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How do I Remove Old Wallpaper?

Rubber gloves should be worn when removing old wallpaper.
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  • Written By: Deborah Ng
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2014
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Wallpaper removal is a task no one enjoys. It's messy, sticky and time consuming. Some people try to avoid this tedious task by painting or repapering over wallpaper, but this is never recommended and will become a headache for whoever attempts this task in the future. While there's no way to avoid wallpaper removal, there are relatively new techniques and products available to make this chore a little easier than in the past. This is not your father's wallpaper removal.

The best way to get wallpaper to cooperate is to make it wet enough to scrape off. To accomplish this, you'll need to score the wallpaper first. This is easily done with a utility knife, but there are also scoring products on the market specifically designed for this purpose. These can readily be found at the local home improvement emporium. To score, take your knife and cut in a criss-cross pattern across the wall.

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Once your wallpaper is properly scored, a chemical wallpaper remover will have to be applied. For your own safety, you'll probably want to invest in some inexpensive safety glasses, rubber gloves and even a mask to breathe through. The removal agent can be applied with a paint brush, but this can take a while. Many home improvement aficionados recommend a garden hose with a spray attachment such as those you use for spraying furniture, or a paint sprayer. You'll probably want to open the windows. Spray or paint the removal agent onto the paper and let sit until the paper is saturated. If the paper doesn't get wet enough for easy removal, reapply the chemical.

If chemicals aren't for you, you can use the much safer and environmentally sound wallpaper steamer method. For this you'll have to rent a steaming machine from your home improvement shop. Follow all directions completely. Use the steam to completely saturate the wallpaper.

No matter which method you choose, once the wall is saturated, the wallpaper paste will begin to get soft. The paper may even begin peeling from the walls on its own. Once it's soft enough, you can begin scraping. Being careful not to carve holes in the wall, use your scraper to gently scrape away the old wallpaper using long, gentle strokes. There may be some stubborn areas where the wallpaper is still stuck to the wall, in which case, you may need to reapply the chemicals or steam.

Once the wallpaper is completely removed, you'll most likely be left with walls covered with unsightly adhesive. One can remove this by purchasing yet another chemical or by using a heavy detergent. After the glue is removed, rinse by wiping the wall with a clean, damp sponge.

In lieu of costly chemicals and steam machines, there are those who prefer the more old fashioned warm water or water and vinegar method of wallpaper removal. These also work, but be forewarned, if you use plain water or vinegar and water to soften the wallpaper and adhesive, the task will become more time consuming.

Wallpaper removal has gotten a bum rap. While it's not the most pleasant area of home improvement, the use of chemicals or steam machines make the work go by much easier than in days past.

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Discuss this Article

anon180890
Post 19

I used 1/2 downy liquid fabric softener and 1/2 water – weird, I know. It smells april fresh and you remove the old crap, wow! Spray and let it sit at least 15 minutes. That was too much for my daughter. Then after 15 minutes, spray again (have a rag or old towel to catch the over spray) and wait another 15 minutes. It's only a 1/2 hour. come Cn, how long have you been looking at that old paper! By double soaking, you really loosen the glue and it will scrape right off, but don't think you won't have to work! Have fun with it whatever you do!

anon128744
Post 18

Spray water, let sit, scrape, repeat. Done.

anon123859
Post 17

I used WP Chomp wallpaper and adhesive remover and it is outstanding! Adhesive came off in under two minutes, all of it! What a great product. Spray on and scrape off with ease and smells good.

anon102600
Post 15

I used DIF in spots, and it was a chore. I am using the white vinegar method on the second layer and it works great.

anon97031
Post 14

I have the same dilemma as anon3842. Top layers comes off with DIF spray but nothing doing with the second layer. Help!

anon95436
Post 13

I bought and used a wallpaper stripper called "WP Chomp." You're supposed to peel the front paper first then spray the backing, wait a few minutes then peel the backing. This may work on a primed surface, but not on my unprimed sheetrock!

anon78712
Post 12

I have wallpaper throughout my entire house painted over and I hired the Miller brothers. in two days they completed six rooms. I highly recommend these guys.

anon66422
Post 11

I had some success with removing wallpaper by first tarping the entire area so I didn't have to worry about a mess.

Next I peel the top layer of paper off by pulling and using a wallpaper removal tool with a razor sharp blade. Once that was done the only thing left was the paper backing and glue which I soaked for 15 minutes with a roller and a lot of DIF gel.

Using the same scraper I removed the residue and backing, and completed the job by washing with warm water and a large sponge- finish with a final rinse of warm water and tsp for best results. Allow wall to dry for a few days before painting.

anon63815
Post 10

My bathroom was painted before the paste was all removed. It now is flaking. I am trying to sand but with the paint it all won't come off. Any suggestions?

anon63340
Post 9

I removed several layers of old wallpaper from one of our rooms last year, washed the walls thoroughly, and then painted. The pain is now flaking off in a big way. Do you have any tips for removing the paint, and then removing the deep set glue residue afterwards before re-painting?

anon45293
Post 7

I used a vibrating pad sander with 50 to 80 grit sand paper with medium pressure in a random motion to scuff the old paper every 1/16 inch. This prepares the old paper for uniform penetration of the warm releasing agent you apply to the paper. This process starts releasing within five minutes. The paper can be pulled off in big sheets. Two soakings with the warm liquid is well worth the effort. Easiest and fastest process I have ever used. By Pump-handle

anon41239
Post 6

what can i do with a wall that was not primed before putting on the wallpaper? It took off hunks of paper off the drywall.

anon26157
Post 5

Yeah, i would like to share my success in removing my old wallpaper with this simple solution......50/50 vinegar/ water use a sponge wait for 15 minutes then ....voila !

anon3842
Post 3

I have the same problem, I am having trouble removing this second layer of wall paper. I have tried different things and it does not budge. Please help

anon2854
Post 2

I have been removing wallpaper and I can't remove all the glue. There is also another white substance (unsure if it's paint) underneath the wallpaper that comes off in some places when I do scrape the paper off. I can't figure out how to get all the glue and this white substance giving me a clean wall for painting. Can you help? Also, my nephew tried helping and put a huge gouge(?)in the wall board, how do I fix it and make it paintable?

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