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How to Remove Wallpaper

June 22, 2022

Trends come and go but some are harder to transition away from than others. Wallpaper was a staple of 50s and 90s interior design. It’s starting to make a comeback with easier-to-manage removable wallpaper. But the patterns of times past aren’t exactly hip with the current styles we’re seeing in modern interior design. So you can either work around this dated element or put in the necessary elbow grease to remove the wallpaper. Although it can be a bit of a process, traditional wallpaper is luckily not too difficult to take down. 


What Do I Need to Remove Wallpaper? 

There are a few different methods for removing wallpaper. The best option will depend on the type of wallpaper, how old the wallpaper is, and the type of wall it’s attached to. Generally, these are the tools to have on hand when tackling a DIY wallpaper removal project

  • Painter’s plastic tarp
  • Painter’s tape
  • Safety glasses
  • Putty knife
  • Wallpaper scoring tool
  • Pressure sprayer
  • Hot water 
  • Vinegar
  • Steamer 
  • Fabric softener
  • Garbage can


How Long Does it Take to Remove Wallpaper? 

It’s important to give yourself plenty of time to remove wallpaper. It can be a time-consuming, tedious project. Mentally prepare yourself for a long process. Removing wallpaper can take anywhere from a few hours to an entire weekend depending on how much wallpaper you need to remove. To be safe, plan for at least a few days of work.  


Start With the Prep Work 

Removing traditional wallpaper can be quite messy. The walls will get wet or at the very least damp. It’s important to take protective measures to assure you don’t inadvertently cause damage to your floors or electrical outlets. 

First things first, be sure to turn off the electricity for the area you’ll be working in. Next, completely tape off the outlet covers and light switch covers with painter's tape. You can go back and remove any wallpaper on or underneath these covers once you finish with the walls. 

Once you’re done with this step, cover the floors with a painter’s tarp and tape it down where the floor meets the wall. Be sure to tape it down snuggly so water doesn’t escape through to the floor. 


Follow These Steps to Remove Wallpaper 

Wallpaper removal is easier than you may think. As mentioned before, it is time-consuming. But the entire process really just boils down to three simple steps: 

Try Peeling the Wallpaper

Start by finding a wallpaper edge and gently attempting to peel it up. Take extra care not to gouge the wall underneath. If the wallpaper comes off in one sheet, you’re in luck! Simply peel it all off. 

Score the Wallpaper 

If the wallpaper doesn’t easily peel off, you’ll need to soften the glue first. Use the wallpaper scoring tool to gently cut tears throughout the wallpaper. Don’t press too hard or you’ll damage the walls. 

Soften the Glue 

Once you’ve scored the wallpaper, the next step is to soften the glue. There are several ways to go about doing this. Test a small area to assure the wetting process of your choice doesn’t dampen the wall below. Plaster walls typically hold up better while drywall can be prone to gouging if not properly sealed with paint.  

  • Use water. You can simply use a wet sponge or reach for a pressure sprayer for a quicker, more powerful approach. 
  • Use a fabric softener. Create a one-to-one mixture of fabric softener and hot water. 
  • Use a steamer. Go over the area with a steamer until damp. You may need to scrap as you go. 
  • Use vinegar. Mix equal parts vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle. Apply generously. 
  • Use a paper stripper. This type of product can come as a sprayable bottle, dilutable solution, or a ready-to-use solution with an applicator included. 

Regardless of the wetting technique you use, allow it to soak in for about 15 minutes. Use your fingernail to test a corner of the wallpaper. If it comes up easily, peel away. If you’re still having trouble removing the paper, repeat the wetting process. 


What About the Wallpaper Glue?

After you successfully remove the wallpaper, you may notice some stubborn, sticky glue sticking to the wall. Don’t fret! You can easily remove leftover wallpaper adhesive with hot soapy water. In a bucket or bowl, combine hot water and dish soap. Use a sponge or washcloth to gently scrub away the glue. This may take some time. It might seem like an unnecessary step but it’s absolutely vital to start off with a clean, smooth wall for a successful paint job or new wallpaper application.

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