How to Remove Wallpaper (Top Tips and Tricks)

February 25, 2021

Learning how to remove wallpaper may seem daunting, but don’t panic! There are numerous tips and tricks that can help you to remove wallpaper successfully. Although the process is relatively straightforward, there is a lot that you need to bear in mind before you begin. Using the right materials and the right method is essential for making sure that you don’t damage your surfaces.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to remove wallpaper properly. Wallpaper removal requires a lot of patience and determination. However, we hope to show you how you can make the process cheap and simple, by using household items and the right techniques.

Preparing Your Home and Safety Considerations

Removing wallpaper and wallpaper glue is usually a very messy process. It’s essential that you prepare properly before you begin. You’ll you need to make sure that your furniture and flooring is adequately protected. Drop sheets are really handy for covering large pieces of furniture that can’t be moved easily. It’s also a good idea to invest in some painter’s tape. This can be used to secure the large drop sheets to make sure they don’t move.

Safety should always be your number one priority with any D.I.Y. project. Removing wallpaper requires water and other liquids, so you should cover any electrical sockets. Ideally, you should also cut the power in the room. Many of the techniques for removing wallpaper require hot water. To be on the safe side, you may want to wear rubber gloves and long sleeves to avoid burns.

Will I Need a Scoring Tool?

A scoring tool is used to make small holes and grooves in the old wallpaper that you want to remove. This should make it easier to remove from the surface. However, you need to be very careful when you use a scoring tool as it can cause significant damage to your wall. If you apply too much pressure you may damage the plaster underneath the wallpaper. This is especially important if you are working with drywall due to its fragility.

Wallpaper Scoring Tool

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Take your time when you use a scoring tool and you should get great results. You can buy cheap scoring tools like the one above from most D.I.Y. stores. For many home projects, you might find that you don’t even need a specific tool to score the wall. Alternatively, you could use a cheap stripping knife. Take the knife and make small cuts across the wallpaper. Just make sure that you’re not cutting into the wall itself. Avoid using heavy duty tools as this will increase the likelihood of you damaging the surface underneath.

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What Type of Wall Do I Have?

Before you can learn how to remove wallpaper, you need to know what type of wall you are dealing with. Plastered walls tend to be more solid and durable than drywall. If you’re unsure what type of wall you have, try knocking on it. A dull sound means that your wall is plastered. If it you hear a hollow sound it’s likely to be drywall.

As drywall is more delicate, be careful when you are using a wallpaper scraper on it. Taking your time and gently stripping drywall will help you to avoid damaging it. You also need to be careful not to get drywall too wet as overwetting it can cause permanent damage.

How to Remove Wallpaper with Fabric Softener

There are a wide variety of products on the market that you can use to remove wallpaper. However, you don’t necessarily need to invest in expensive premade solutions. Many everyday items that you’ll already have in your home make great alternatives.

Wallpaper Spray Bottle

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All you need is an empty spray bottle, fabric softener, and hot water. Fill the bottle with equal parts fabric softener and hot water. The water needs to be very hot, so make a small batch of the solution. You can always make more as you go along. Don’t try and spray the entire wall at once. Divide your wall into sections and start slowly. Your wall should be damp but not completely soaked.

Once you have sprayed a small section of the wall, leave it to rest for a few minutes. Then you can start to remove the wallpaper. Begin by peeling the bottom corner of the wallpaper. It should start to come away from the wall easily. Take your time and peel the paper slowly to avoid damaging the surface. You can also use a wide putty knife to slide the wallpaper away from the wall.

How to Remove Wallpaper with Vinegar

If you’re looking to use something more natural, instead of fabric softener or chemical products, there is another option. Vinegar mixed with hot water can be surprisingly effective as a wallpaper stripping solution. To make the solution, you’ll need use one cup of white vinegar for every gallon of water that you use.

Once again, start to peel the wallpaper from the bottom corner. This should work just as effectively as the fabric softener solution. You should be able to remove large pieces of wallpaper just by peeling them off. However, tougher spots may need to be sprayed twice. You should also use a putty knife to remove these difficult areas.

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What About Strippable Wallpaper?

Many modern wallpapers are strippable. This means that they tend to be a lot easier to remove than traditional wallpapers. The key benefit of strippable wallpapers is that in most cases you will not need to use chemicals or a solution to remove them. If you have moved into a new house, you might not know what kind of wallpaper you have. The best way to check is to take one corner of the paper and try to peel it. If it comes away from the wall without resistance, you have strippable wallpaper. If not, you’ll have to work with one of the solutions mentioned previously.

Although the process should be relatively quick and easy, you still need to be careful. Start by gently pulling the paper from the top corner. It should start to peel away from the surface. However, don’t pull the paper too vigorously. You should aim to remove the paper in a steady, fluid motion.

