The minister, who took part in the campaign at Janpath market in Central Delhi, cleaned the walls first with water and then detergent using his hands, as his staff scrambled to find him a brush.
"Ek scrubber la do (bring me a scrubber)," the minister said, imitating the scrubbing movement with his hands.
Someone handed him a scrubber attached to a long plastic rod. The minister quickly refused it, and asked for one that could be held in hand.
As officials scurried to get him a scrubber of his choice, the minister poured copious amounts of detergent on his hand and proceeded to rub it on wall after wall.
Later, someone gave him a hand-held scrub, which he used vigorously on the walls.
"Clean hua na?" he asked people around who applauded the zeal with which he went about cleaning the dirty walls.
Earlier, dressed in a blue T-shirt and jeans, Mr Kannanthanam, a former IAS officer, took to cleaning moments after he arrived at the Janpath market.
Sweepers were lined up on the streets wearing gloves and masks, but the minister got down to business without any cleaning gear.
Collecting dry leaves, junked packets and plastic waste from the street, the minister dumped them all into colourful bins his staff had arranged for him.
"Keep India clean. Let every citizen get out on the streets, get out in his neighbourhood and keep India clean. I think this is the biggest mission of the prime minister," he said.
The cleaning job done, Mr Kannanthanam, who had earned the sobriquet of 'demolition man' during his tenure with the Delhi Development Authority in the 1990s, washed his hands with water before applying hand sanitiser, and leaving neat and tidy.