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How to Clean Tin Ceilings

Brenda Priddy

Tin tile ceilings were once the rage in older houses. The use of ceiling details was one way that homes were given extra individuality. Now tin ceilings have become a home fashion statement once more. Many people are using tin antique tiles in modern homes or renovation projects.

However, because of the age of the tin tiles, they are often dirty and rusty. Knowing how to properly care for these tiles is important for their upkeep and longevity.

  1. Examine the tin ceiling tiles to see if the surface is painted. Painted ceiling tiles will be cleaned a little differently than non-painted tiles. Assemble all materials necessary. Wear the rubber gloves and safety goggles. Place the ladder on a sturdy surface. Make sure it does not rock back and forth.

  2. Dust a small area of the ceiling with a soft cloth rag, feather duster or dust mop. If the tiles are very old, it is likely that a lot of dirt will be built up onto the tiles. The surface may be sticky. If this is the case, then additional cleaning may be necessary. Mix a solution of mild dishwashing soap in with a bucket of warm water, and softly wipe the tin tiles with a wet rag. Note any changes to the surface of the tiles. Sometimes paint or finishes may become damaged when washed with soap.

  3. Dust the entire ceiling. Wear goggles and a mask so dust does not get into your eyes and lungs. This should be done every few weeks. If cleaned often enough, this is the only cleaning most tin tiles will ever need. However, areas near grease, such as in the kitchen, will require additional cleaning.

  4. Use the dish soap and water to gently clean the ceiling tiles with a soft cloth. Occasionally it may be necessary to apply more pressure on deep grease spots. However, caution should be used when scratching tiles. Painted tin ceilings should never be scratched. Dry the tiles quickly with a large towel so rust doesn't develop on the tiles.

  5. Use a steel wool pad on rust spots that are present on unpainted tin ceiling tiles. Older houses will often have rusty patches due to age. The steel wool is gentle enough to remove small patches of rust without damaging the tin underneath.

  6. Tip

    It is best to work in small sections at a time. This is the easiest way to see progress, remain safe and prevent damage to the tin tiles.


    Never use steel wool on painted tin ceiling tiles. Always wear safety goggles and surgical masks when completing this project. Dust can easily get into your eyes and mouth. Many older paints contained lead, so it is important to avoid contact with the paint as much as possible.