Everything You Need to Know About Removing Wallpaper Safely
Change the look of your room with confidence.
Wallpaper makes a dramatic statement in a room, but what happens when you get tired of the pattern you chose? Unlike with paint, refreshing a wallpapered room isn't as simple as choosing a new color and getting to work. That's why we asked experts to share their best tips for safely removing wallpaper so that you can start afresh.
Assess the current wallpaper (and your walls) first.
"Really, really old wallpapers have very different properties from wallpapers today," says Carol Miller, public relations and product marketing manager at York Wallcoverings. "They can catch and hold to the point that they may need to be skim coated over." Another important factor that can require special attention is whether or not you have drywall. "Drywall is far more permeable, and that old, very strong paste may soak into the drywall top and pull it off when being removed," she says. You'll then need to patch the wall. Whatever you do, don't apply new wallpaper over the old. This could reactivate the old paste, creating bubbles. Both layers would then have to be removed.
Buy the right tools and supplies.
Miller recommends having the following on hand:
- Painters tape, drop cloth, garbage bags
- Step stool
- Wallpaper scoring tool or wire bristle brush
- Putty knife
- Wallpaper remover spray or spray bottle containing homemade alternative
- Mild soap
One thing to note: Renting a wallpaper steamer is one way to speed up the removal process. If you go this route, be aware that the steamer will drip hot water. For this reason, Miller recommends wearing gloves and protective clothing.
Prep and score your walls.
Before you start, move furniture away from the walls, then cover all exposed woodwork and flooring using drop cloths and painters tape. Set up your workspace by placing garbage bags within reach, along with your step stool, wallpaper scoring tool and/or wire bristle brush. Next, get close to the wallpaper and observe the surface layer. "Wallpaper surfaces have coatings which assist in the colorfastness, durability, and washability of the product. This surface should be scored, or punctured, to allow moisture through the coating," Miller says. Using your scoring tool or bristle brush, apply pressure to create holes all over the wallpaper surface (taking care not to go through the wall).
Soak (or steam) the paper.
After you score the wallpaper, it's time to reach for the removal solution. (If you didn't buy a pre-made solution, Miller says that you can create your own. "Both fabric softener diluted with water, or vinegar mixed with boiling water have also been used as DIY solutions," she says.) Spray down one panel with the solution until completely coated, then wait 20 minutes to allow the solution to soak in. If you're using a steamer, you won't need solution. First, follow the manufacturer's instructions to fill and heat the tool. Once ready, place the steamer pad against the paper for the length of time indicated by the manufacturer's instructions. Then, remove the panel as instructed in the next paragraph.
Spray and strip the paper.
For the most efficient removal, spray down your next panel before removing the one you're currently working with. Then, return to your current panel. Grasp the top corner and gently pull straight down. Using a metal spatula or putty knife, loosen difficult areas. Repeat soaking and stripping until all the wallpaper is removed. If any backing paper remains, moisten with mild soap and water and remove.
Give the walls a final wash.
After all the wallpaper is removed, wash down the walls with a fresh sponge and warm, mildly soapy water to remove paste residue.