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The Ugly Beige Walls In My Apartment Are Bringing Me Down

This is what your place looks like, right?
Caiaimage/Tom Merton/Getty

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Out, Damned Spot has long provided general tips to keep your fashions looking amazing, but now, twice a month, I'll also be answering questions about the very specific problems your new (or old!) purchases may present. Do you have questions for me? Ask away!

I live in a rental and I have those awful "Rental Beige" walls that my landlord won’t let me paint over. After 5 years of living here, there are scratches and marks everywhere, especially my foyer. I’d love to know the best way to get them removed! — Sally Kuchar

Rental Beige should actually be the name of that horrible shade of paint. Can we petition the White House to make it so? And then can we start a follow-up petition to outlaw the use of Rental Beige, because it's terrible and soul-sucking and we deserve better.

Until the day when Rental Beige is banned by Executive Order, there are some things you can do to make it less horrible. Some are quick fixes and some involve a bit more work, so we'll start with the easiest solution and work our way out to the more labor-intensive options.

Use Magic

When I say, "use magic," I don't exactly mean the abracadabra kind, though if you're skilled in the art of hocus pocus by all means wave your wand and spellcast your way into finer looking walls! I'm all for the employment of witchery when it comes to home improvement projects.

The Magic Eraser is the most amazing thing when it comes to taking nicks, dings, and scratches off of walls.

For those of you who flunked out of wizarding school, however, you'll need to use more practical magic (GET IT?)(sorry): The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. The ole eraser is the most amazing thing when it comes to taking nicks, dings, and scratches off of walls. To use it, hold the eraser under cold running water, then squeeze it several times until very little water is extruded when you press it. Then, using firm pressure, rub the damp eraser on the marks until they're gone.

A few fine points to make about the Magic Eraser: First, you should test it on an inconspicuous spot to be sure it won't damage the finish of the surface on which you're doing the erasing. Second, it will disintegrate as you use it, much like a rubber eraser will — don't be thrown off by that, it's supposed to happen. Last, the eraser can be a little drying, so you may want to wear gloves if you're going to be working with it for an extended period of time so that your hands don't suffer.

Wash the Walls

Allow me to regale you with some capital-R, capital-T Real Talk: Washing walls is a bummer of a job, man. There's not much to it, but it's a sloggy, drippy, exhausting wreck of a task. With that said, it's also deeply satisfying and sort of shocking — you won't believe how actually filthy your walls are until you hit them with some good old soap-and-water, and then you'll be like, "Whoa. How have I lived like this?"

The instructions are very simple, but don't let the simplicity fool you — you should set aside a big chunk of time to devote to the task. You should also wear old clothes and be prepared to sweat, because it's much more physical than it seems like it would be.

It's much more physical than it seems like it would be.

So, with all that said, here's how you wash a wall! If there's visible dust, start by using a broom or a vacuum to remove any loose buildup. Then, using a light-colored rag or sponge, begin washing the walls using a solution of dish soap diluted in water, working from the top down.

Just as with the Magic Eraser, there are a few fine points to make about wall-washing: When mixing the dish soap solution, be sparing in your use of soap — a few drops will go a long way, and you don't want an overly sudsy solution because it will be a mess to work with. You'll also want to dump the solution out regularly so that you're not washing portions of your walls with dirty water. Bear that in mind when you're filling your bucket with water and soap, because you will undoubtedly make more solution than you need, given that you'll be frequently dumping it out. In terms of the choice of rag or sponge, I personally find a rag the size of a hand or dish towel to be ideal; it allows you to cover more space than a sponge but isn't so large that it becomes unwieldy to handle.

One last item for my height-challenged sisters! You will assuredly need a ladder for this operation, and you also may need to convert a broom into a long-handled wall-washing tool. To do so, secure a rag around the bristles with a rubber band, dip the rag in the soapy water, and sort of brush/scrub at the upper portion of the walls.

Throw Caution to the Wind and Repaint

You know the old saying "it's better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission"? In the case of those ugly beige rental walls, you may want to just slap on a fresh coat of paint and hope that the landlord doesn't notice. Your best bet for this operation is to stick with white paint, as tempting as it may be to go for a nice yellow or blue.

Or Maybe a Temporary Fix Would Be Better?

If repainting isn't something you want to fool with, perhaps a temporary wall covering is the happy medium you need in your life? There are lots of options, from decals to temporary wallpaper. I wouldn't suggest hanging a tapestry, unless you're going for a dorm room-chic effect, but a large textile is definitely an option for covering up ugly walls. Another fun choice, especially for the craftier among us, is to use a large cluster of framed items to draw attention away from the uninspiring beige walls. Maybe pick up old framed items at flea markets, yard sales, second hand shops, etc. and paint them all so they coordinate? Another turn on the idea is to buy a few large canvasses, and either paint them or cover them with fabric for a quickie art installment. Just think how envious your Pinterest followers will be when they see what a creative genius you are!