How Do I Choose the Best Wallpaper Paste?

C. Mitchell

Choosing the best wallpaper paste can be a complicated undertaking but is often simpler when you understand the differences between major paste types, pay attention to the type of paper you are mounting, and think about how far in the future you may want to remove the wallpaper, if at all. Home improvement and do-it-yourself shops stock a wide range of different pastes. Some come as powders, while others come in premixed bottles and cans. Most pastes will work on any wallpaper, but it is important to realize that all are not created equal. Choosing the best one for your project usually requires a bit of research into type, specifications, and manufacturer instructions in order to ensure that your papering experience is as positive as possible.

Wallpaper paste may be used to secure wallpaper to a surface.
Wallpaper paste may be used to secure wallpaper to a surface.

One of the first things to do when choosing wallpaper paste is to learn about the different products that are available. There are often many brands and versions of wallpaper paste sold at any given time, but usually all fall within three broad categories. Wheat-based wallpaper paste is one of the most economical options, as it is little more than modified wheat starch. It is normally sold dry and must be mixed with cold water by the user. Both cellulose and vinyl-based adhesives usually come as ready-to-use liquids and tend to adhere more quickly and powerfully.

Wheat paste allows enough time to smooth out wrinkles in the wallpaper before it dries.
Wheat paste allows enough time to smooth out wrinkles in the wallpaper before it dries.

Some wallpaper manufacturers will recommend a certain kind of adhesive for their product. These recommendations should usually be followed, as they likely have been made at least in part with the paper’s particular composition in mind. Guidance is not always provided, however, which means that a bit more investigation is often required.

Wheat and other starch-based power adhesives will work for most wallpapers, but are usually best for simple, un-textured sheets. These are good for beginners, as they tend to take quite a while to set, thus leaving ample time to re-adjust in case of crooked or lumpy application. This kind of wallpaper paste is also relatively easy to remove, as it will dissolve in water. Users must take care in keeping their proportions strong, however. Too much water and the adhesive will be too runny to stick, but not enough and unsightly lumps tend to form.

You should consider hanging wallpaper with a cellulose wallpaper adhesive if you are applying your paper to non-traditional environments, like concrete walls, brick, or wood. Cellulose adhesives typically involve both alkali and methyl chloride compounds, which make them very effective at binding to most any surface. They typically have a very high water content, however, which can be troubling with particularly dense or textured papers. The water in the adhesive can sometimes bleed through or degrade the paper’s backing.

Vinyl adhesives are often a better choice for heavier papers, as well as for environments where there is a lot of moisture in the air. Choosing a vinyl wallpaper paste is often a good option for the bathroom, for instance. The latent steam in the air will not usually cause a cellulose wallpaper adhesive to buckle or warp. On the other hand, vinyl pastes can be very hard to remove. Should you change your mind about the paper after its application, you may find yourself with a difficult few hours of scraping ahead.

When in doubt about which of paste might be best for your project, never hesitate to ask. Home improvement store associates are usually trained to help customers make the best selection and will be able to advise you based on the specifics of your paper, your environment, and your budget. The fine print on the side of a wallpaper adhesive often lists suggested uses, as well. Taking the time to research your choices is far more onerous than just picking up the least expensive or most aggressively marketed product, but it can save you a lot of trouble and frustration later on down the line.

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Discussion Comments


The best way to choose a wallpaper paste might be to buy it from a store that specializes in wallpaper and ask the friendly folks there for recommendations. While those "big box" home improvement stores are convenient and great, getting some advice from a smaller store that specializes in wallpaper may be your best move.

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