How to Remove Wallpaper

Simple Tips for Removing Wallpaper

Your home is your haven, so its appearance needs to reflect your personality! Unfortunately, sometimes the previous tenant’s personality is lingering in the form of unflattering wallpaper. There are many stories that start off like this and end in frustration and ruined walls. The downside is that you only have a certain amount of control over the situation—depending on how the wallpaper was originally installed, some wall damage may be inevitable. The upside is that if you’re armed with patience and a knowledge base of removal techniques, your walls won’t suffer any more than they absolutely have to!

Tools You’ll Need

  • Scraper
  • Spray bottle (a garden sprayer works even better) or paint roller
  • Sponge
  • Ladder
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Spackle
  • Trashcan

Old Wallpaper vs. New Wallpaper

There is a difference in how old wallpaper was made compared to modern versions you’ll find today. Modern wallpaper is water resistant so that the walls can be washed, therefore making the process of wetting the paper and softening the glue underneath an impossible task. That is, unless you use a wallpaper scoring tool which you can buy from your local hardware store. This tool rolls over the walls and punctures tiny holes into the paper so water can get under the paper rather than soaking through. Be careful to not apply too much pressure or it could damage the wall.

Finding the Best Removal Solution

You can buy a chemical removal solution which is usually diluted with water after you bring it home. If you’re opposed to spraying chemicals in your home, you can concoct a natural solution yourself. Simply mix a 20/80 solution of vinegar and hot water together, and use a spray bottle or a large sponge to apply it to the wallpaper. You can also use a 50/50 solution of hot water and fabric softener.

There are also wallpaper removal kits that can be purchased in stores that include a solution and special cloth that sticks to the paper after being soaked in the wet mixture. This method allows for a deeper soak and a little less work on your part, as you can bypass the spraying and rolling process.

Using a Steamer Tool

Hot water steamers are available to rent at wallpaper stores. Most people prefer the soaking method due to the risk of serious burns caused by scalding steam. When using a steamer you need to work in small sections, making the removal process a longer experience.


Since you’ll be working with water near electrical outlets, turn the circuit breaker for this particular room off and bring in lighting with an extension cord from another room. It’s always a good idea to wear a dust mask when working with chemicals. Safety first! Remove light switch plates and outlet covers, move furniture to the center of the room and lay down plastic sheeting to protect the floor.

Sample your choice of solution on a small corner and attempt to lift the paper. You will need to see the grain of the wall in order to know which direction to strip it in.

Getting Started

Once you’ve determined the grain, spray an even coat of removal solution over the paper, one section at a time, and allow to soak in for 15-30 minutes. A paint roller can be used instead of a spray bottle if you’d like. Using the corner if you’re stripping up or down, or the seam if you’re stripping from side to side, begin to slowly pull paper away from the wall. If you meet any resistance, re-wet and wait another five minutes before trying again. Continue this process until all panels of paper have been removed. Keep a trashcan close by for no-hassle disposal.

Sometimes the wallpaper will separate from its backing and will need to be removed in two steps. If this happens to you, use the scraper tool to remove the wet backing.

Once the paper has been removed, you will need to clean up any stray spots which may include paper or glue. Wet the walls again and use the scraper tool to remove the softened pieces. Once the walls have been sufficiently scraped, wash them with a sponge and warm water to remove any remaining glue residue. Allow to dry for one to two days.

Repairing Damaged Walls

The scoring tool, scraper or even hardened glue may have left small holes in the walls where the wallpaper once was. Use spackle from the hardware store to fill in the holes, using a scraper to make sure it goes on smoothly. Allow to dry for one day and then go over the spots with a fine grade sandpaper until they are level with the wall. You can now coat the walls with primer and choose your new paint color!

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