How to Remove Wallpaper

Two decades ago, the wallpaper that's now haunting your master bath was all the rage. Today, though, it has to go. Lucky for you, removing wallpaper is relatively simple with some elbow grease and a few household items.

October 11, 2019
How to Remove Wallpaper: Apply Hot Water Solution and Scrape

How to Remove Wallpaper: Apply Hot Water Solution and Scrape

After a few minutes, use your rigid scraper to scrape the wet wallpaper and backing off of the wall.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

Materials Needed

  • 5” rigid putty knife
  • wallpaper scoring tool
  • pressure sprayer
  • hot water from tap or electric kettle
  • vinegar
  • fabric softener
  • screwdriver
  • safety glasses
  • painter’s plastic tarp
  • painter’s tape
  • garbage can with can liner

Protect Floors and Electrical Outlets

Before beginning your wallpaper removal process, you’ll want to protect your floors since you’ll be spraying water onto the walls. Lay down a plastic painter’s tarp; you may want to secure the tarp to the floor using painter’s tape (Image 1). Your wall will probably have at least one electrical outlet; leave the outlet cover on and protect the entire area with painter’s tape (Image 2). Once the majority of the wallpaper is removed, you can come back to the outlet and remove the final pieces under the outlet cover.

Pry Up Wallpaper

There are many different types of wallpaper, from vinyl coated to bamboo. For most, there will be an outer layer (vinyl, textile, bamboo or paper) and an adhesive inner layer (generally paper). Begin your wallpaper removal journey with a large, rigid putty knife or scraper. Simply find an edge to your wallpaper and pry it up using the scraper. If you can, peel the wallpaper down or begin to scrape it off the wall. If your wallpaper comes off in sheets, you’re one of the lucky ones.

How to Remove Wallpaper: Peel Back Wallpaper

How to Remove Wallpaper: Peel Back Wallpaper

Begin your wallpaper removal journey with a large, rigid putty knife or scraper. Simply find an edge to your wallpaper and pry it up using the scraper.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

Score Wallpaper

For the majority of wallpaper removal projects, you’ll need to apply a hot water solution to the paper and adhesive backing in order to reactivate the adhesive and allow the paper to come off of the wall. Some types of wallpaper are more soluble than others; vinyl papers, like the ones used in bathrooms and kitchens, may even repel water. No matter what type you have, it’s a good idea to purchase an inexpensive wallpaper scoring tool (Image 1). This tool will slightly perforate the outer layer of wallpaper, allowing the hot water solution to penetrate to the adhesive and begin to loosen its hold on the wall. Use light pressure to run the scoring tool over the entire surface of the wall (Image 2). Don’t use too much pressure because the scoring tool can puncture through the paper and into the sheetrock or plaster, adding extra work of puttying the wall once you’re finished removing the paper. Buy a wallpaper scoring tool on Amazon.

Mix Hot Water Solution

Once you’ve run the scoring tool over the entire wall, you’re ready to apply your hot water solution. There are two types of homemade wallpaper removal solutions that work best:

  • Solution #1: 1/4 fabric softener to 3/4 hot water
  • Solution #2: 1/3 household vinegar to 2/3 hot water

You may find that one works better on your type of wallpaper than the other. Hot water is the most important ingredient.

Mix hot water from your tap or kettle with either product in a household pressure sprayer. With your floors and electrical outlets covered and protected, you’re ready to wet the walls. Before you begin, put on safety goggles to protect your eyes as well. Have a large garbage can nearby so you can place large pieces of wallpaper directly into it. This will save time on cleanup later. Many small pieces will fall onto the floor. Your plastic painter’s tarp will catch these and make the final cleanup much easier.

How to Remove Wallpaper: Mix Hot Water Solution

How to Remove Wallpaper: Mix Hot Water Solution

Mix hot water from your tap or kettle with either product in a household pressure sprayer.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

Apply Solution and Scrape Off Wallpaper

Use your pressure sprayer to apply the hot water solution to a four-foot-wide section of the wall (Image 1). Wait for two to three minutes to allow the solution to work its magic. Then, use your rigid scraper to pry a corner of the wet wallpaper and backing off of the wall (Image 2). Pull the wallpaper off in sheets and drop large pieces into the trash can (Image 3). Work the entire surface while it’s wet. You may find that some wallpaper or backing has dried and become more difficult to remove. Ignore the dried wallpaper and focus on removing the still wet pieces. Once the majority of the wet paper is removed, repeat this process. Spray, wait and scrape away the remaining bits of wallpaper.

Don’t forget those electrical outlets. Turn off the power to the outlet at the breaker box to protect yourself from electrical shock. Remove the painter’s tape from the outlet and use a screwdriver to remove the cover. Use your scraper to remove the wallpaper around the outlet. If necessary, wet the area with a rag soaked in the hot water solution, wait a few minutes and scrape the wallpaper off (Image 4).

Remove Remaining Adhesive

Once you’ve removed all of the wallpaper, you may notice some adhesive left on the walls. Remove it by going over the walls one more time with the hot water solution and scraper. Cover the electrical outlet with painter's tape, spray a four-foot-wide section and work the scraper along the surface of the wall, removing the final bits of glue (Images 1 and 2). Use a clean, wet rag to wipe the wall down as you go (Image 3).

You’ve done it! Out with the old and in with the new. Use an oil-based primer to prepare your wall for a fresh coat of paint.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

Next Up

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