You thought it looked ready to go, so you simply rolled a coat of your new favorite paint color on the wall and called it a day.  Afterwards you could still see an old patch job and holes that weren’t properly filled by the previous homeowner who didn’t know how to prep an interior wall for painting.  We’ve all been there!

Allow me to share my tried and true tips for how to prep an interior wall for painting which will make your next interior wall painting job much more successful!  No more ‘why didn’t I notice that spot before painting?’ moments.

how to prep an interior wall for paint


I’ve found through experience taking the extra steps to prep a wall makes the actual painting part much faster and your results more professional.  First, let’s start with gathering supplies to which I have included some affiliate links for your convenience, I may earn a small commission should you decided to make a purchase through these links.

1.  Paint Prep Supply List

  1. Basic tools to remove anything on the wall:
  • Flathead screwdriver to remove switch plates
  • Hammer to remove nails
  • Drill or screwdriver to remove any screws in curtain rods or blinds
  • Needle Nose Pliers to help remove drywall anchors

2.  2.  Soap & Water and/or TSP (if a degreaser is needed)

3.  Course Rag and/or Large Sponge

4.  3M Sanding Sponge/Block Medium Grit

5.  Dap’s DryDex® Spackling with Dry Time Indicator

6.  Small Putty Knife

7.  Paint Scraper

7.  Vacuum (Bear with me here!)

8.  Optional Depending on Your Walls:

  • Orange Texture Spray- this will require extra work time and priming
  • Patch Kit – if you have a large hole

2.  Everybody Clear!!  The Walls & Room

Move everything out of the room you can.  Large furniture can be moved to the center as long as you still have plenty of room to walk around it.  Cover anything you wouldn’t want to find a splatter of paint on.  But wait!  Before you move EVERYTHING out read this tip…

Special Tip:  Make sure to have a flat surface at waste or table height to put your paint tray on like a nightstand or dresser.  It’ll be much easier on yourself to not have to bend down to the floor or hold the tray.  Pick strategic locations where you can have this set-up around the room especially if you’ll be painting with a partner.

No More Lazy Prep Work

Repeat after me, “I will no longer paint around nails, switch plates, curtain rods or anything else on the wall, and I will remove said things before painting.”

Welcome to the professional results side of DIY…taking those extra steps to prep.  Part of being a great DIY’er and loving your results is thinking about it from the view of someone who’s hired out the job.  If you hired a painter, and that person didn’t remove all the nails-just painted over them you’d be upset, and likely feel a little swindles by a so-called professional.  Keep those same standards for yourself, because you are using the currency of time.  By the end of this post, you’ll be your own professional knowing how to prep an  interior wall for painting.

When Not to Remove Something from the Wall

If you know for sure you’ll be putting something back in the same spot then and only then you don’t need to bother filling the hole especially if it’s a drywall anchor.  That would be silly to remove and patch just to do it over again.  If you’re hanging the same curtain rod or blinds back in place you still need to remove them and the mounting brackets, you just don’t need to fill the holes.  Likewise, remove any towel racks or bars in a bathroom.  Next we’ll do a little cleaning.

3.  Clean Dirt Off the Wall

Clean the wall with diluted liquid dish soap and water.  Be mindful not to soak the wall.  I clean the wall first to get it out of the way plus it helps in the next few steps of prep work.

If you’re painting in the kitchen, clean the wall with a degreaser or TSP to break down the build-up of grease and grime.  This is especially important if your walls are glossy since it will dull the shine making the new layer of paint able to grab a hold better.  When using TSP make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for safety and dilution.  After cleaning with TSP, rinse the wall using a damp rag.

Some may argue using a primer like Bin’s Zinsser will block anything from coming through and block smells.  While I agree with that primer’s ability to do that, I still opt to take the extra step to clean the walls first.  It doesn’t take long, and it ensures all the past funk is gone for good and it’s an added method to ensure proper adhesion for the new paint.  Now let’s fix that Swiss cheese look.

4.  Fill Nail Holes in the Wall

After removing all the nails and screws from the wall it’s time to fill all those holes, and do any patch work.  I’m not going into detail about patching a wall in this post-only nail holes since that’s more common when prepping your walls for paint.

I do want to tell you I don’t like using the tube of filler products, because they tend to be only good for one project.  The kneading hurts my hand, they dry-up, a hole busts in the base…I could go on and on.  Mostly, I prefer to have something that seals well, and will keep for future use.

My preferred product is the Dap’s DryDex® SpacklingDryDex Spakling Tub to Prep an Interior Wall for Painting  listed in the supply list for three reasons:
  1. It seals and keeps for future projects.
  2. The color changing allows me to see when it’s dry which comes in handy if I’m prepping and painting in the same day.
  3. It’s easy to use.

Filling nail holes is a simple and easy process:

  • Fill the hole with a fair amount of spackle (you can always add more if you see it sinking in as it dries)
  • Wipe the wall on top of and around the filled hole with a damp rag to wipe of any excess spackle.
  • Make sure there is enough spackle in the hole and at the entrance to the hole to make an even level on the wall, but avoid excess causing a large flat spot on the wall.
  • Allow to dry.  Color changing spackle will turn from pink to white as it dries.
  • Sand with the medium sponge/block until the filled hole has a smooth and even surface.

Scraping Any Previous Oopsies Found on the Wall

  I like to use a paint scraper to scrape off any large bumps from old paint drips or bad patch jobs.  Just run the scraper along the wall gently.  Make sure to do a quick sanding to smooth out the different paint layer edges after scraping.

At this point, you’ll want to check for evenness including those filled nail holes on the wall.  Shine a concentrated light down the wall, and use painter’s tape to mark any spots that need correction.  Repeat the steps of patching and sanding as needed.  Next up is adding texture.

5.  Adding Texture to Wall Patches

If you have textured walls and had a large patch job you’ll need to add texture to the flat patched surface.  There are several ways to do this.  If you used joint compound you may have used that to create a little texture.  If not, I prefer using the orange peel texture spray.

There is a little learning curve, though.  The can has different levels of texture, so practice it on a piece of scrap cardboard or newspaper before using it on your walls.  You may need to practice knocking it down a little with a putty knife to flatten the texture to match your wall’s texture.  Sand that area a little afterward, too.

Lastly, you’ll have to paint a couple coats of primer otherwise you’ll see a noticeable discoloration after your new paint color has dried.  Almost finished!

6.  Clean All Debris Off the Wall

Clean off all debris from the walls by using a dry lint-free cloth or large sponge.

Special Tip:  If your walls are heavily textured or very dusty it is easier to put the brush head attachment on your vacuum and vacuum the walls.  This ensures the wall is truly dust free and ready for paint.

You Now Know How to Prep an  Interior Wall for Painting & Are Ready to Get Your Painting Supplies Ready

If you’re painting the same day, your next step will be to tape off the wall, but I’m going to save that step for the actual painting a wall post.  These steps on how to prep an interior wall for painting are enough for me for one day.  I hope these tips helped you for your paint project.  Leave a comment with any added tips you may have.

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