Patch drywall to smooth walls

A putty knife, Spackle, or joint compound can repair wall damage that ages a room.

Dents and dings: A quart of Spackle ($11) and a putty knife can fill dozens of small wall indentations. Spackle adheres to painted walls better than joint compound, though it takes a bit longer to dry. Cut wall repair time by thoroughly wiping away excess Spackle.

Fist-sized holes: Joint compound is your best bet when covering the mesh or drywall patches that cover big holes. You’ll need at least two thin coats of compound and fine grit sandpaper to blend repairs into the rest of the wall.

Nail pops: Nail pops travel in packs: Rarely do you see just one. To repair walls pocked with pops, hammer the popped nail back into the wall or pull it out with a needle-nose pliers; refasten the drywall to the nearest stud with a couple of screws, then fill dents with two or three coats of joint compound. Sand until smooth and flush with the rest of the wall, then repaint.

Remove marks for a clean start

Microfiber cloths are little miracles that erase the evidence of a childhood well spent, drawing on and caroming off walls. To get rid of scuff marks and fingerprints:

  • Spray an all-purpose cleaner onto the cloth (never directly onto walls to avoid drips) and swipe the scuff. (Test a hidden spot to make sure the cleaner doesn’t take off paint with the mark.)
  • Pour a little dish soap onto a damp cloth and wipe the mark.
  • Dip a sponge into an earth-friendly and slightly abrasive paste of dish soap, baking soda, and water, and gently scrub grime.
  • To repair walls decorated with crayon marks, dab toothpaste onto a towel or toothbrush and scrub marks.
  • Use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser ($3), the best instant wall cleaner around. Wet and wring the eraser before attacking scuffs.

Touch up what you can’t wipe out

Prepare for inevitable touch-ups by keeping leftover paint or at least recording the paint number and/or formula (paint names change). Don’t have the original? Scrape off a little and ask your paint store to match it.

For touch-ups, use the same type of brush or roller the original painter used. Feather the paint from the outside borders in.

If touch-ups stand out, paint the entire wall, making sure to paint corner to corner and avoid splatters onto the ceiling and adjacent walls.