Buying Guide

How to Remove Wallpaper

Choose a Wallpaper Removal Method
A woman removing wallpaper.

Choosing the best way to remove wallpaper from your home depends on the type of wallpaper on your walls and your preferred removal method.

  • Some newer homes use removable wallpaper, also called temporary wallpaper. Use a scraper or putty knife to loosen an edge of the wallpaper at the corner of a room and carefully try to pull off a strip. Removable wallpaper should peel off easily.
  • Strippable wallpaper is designed to last longer than removable wallpaper, but softens easily when soaked with hot water. 
  • Wallpapers designed to be water resistant or washable, such as vinyl wallpapers, need a stronger method, such as a chemical wallpaper remover.
  • Gel removers are less messy than liquid removers and can be more effective in removing wallpaper that has been applied to unprimed drywall or has used clay-based adhesives.
  • Wallpaper steamers can be used on any wallpaper and may be the only recourse with old, stubborn wallpapers that are hard to remove. Buying or renting a steamer may be more expensive than other methods.

Safety: If you decide using chemicals or steam is the best way to remove wallpaper in your home, always wear rubber gloves and protective eyewear.

Prepare the Wall
Wallpaper cleaning supplies stand next to a wall.

Take the following steps before removing wallpaper in a room.

  • Take everything off the walls, such as hanging pictures or vent covers.
  • Remove or cover furniture.
  • Wallpaper removal can lead to spattering water or chemicals, so put down drop cloths and fix them to the top of baseboards with painter’s tape.
  • Have a large trashcan with a plastic liner ready for placing the wallpaper sheets or pieces.
  • To protect an electrical outlet on the wall, cover it completely with painter’s tape. After most of the wallpaper has been removed, turn off the power to the outlet at the breaker box, remove the outlet cover and scrape up any last remnants of the wallpaper.
How to Remove Wallpaper With Liquid
A person wears gloves while removing wallpaper with a scraper.

Liquid wallpaper removers contain wetting agents designed to dissolve the old adhesive. 

  • Before using liquid remover, water-resistant wallpaper should be scored or perforated so the remover will be able to contact the adhesive between the paper and the wall. Roller-style wallpaper scorers are extremely effective at puncturing the wallpaper with dozens of tiny holes. Use light pressure when running the scorer over the wall to avoid scratching the wall. Blade-based wallpaper scorers are cheaper but slice lines into the wallpaper and are less effective.
  • Apply the liquid remover with a spray bottle for quick coverage over a larger area, but use a sponge or other tool in corners or places where precision is required.
  • Allow the solution to soak the wall as specified by the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Once the liquid remover has softened the adhesive, peel off the paper or use a paint scraper or putty knife to remove it. 
How to Remove Wallpaper With Gel
A person applies wallpaper remover with a spray bottle.

Gel removers function in a manner similar to liquid removers. The surface of the wallpaper must be perforated prior to application to allow the chemicals within the gel to penetrate and weaken the adhesive. 

  • One advantage to using a gel is that it's somewhat less messy. It won't drip or run, allowing for more precise application and reducing the likelihood of it spilling onto the floor or furniture. 
  • Gels are often effective in removing wallpaper that has been applied to unprimed drywall or used clay-based adhesives. A good gel should liquefy the adhesive without softening or soaking the face of the drywall. 
  • Use a spray bottle, brush or roller to apply and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes so it can soak in.
  • After the gel has soaked the wallpaper, use a scraper to peel up the wallpaper in strips.
How to Remove Wallpaper With Steam
A person uses a steamer to remove wallpaper.

Removing wallpaper with a steamer is a relatively easy and effective technique against the most stubborn prints that resist chemical removers.

  • Begin using a wallpaper steamer by filling the tank with water. Turn it on and wait for it to heat up. As soon as the ironing plate begins to emit steam, hold it up to the wallpaper for about 30 seconds or until the adhesive begins to soften.
  • Steam small sections at a time for maximum effectiveness.
  • Use attachments to reach corners and other awkward places. 
  • After steaming, use a scraper with an angled blade designed not to penetrate too deeply, which can damage the wall.

Safety: When removing wallpaper with a steamer, always wear gloves and protective eyewear to avoid burns.

Wallpaper Removal Tips
A person uses a scraper to remove the remnants of wallpaper from a wall.

Consider these tips when learning how to take off wallpaper.

  • On some wall coverings, especially vinyl-coated styles, the outer layer may simply pull away from the paper backing, leaving only the paper and glue to be removed.
  • Utility knives will come in handy when removing wallpaper borders and trim along cabinets.
  • You can try mixing your own wallpaper remover solutions, using either 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 hot water or 1/4 fabric softener to 3/4 hot water. Apply with a sponge or spray bottle.
  • Start at the top of the wall and work your way down when applying chemicals.
  • After removing the wallpaper, clean and remove the excess adhesive by applying a solution of hot water and a small amount of trisodium phosphate (TSP). Wipe the walls with the cleaning solution, rinse with a sponge and clean water and towel dry.
  • Use spackle or sandable filler to patch any nicks or gouges in the wall. 

Tip: You may be able to safely paper over a single layer of smooth, well-adhered wallpaper if it is free of bubbles, buckles and wrinkles. You will need to do some prep work, including re-pasting any loose paper and cleaning the walls before applying new wallpaper.

DIY wallpaper removal can be messy and require a lot of detail work. As long as you follow the wallpaper removal steps, you should be able to get your room ready for a whole new look.

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