is identified, it should be repaired to prevent recurring ceiling stains, especially leaking water. Some stains caused by leaks may require construction in order to reach the source, and the piece of damaged drywall or ceiling tile is usually replaced. Ceiling stains that do not require complete removal can be cleaned and repainted with specific materials.

Bleach may be helpful for treating mildew problems.
Bleach may be helpful for treating mildew problems.

The surface should be cleaned after all other problems are resolved. An efficient chemical commonly used to eliminate water and mildew spots is a bleach based product. Directions for dilution and chemical mixing should always be followed to avoid hazardous contact and inhalation. Most mixtures require at least a medium size bucket filled with hot water to maximize sterilization. Plastic should be draped on furniture and placed on the floor to prevent further water damage in the room.

A step ladder, as opposed to a chair or unstable piece of furniture, should be set up properly to ensure safety. Goggles should be used because you will be scrubbing with chemicals directly over the head. The damaged area should be scrubbed several times before rinsing thoroughly with a clean wet rag. Drying times vary depending on the amount of cleaning fluid or water used and the temperature of the room.

The area should be completely dry before applying a stain sealing primer, and you should notice that the stain is significantly lighter. A thin coat of stain sealer can be applied with a painting utensil and can be repeated to ensure full coverage. There are specialized sprays for ceiling stains that are inexpensive, easy to use, and generally available at local hardware stores. Sprays may not be the best option for large ceiling stains, however, because overexposure to the fumes can be hazardous.

After the ceiling stains are covered by the stain sealer and the entire area is dry, the section can be coated with household interior paint. Some people choose to repaint the entire ceiling in order for it to match, depending on how long it has been since it was painted and how much discoloration has occurred across the rest of the surface. Recently painted rooms and ceilings will be able to withstand touch ups without noticing that a specific area has just been painted.

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Discussion Comments


As I get older, I have more and more difficulty getting on and off of a ladder. My knees don't care for the stepping up and the stepping down, and I don't feel as safe as I would like to feel ona ladder. If you are like me then instead of climbing a ladder or stepping onto furniture, try using one of the long rollers, a roller with the long handle attached. You can reach the average ceiling easily with these and there is no danger involved.


My mother's favorite cleaning product is bleach. Used the right way, bleach will fade almost any stain, including ceiling stains caused by leaking water. She takes some of the laudry bleach and mixes it with water to clean water stains and to remove mold and mildew stains.

The bleach and water can be mixed and sprayed or applied in some way directly to mold to kill it. The bleach works well for cleaning mold and mildew off of roofs and off of the sides of houses.


I wish I had read this artilce a little earlier. I am painting the living room in our house. This is an old farm house that had been vacant for a couple years or so before we bought it. The roof had leaks in several places and the living room was the worse of all I think. There are brown circle stains in a couple areas on the living room ceiling.

The stains are not terrible. They are not huge, and they aren't really really dark or anything, but they are noticeable, and they would be even more noticeable with the entire ceiling freshly painted.

I thought maybe I would just be able to put on a couple of coats of primer and then a coat of paint and cover the stains, but this doesn't work. After several coats, I see that I can't just cover the stains. They definitely have to be cleaned first.

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    • A step ladder offers a stable platform for cleaning ceilings, as opposed to a chair.
      By: Winai Tepsuttinun
      A step ladder offers a stable platform for cleaning ceilings, as opposed to a chair.
    • Bleach may be helpful for treating mildew problems.
      By: design56
      Bleach may be helpful for treating mildew problems.