Pulling the paper too hard may cause it to tear. If this happens, it can be difficult to remove the remaining paper. To avoid this make sure that you pull the paper down and not towards you. You might find backing paper attached to the surface once you have peeled off the top layer. If it is stuck to the wall, simply use water to dampen it (don’t soak it), then use a putty knife to loosen it.

How to remove wallpaper

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How to Remove Wallpaper Glue

Once you have removed the old wallpaper, you may find that the old wallpaper glue remains. You won’t need any special products or materials to remove wallpaper glue, however, it does require patience. Wallpaper glue can be tough to remove so don’t assume that this will be a quick job.

Combine washing up liquid, hot water, and a tablespoon of baking soda to create your solution. Use a sponge to apply the solution directly onto the wallpaper glue. It’s a good idea to test a small area to check that the solution is working. Wait a few minutes, and you should find that the wallpaper glue has softened significantly.

If you wallpaper glue is very tough to remove, you can add some vinegar to the mixture. If you need to add vinegar, use one cup per gallon of water. Vinegar can dissolve wallpaper glue, so you might find that it speeds up the process considerably.

How to Remove Wallpaper with a Steamer

Manual methods of removing wallpaper won’t work for every job. Sometimes if you are working on particularly tough old wallpaper, or if you need to remove several layers, you’ll need to use a steamer. Steamers can be rented or bought. Steamers tend to be expensive, so depending on the size of your project, you may be better off renting a steamer for a few hours.

The steam will be very hot so make sure you’re wearing rubber gloves and protective clothing. As with the manual methods, you’ll need to score the surface before applying the steam. Start by holding the steamer against the top corner of the wall for approximately 30 seconds. This allows the moisture to drip down and soak into the rest of the wall. It should mean that the wallpaper comes away from the surface more easily.

After you’ve applied the steam, take a wallpaper scraper and start to peel off the paper. You should find that it comes away from the wall easily. If it’s not coming away easily, reapply the steam for another 30 seconds. It’s better to apply more steam than to vigorously scrape the surface. This should help you to avoid surface damage.

While you are using the wallpaper scraper, position the steamer so that it is soaking another part of the wall. By the time you’ve finished scrapping the first section, the new area will be ready for scraping. The length of time the steam needs to be applied for will depend on how porous the wallpaper is.

What Do I Need to Do Next?

After you have removed the old wallpaper and the wallpaper glue, you’ll need to clean the wall. Even if you have thoroughly removed the wallpaper glue, there will probably still be traces left behind. It’s important that you get rid of this before wallpaper or paint over the surface. Mix together one tablespoon of washing up liquid with hot water in a bucket. Use a clean sponge to apply the mixture to the surface. You should apply it to the whole wall, but you should focus on any visible glue that remains.

If you have used a non-abrasive solution and you have avoided scrapping the surface too much, your wall should not be damaged. However, it may be necessary to skim the wall if you have slightly damaged it during the process. Skimming the wall will restore it and allow you to paper or paint over it smoothly. You can find out more about skimming and plastering walls here.

Can You Wallpaper over Existing Wallpaper?

In some cases, you may not even need to strip the old wallpaper. However, this only applies in certain circumstances. The wallpaper that you are papering over needs to be in great condition. Imperfections like bumps and wrinkles will look terrible if you add another layer of wallpaper on top.

This technique also only works if you are papering over a single layer of wallpaper. It is also essential to make sure that the old wallpaper is properly attached to the wall before you begin. Otherwise, you’re likely to find that your new wallpaper begins to peel very quickly.

New Wallpaper

Should I Hire a Professional?

Wallpaper removal doesn’t usually require much specialist knowledge or equipment. However, it can be a long and slow process. So if you’re short on time you might want to avoid taking on this project yourself. Additionally, if you’re unsure of what you’re doing, you could end up significantly damaging your surface.

Instead of struggling on your own, why not hire a local professional to do the hard work for you? Click the button below to submit a free request for wallpaper removal.

To learn more about wallpapering, check out our guide to wallpapering costs. Or if you’re considering painting instead, you can read our comparison of paint versus wallpaper, to find out which option is right for your home.

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  • Scissors
  • Putty knife
  • Ladder or step stool

Using a paint roller instead of a brush to apply your wallpaper paste is more efficient and wastes less paste. Before you begin, you need to make sure that the surface is totally clean. If the wall has been papered before, it’s essential that you remove all traces of the old paper. For the best methods and techniques, read our how to remove wallpaper guide.

Installing Lining Paper

Do I Need Lining Paper?

Most of the time, it won’t be necessary to use lining paper before wallpapering a surface. However, in some cases, it is a good idea. Older walls or surfaces with imperfections will benefit from lining paper. If you’re using foil wallpaper or thinner wallpaper, it is also advisable to use lining paper. Read the instructions on the wallpaper roll, as it will usually say whether you need to line the surface first.

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