Buying Guide

How to Remove Wallpaper

Choose Your Removal Method
A woman removing wallpaper
  • The easiest way to remove wallpaper depends on the wallpaper type, the wallpaper remover and your removal technique. 
  • For liquid or gel remover, a scoring tool will be necessary to allow the substance to penetrate the paper. 
  • Scrapers will be needed when using both chemical removers and steamers. 

Tip: Some wallpaper is designed to peel off in clean strips for easy removal, but this type of paper has only become popular in recent years, so if you’re stripping older paper you likely will not have this option.

Liquid Remover Method
A person using a spatula and liquid wallpaper remover to remove wallpaper
  • Liquid removers contain wetting agents that dissolve old adhesive. Since many wallpapers are water-resistant, the surface must be scratched, or scored, prior to application. It can also be used to wash away adhesive that remains behind after the paper has been removed. 
  • Once the liquid has softened the adhesive, simply pull and peel or use a scraper to remove the paper. Before you apply a liquid remover, make sure you cover the floor and any nearby furniture with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. 
  • The easiest way to apply a liquid remover is with the use of a spray bottle, working on one area at a time. Paint tools and supplies like rollers and sponges can be used as well. For working in corners or other areas where precision is required, use a sponge. 
  • Liquid removers generally need to be mixed with warm or hot water prior to application. Allow the solution to soak into the wall for the period of time stated by the manufacturer to ensure maximum effectiveness.
Gel Remover Method
A woman using a utility knife and gel wallpaper remover to remove wallpaper
  • Gel removers function in a manner similar to liquid removers. The surface of the wallpaper must be scored 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 powerful and effective in removing wallpaper that has been applied to unprimed drywall or using 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 – 30 minutes so it can soak in. Gels can be applied with a spray bottle, or by using a brush or roller.
Steam Remover Method
A woman using a steamer to remove wallpaper
  • Steaming is a relatively easy and particularly effective technique for removing stubborn paper that resists the best efforts of chemical removers. You can rent or purchase a steamer. 
  • Fill the tank with water and let the steamer electrically heat it. As soon as steam begins pumping out of the unit's metal ironing plate, hold it against the wallpaper until the adhesive softens up. Attachments are available for working in corners and tighter spaces. 
  • Use a scraper to remove the paper once it has been steamed and softened, but take care not to damage the wall. Steam small sections at a time to make removal as easy as possible and always protect your face and hands during use to avoid burns.
Wallpaper Removal Tips
A person using a scraper to remove wallpaper
  • Before you apply a chemical remover, you must prepare the surface in order for the process to be effective. Using a scoring tool will create holes in the surface of the wallpaper, allowing chemicals to reach the wallpaper's adhesive.
  • Good scoring tools will require only light pressure and won't damage the wall itself.
  • 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 deciding how to remove wallpaper borders and trim along cabinets.
  • After steaming, use a scraper with an angled blade designed not to penetrate too deeply, which can damage the wall.
  • Start at the top of the wall and work your way down when applying chemicals.
  • Paint patching and repair may be required if your wall is damaged during the removal process.