JessTrev serendipitously stumbles on the answer to clean, paint-ready walls: plenty of hot (steamy) air.
One of my favorite things about my kids is that they remind me that usually the most fun way to play with something has nothing to do with its intended use. Giant refrigerator box? Pretend schoolbus. Stick on the ground in the woods? Sword to impale your brother.
While I was pondering how to clean my walls (think sticky jam fingers and eggshell whites), I considered a whole host of options, like tsp or trisodium phosphate -- which seemed like overkill for my dinged-up but wallpaper-paste-free walls and aren't I avoiding phosphates for a reason?? -- before lighting on a perfect solution: the dusty, neglected clothing steamer in my upstairs closet. Donning a pair of heavy rubber gloves and long sleeves, I watched in amazement as the pile of filthy rags in my laundry tub piled high. Wow. Water and a little elbow grease can work wonders, with the help of a little (wind-powered) electricity.
My walls (and cabinets and tile floors and kitchen appliances) are clean as a whistle, with no harsh chemicals (and no toothpicks, but I may be heading in that direction!). My kinda painting prep. Now, I may not whip it out all the time (not that I don't stay up nights worrying about how clean my toilets are...ok, I've never done that) because it is an electric device and I'm not trying to up my power usage. But since it keeps me from breaking out scary household chemicals, I'm a fan and I will for sure be revisiting the steamer.
Score! I am so excited I pulled it out (don't ask; I'm not, er, fond of ironing, and, well, let's just say that the steamer may not have been the magic bullet I was looking for. I'll be the wrinkly one at the party). Sometimes it just takes looking at what you already have in a different light to figure out the simplest path.
P.S. Since I am supposed to be painting this week, naturally I've found the time to do tax prep and steam clean the inside of my spice cabinet. Sigh. Anyways, after tackling the morass of molasses in that crazy lazy susan? This looks like a great idea.