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How to Clean Ghosting on Walls

By April 29, 2021March 25th, 2023Air quality issues
How to clean ghosting on walls

When we are talking about “ghosting on walls”, we aren’t referring to ghosts. In actuality, ghosting is the formation of dark streaks on the wall or ceiling due to air-borne dust, dirt, soot particles, and more. How do you clean ghosting on walls? Correct the problem first. This may be from high humidity in the home, adjusting vents for gas or wood stoves, replacing furnace filters, sealants, use exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen, as well as venting the clothes dryer outdoors. After correcting the problem, then you can paint the area.

Let’s take a look at why you need to know how to clean ghosting on walls, the causes, sources of dirt, what next, and when to call a professional.

Why You Need to Know How to Clean Ghosting on Walls

Ghosting is also known as “thermal bridging” or “soot staining” and happens when air is moving through the the indoor ventilation systems. Unfortunately, the steel drywall fasteners in the walls, along with light gauge steel studs act as conductors of electrostatic electricity and attract the air particles. If you see the dark streaks start to appear, you need to take the time to remedy the cause and then paint the area.

The Causes of Ghosting on Walls

As mentioned above, the air particles are attracted to the fasteners and studs in the wall and cause them to attach to the wall. Also, when there is condensation in the walls, it attracts the particles to the cold areas of the wall or ceiling, which is the rafters and studs. There are many causes of the poor air quality that we will look at below.

Sources of Dirt Particles and How to Fix Them

The dirt particles are made up of many sources. They come from:

Fireplace and Burning of Candles Produce Soot


Don’t burn candles that produce soot and have a scent to them. Also, avoiding wood burning stoves. If you really enjoy these, make sure there is enough ventilation in the home.

Welcome mat with dirt
Dirty welcome mat tracks dirt particles into the home

Welcome Mats With a Lot of Dirt That is Tracked Inside


Ask people to wipe their feet before coming in the home and vacuum the area that has the ghosting.

Windows and Doors Are Drafty


Add sealant to the windows and doors that are drafty. Not sure if yours is drafty? Look between the door and the frame to see if there is light coming through. This is one of many ways to tell if the window and doors are drafty.

You may need to fix the alignment and also add weather stripping. This is important to do to keep out bugs and pests. Another idea is to check the windows the next time it rains. If there is water leaking in, then you need to fix the window as well.

Use an exhaust fan if there is too much moisture and humidity
Running the exhaust fan helps with humidity in the bathroom

Too much moisture and humidity in the home


Avoid drying clothes on indoor racks and use exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen. Exhaust fans are important, as the glass doors will fog up and leave spots and mold can set in the bathroom from the high humidity. Not sure which room has the high moisture? You can buy a humidity monitor to measure the moisture in the air and keep it below 55%. Using a humidifier in the room will help as well.

If you think it is a larger issue, you can hire a company to use a thermal imaging camera to see if there is abnormalities in the walls.

Dirty air filter and furnace filter

Dirty Air Filter and Furnace Filter


Replace the air or furnace filter as often as needed. Checking the filter every 30 days is best practice and replacing will probably be every 90 days, unless you have a home with pets or people who smoke. If you do, then it may be shorter. Not sure where the filter is located? It is usually located in the large metal (sometimes plastic) furnace compartment next to the blower, near the bottom of the door or on the side of the door.

Non-Vented Appliances – Clothes Dryers, Space Heaters, and Cook Stoves


When using appliances in the home, make sure the air has somewhere to go, other than back into the home. For example, a dryer should have a vent that goes outside and that is usually the roof. As with all things, it also needs to be maintained.

Painting a wall
Paint the wall after you fix the issue

What Next

After you have figured out the source and have fixed it, now is the time to clean the walls. Wipe them down and let them dry. Then, you are going to use paint. Find a good paint that will cover the stains like a stain killing paint. Remember, you need to make sure you have fixed the problem and found the source or painting over it won’t do any good.

If you tried to fix the source with the examples above and still have ghosting, you may need more insulation. Contacting a professional about this is important so you can get another set of eyes to help figure out what is causing the issue.

When to Call a Professional

Call a professional if you need help with finding out the source of the ghosting. Also, if you find there are issues with mold, let a professional know. They are trained and want to help you!


As you can see, ghosting has nothing to do with the Ghostbusters, but everything to do with high humidity in the home. Taking a look at the examples and the sources and how to fix them is important and will save you money. Catch the issues before they cost a lot of money. We will take a look at your walls and ceiling during our home inspections in Houston, Texas. Think you may need our services? Leave us a reply below!

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