Pocket Guide to Wallpaper Removal

created on: 09/19/08

Stripping wallpaper is one of the worst home improvement projects I've ever undertaken.  During each room, I swore I would never hang wallpaper again, but......

 "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." Michael Corleone, Godfather III

I daydream about sitting in my favorite chair, journaling (a verb?) about my goals and dreams, in front of a vibrant retro-inspired oversized graphic wallpapered wall.  No, no, no!! I won't do it. 

If you can't resist the urge and you need to remove old paper, here's a condensed guide to explain what you'll be up against, but you need to see this ugly job and, this not me.

created on: 09/19/08

Determine if you have:

     Paper only

     Vinyl or decorative front that will peel away from a backing

     Vinyl that won't peel at all

1.  Paper only: Try to peel the paper, if it doesn't budge, sponge or spray with a mixture of hot water and vinegar (2 parts water to 1 part white vinegar), let sit for 20 minutes.  Take a 2-3 inch plastic putty knife and start scraping at a very low angle. Keep soaking in 4 foot sections and repeat.

*If the glue doesn't dissolve with vinegar solution, try a commercial wallpaper glue solvent such as DIF

2. Vinyl coated or decorative front paper: Peel off the front layer which will leave the paper backing on the wall.  Follow Step 1 to remove paper backing.

3.  Vinyl or decorative coated paper that won't peel at all: You will need to score the surface in order to allow the water and solvent to go to work on the glue.  A tool called a Paper Tiger can be used in the palm of your hand to roll around the surface perforating the top layer.  Sponge hot water and solvent on top of the scored paper. This will take a while.  You'll have to get one piece loosened to get a good start. You'll find that once the scored sections have soaked up the water and solvent, they will come off much faster. 

created on: 09/19/08


TIPS:  Keep putty knife at a very low angle so as not to damage walls

          Don't grab and pull sections straight out from walls, pull away from the wall at a low angle

          Keep water as hot as you can stand it

4. Cleaning the walls: Now that you're paper is removed you'll have to wash all remaining glue off the walls.  You can tell if there is still glue residue if when you wet the wall it feels slimy. I've had the best luck washing walls with a bucket of hot water with liquid dishwashing soap and one of those green teflon pads.  The pad cuts through the glue but be careful NOT to over scrub with the pad.  Only scrub enough to get the glue loosened, then wipe off with a clean wet sponge or rag. 

5.  Patch and prime any gouges or tears in drywall

6.  If painting, prime walls, if papering, size walls

7.  Re-paper or paint

If this project doesn't dissuade you from wallpapering, then you SHOULD hang wallpaper!

You'll be wanting to hang this mid-century wallpaper design from Miss Print, London



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Val on Jun 17, 2012:

I suppose different wallpaper may have different glues, but I had outstanding success using nothing but steam.  I started with a small travel clothing steamer I had already just to see how it worked and it worked so well we bought a bit larger clothing steamer at Target for about $40-$50 to do the rest.  Just be patient, move slowly -- but keep moving -- and the paper peels off with little effort.   Yes, there were some stubborn spots but more steam and careful scraping took care of that.  If you have or can borrow a steamer Please try this before embarking on the mess of spraying stuff on the paper and/or buying a tool to perforate the paper so the liquid soaks through.   Good luck!

ModHomeEcTeacher on Sep 19, 2008:

I know what you mean!

BonzoGal on Sep 19, 2008:

You know that's entrapment, don't you?  I mean showing us that hugely bitchin' wallpaper from Miss Print at the end of an article about how much of a pain it is to remove wallpaper.  Now even though we all KNOW it's a pain, we'll have to do it anyway because we lust that pattern.


ModHomeEcTeacher on Sep 19, 2008:

I knew about the fabric softener but didn't include it. Thanks for the tip!

dewonangus on Sep 19, 2008:

Another great tip for removing wallpaper ... if you can get the top layer off, spray with a solution of hot water and fabric softener, drench the remaining paper and gently scrape.  It almost falls off on its own.  This method has worked the best for me and I have had the unpleasant task of removing far too much wallpaper in my life and have tried many different methods.  I wash my walls with TSP after to remove the glue.  This really helps when preparing to paint.

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