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5 Easy Steps to Remove Wallpaper

5 Easy Steps to Remove Wallpaper
4 min. read

Image: Savchenko Ruslan0212 / Shutterstock.com

Just moved into your dream home and you’re looking forward to putting your own stamp on the place? Redecorating a new home to better suit your personality is one of the first things many of us do upon buying a new house. This can be a pleasant DIY task when all goes well, but there’s one thing that can really put a spanner in the works. 

Wallpaper. Once a popular way to cover the walls in any number of garish designs and patterns, wallpaper has since gone out of fashion, with many of us scorning it in favor of paint. But, no matter how keen you are to make your home your own, removing old wallpaper can be a real test of your patience.

There are no two ways about it, sometimes you’re lucky and it comes off easily, but more often than not, it can be a real challenge to remove it all properly. If it was poorly hung in the first case, it might seem as though nothing will take it off. Fortunately, the following 5 steps will help you remove wallpaper with ease, no matter how stubborn it is.

1: Prepare the Workspace

Proper preparation saves you a lot of time in the long run, and can even prevent damage to flooring, molding, and walls. It’s well worth taking the extra time to prepare your workspace in advance, by laying dust sheets on the floor, and covering any moldings, switch plates, and sockets with masking tape.

It’s likely you’ll be using water, and maybe even chemicals on your walls, so to prevent damage, make sure everything is properly covered up. With dust sheets, you should be able to roll all the waste up at the end of the day and walk away. It’s also best to move any furniture away from the walls, and keep them covered in plastic if there’s a risk they might get splashed.

2: Check the top-layer

With your space prepared, you can take a look at how difficult the task might be. Start by trying to peel away a section of the wallpaper. It normally comes in two layers; the backing, and the top layer. The top layer is normally easier to remove and sometimes peels straight off. If this is the case, go ahead and remove as much as possible. You can use a spatula to help get into the corners, just ensure the corners are rounded, to prevent gauging the walls.

If the top layer doesn’t come off so easily, you may need to score the paper with a razor scraper or perforating tool. The PaperTiger is a nifty little gadget that will do this without damaging the dry-wall or plaster beneath the wallpaper. Doing this will allow the moisture in the next step to break down the adhesive more effectively.

3: Soak the paper

Whether you have just the backing, or scored top-layer and backing, the next step is to soak small sections of the wallpaper. First, try to just use hot water (about as hot as you can handle), which you can apply using a spray bottle (a vacuum sprayer will save time and energy), or by painting on using a paint roller and tray. Apply a good amount of water, and let it soak for about 15 minutes before attempting to strip the paper off.

If hot water alone doesn’t help much, you can make a solvent mix. The solvent will help to break the adhesive down even more. You can use either a 50/50 combination of vinegar and water, or even better, a 25/75 combination of liquid fabric softener (odorless) and water. Again, apply liberally and wait for around 15 minutes to soak up.

4: Start scraping

It’s easiest to work on a smaller section at a time, so start with a 3ft section first — any larger and it might dry out too soon. Once the moisture has soaked up, start peeling the paper off using your scraper. If all goes well, it should come off in large sheets. You can use a razor scraper to catch any stubborn sections. Let it fall onto the dust sheet below, before starting the next 3ft section.

5: Clean away the extra adhesive

With all the paper removed, you might notice there’s still some adhesive left on the wall. This will typically be sticky to touch, and somewhat shiny. You may be tired and ready to relax, but it’s important to clean this off before the new application. If you don’t, paint will eventually crack around the unclean areas, while new wallpaper will bubble up. You can normally wash this off with warm water and a sponge, though a gel stripper is good for stubborn sections. Once removed, you can rinse the wall down, and begin to clean up.

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