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How to Remove Wallpaper (Easily!)

Ready to ditch that tired floral wallpaper? Learn how to remove wallpaper and start transforming your entire space

By Architectural Digest US | July 23, 2021 | Category

Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Ready to ditch that tired floral wallpaper? Learn how to remove wallpaper and start transforming your entire space.

When it comes to wallpaper, what goes up must come down. If you’re ready to give your walls a makeover, the first step is learning how to remove wallpaper. Whether you’ll be painting or re-papering with new wallpaper, experts agree that taking down the old paper is essential. Fortunately, you don’t need to hire a pro—it’s a DIY project you can handle in a day.

No matter what type of wallpaper you’re dealing with, we’ll show you how to remove it as painlessly as possible. The specifics of these removal methods vary (and there isn’t one best way to remove wallpaper), but they all will successfully take down stubborn wallpaper and leave you with a smooth and undamaged wall surface—ripe for your remodel dreams. Read on to find out what you need to do to strip your wall coverings without damaging your walls.

Image: Unsplash

Clear and Prepare the Room for DIY Wallpaper Removal

Begin by removing items from the walls and moving furniture to the center of the room, or out of the room if possible. Cover floors and remaining furniture with drop cloths to protect them from getting wet.

Cut the Power

Shut off the electricity to the room and cover any electrical outlets or light switches with painter’s tape. (Note: You can always come back later and add wallpaper to your outlet covers so they blend into the walls—or pick a fun contrasting print so they stand out. This step requires removing the wall plates and cutting a piece of wallpaper about half an inch bigger on all sides, gluing the paper on with Mod Podge, carefully trimming the edges and adding openings for plugs with a razor knife, and then reattaching the plates to the wall. Voilà!)

Determine Your Wall and Wallpaper Type

You’ll want to figure out whether you have plaster walls or drywall before you start peeling. Drywall can be damaged if it gets too wet, so be careful not to over soak it. It’s also important to determine what types of wallpaper you’re working with. Use a putty knife to loosen a corner of the paper and try to peel it off. If it comes right off, then you have strippable wallpaper. (You lucky thing, you! This may be the easiest way to remove wallpaper.) If the wallpaper peels away but leaves a paper backing, then you’re dealing with peelable wallpaper. If the paper doesn’t budge, then you have a traditional wallpaper that will need to be removed with water and a chemical stripper (sorry). Below, you’ll find instructions for how to remove each type of wallpaper.

How to Remove Strippable Wallpaper

1. Gather Your Materials

  1. Putty knife
  2. Soap
  3. Water
  4. Rags

2. Loosen the Corner and Pull

Use your putty knife to lift the corner of the paper. Use your hands to peel the paper from the wall, pulling as close to the wall as you can to avoid tearing the paper. If the paper does rip, loosen another corner and start again. Repeat the process around the entire room.

3. Clean the Walls

Once all the paper has been removed, clean the walls with soap and warm water to remove any residue. Allow the walls to dry completely before painting.

How to Remove Traditional Wallpaper

1. Gather Your Materials

  1. Water
  2. Wallpaper stripper
  3. Spray bottle, garden sprayer, or paint roller
  4. Putty knife or scraper
  5. Wallpaper scoring tool (if necessary)
  6. Ladder
  7. Soap
  8. Water
  9. Rags
  10. Rubber gloves

2. Mix the Solution

Combine hot water and wallpaper stripper according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pour the solution into a spray bottle or garden sprayer.

3. Apply Solution

Use a spray bottle, garden sprayer, or paint roller to apply the solution to a small section of the wall, about three feet by three feet. Let the solution sit and absorb for several minutes.

4. Scrape the Wallpaper Off

Use your putty knife to peel off the wallpaper, working your way up the wall. (Specially designed scraping tools may help with tough jobs, as they feature ergonomic handles that will be more comfortable when elbow grease is required to remove all the wallpaper paste.) Be careful not to gouge the drywall as you scrape. Once the paper has been removed from the section, move on to the next area.

5. Score if Necessary

If the solution doesn’t absorb and the wallpaper is difficult to scrape, you may need to score the wall before applying the solution. Roll a scoring tool (an essential wallpaper removal tool!) over the paper, making overlapping circles.

6. Clean the Walls

Wipe down the walls with soap and water to remove any residue. If there’s stubborn adhesive left behind, follow our guide on how to remove wallpaper glue. If the removal process left behind any tiny holes in the wall, use spackling paste to fill them, let it dry, and then use sandpaper to remove any protrusions before painting or re-papering.

How to Remove Peelable Wallpaper

1. Gather Your Materials

  1. Water
  2. Wallpaper stripper
  3. Spray bottle, garden sprayer or paint roller
  4. Putty knife
  5. Scoring tool (if necessary)
  6. Ladder
  7. Soap
  8. Water
  9. Rags
  10. Rubber gloves

2. Remove the Top Layer

Begin by peeling off the top layer of the wallpaper. Loosen the corner with a putty knife and pull the paper off the paper backing.

3. Remove the Backing

To remove the paper layer left behind, you’ll use the technique described above for removing traditional wallpaper.

How to Remove Wallpaper When Nothing Else Works: Grab a Wallpaper Steamer

If your wallpaper refuses to budge no matter how much you spray and scrape, you may need to use an electric steamer, which can be rented from a home improvement store.

1. Gather Your Materials

  1. Electric steamer (designated wallpaper removal steamers are easier to use than the small handheld ones you may use on your clothes)
  2. Putty knife
  3. Safety goggles
  4. Rubber gloves
  5. Scoring tool (if necessary)
  6. Soap
  7. Water
  8. Rags

2. Set Up the Steamer

Follow the manufacturer’s directions to prepare the steamer. You’ll add water to the steamer and let it heat up before beginning. Be sure to wear protective gloves and long sleeves so you don’t get burned by the steam or drips of hot water.

3. Steam the Wallpaper

Hold the steamer to the wallpaper to loosen the adhesive. If you have drywall, be careful not to oversteam. Scrape the wallpaper off with a putty knife. If the steam doesn’t penetrate the wallpaper, use a scoring tool to make small holes in the paper. Continue the process of steaming and scraping until all the wallpaper is removed.

4. Clean the Walls

Clean off any residue with soap and water. Allow the walls to dry completely.

Image: Unsplash

Ready to Start Over?

Once you’ve successfully removed any traces of wallpaper from your walls and are ready for a fresh start, consider all the wallpaper options and wall paint colors out there. Get moody with matte black paint, or try a matchy-matchy look by choosing the same print for your curtains and your walls. Or, use wallpaper and paint on different surfaces in the same room. Companies such as Farrow & Ball and Graham & Brown offer both chic wallpaper and pretty wall paint, so you can ensure that your selections complement each other seamlessly. There are lots of great places to buy wallpaper online, so get browsing!

Original article appeared on Architectural Digest | Author Kristi Kellogg, Elizabeth Stamp, and Allie Weiss