Switch plates are almost always highly visible on your walls. Whether they are located in your foyer, your kitchen, your living room or your bathroom, they can be seen by anyone who walks through your home.
Unfortunately, they are one of those household items that is often forgotten when it comes time for house cleaning. They are similar to walls in that they are simply there. You have likely become oblivious to them—and to how dirty they have become.
Remove Before Cleaning
Before you set about cleaning your switch plates, you must first remove them from your wall. Using a screwdriver, carefully remove the screws and then pry it very gently from the wall if it doesn’t fall off easily.
If the plate has been painted over, a razor blade is the easiest way to remove it from the wall once the screws are removed. Gently press the paint around the perimeter of the plate with the razor blade, then lift with the edge of a sharp knife or your fingernail.
Designate one small cup or bowl for holding the screws while the plates are being cleaned. This way you won’t finish this house cleaning chore with the gleaming switch plates, and have no way to refasten them to the wall.
Fill your kitchen sink or a basin with hot water and a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap. Submerge the switch plates in the soapy water and allow them to soak for about an hour.
Using a clean sponge or a dishcloth, gently wipe away any fingerprints, smudges, or otherwise soiled areas of the plates. If a stain is particularly stubborn, try brushing it gently with an old toothbrush.
If splotches of paint have inadvertently made their way onto your switch plates, try scraping them off with your fingernail after they have soaked for a while. If that doesn’t work, a razor blade or putty knife—used gently—might do the trick.
Brass Switch Plates
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, brass switch plates were very popular. If you have any of these on your walls, the cleaning plan isn’t the same as the standard acrylic plates.
Remove the switch plates in the same manner and keep careful watch of those screws. Place the brass plates on a paper towel.
Sprinkle some table salt on the plates. Cut a lemon in half. Rub one of the lemon halves over the salt. The combination of these two components should remove any tarnish and clean the plates without damaging the brass.
Brush the salt away with a soft cloth. Polish with another cloth to make them shine.
If you’re going to the trouble of cleaning your switch plates, don’t leave dirty outlet covers on your walls. Remove them from the wall the same way you did the other plates. You can throw them in the basin of water and allow them to soak at the same time.
Cleaning Outlets and Light Switches
It would be a shame to replace these sparkling clean switch plates and outlet covers over dirty outlets and light switches—don’t you think? You can clean them, too, but in a very different way. Spray some vinegar on a dry cloth and gently wipe the light switches and outlets, removing dust and any fingerprints or smudges.
Replacing Plates and Covers
Before you replace your clean switch plates and outlet covers, make sure they are thoroughly dry. You may dry them by hand with a soft cloth or allow them to drip dry for several hours. Grab that cup or bowl filled with screws and attach the clean plates and covers to your wall.
Cleaning switch plates—and outlet covers, too—is one of those house cleaning jobs that is often forgotten. By adding it to your list once or twice a year, you’ll ensure they always look clean and bright.