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Beginners Guide to Wall Paper Removal Techniques That Work

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 1

You just bought that fixer upper and it is full of wall paper, which you are not

Wall paper Removal Techniques(94362)
a fan of.  So just which wall paper removal techniques work best? 

It really depends on how old the wall paper in your home is.  If it is pre-1980s, chances are it has become “one with the wall” and will need some special treatment.  But if you are lucky, and the previous owners re-decorated somewhere around the 80s then you may be looking at “dry strippable” wall paper, which comes off but requires a different technique.

How to get started:

Step one – Take a deep breath and then find a seam and lift it with a putty knife or other sharp yet flat instrument and see if it lifts off the wall.  If you are able to grab the top layer and it peels off in fairly big chunks leaving behind the tan coloured paper backing, then you are dealing with dry strippable wall paper, and you can now breathe a sigh of relief because this can be much easier to deal with and needs less tools.

Step two – If a top layer doesn’t come off, and the paper seems quite thin and comes off in tiny pieces, then it is likely on that wall quite well, and it is at this point you need to decide whether you could just paint over it, or go to the trouble of taking it off.

Wall Paper Removal Techniques(94361)

If you would rather take it off, then you will need some patience and a few other tools.

Step three – Now that we have decided what type of wall paper is on the walls you will need to follow two different wall paper removal techniques.

Dry Strippable – With this wall paper, you simply lift the top layer off and peel it completely off the wall, have a garbage bag read for all the pieces.

Wall paper removal techniques

Now get yourself a sponge and completely soak it in water and wring it barely, just enough that it is not completely dripping down your arm.  Take a 2 x 4 foot section (probably the top section of the wall paper pieces would be a good place to start) and rub the sponge back and forth to wet the backing paper.

Now many people will make the mistake of trying to get the paper off at this point, and the glue will be gooey, just be a bit more patient and things will move along quicker.

Now go back and wet the sponge again, and do the bottom section of backing with the sponge.  Now get it wet again (probably best to have a bucket right there and some protection on the floor) and go back to that first section and give it another wet rub, then do the same for the second section. 

Now, you should be able to take a 3 inch wide flat plastering tool and start to lift the really wet backing paper and if you had done the first coat of wet, waited a minute or so, then the second coat of wet, it should have released the glue. 

If you are still finding it hard to get off the wall, wait a minute or two and soak it again, then try it and the paper should simply lift off the wall with a bit of help.

Yes things will be wet, but the paper will be off the wall with minimal wall damage. 

Once you have all the paper off the wall, then you need to take a sponge mop and soak it in a bit of warm water and a touch of vinegar and really scrub the walls down to get off any glue residue so that your paint goes on smooth without any mottling from glue underneath.

Old Thin Wall Paper Removal – This type of paper will need a few more tools.  I recently renovated a 1974 house that was full of wallpaper.  Some walls we were lucky with the dry strippable type, but others were the older thin paper. 

It was not on the wall well enough to paint over, but it was stuck on quite well when it came to trying to take it off.  Some people will simply re-drywall it with a thin piece of drywall, but after a few rooms, we found some wall paper removal techniques that worked well for this older paper.

I purchased a wall paper scorer.  This is simply a round object that you run in circles over t

Wall paper Removal techniques - Scouring tool
he wall paper and it scores the paper without damaging the underneath wall board. 

Zinsser 2976 PaperTiger Scoring Tool for Wallpaper Removal Triple Head

I then filled a bucket with warm water mixed with a ¼ cup or so of fabric softener.  I took the score tool and scored a section then I took the sponge, which was dripping wet and soaked the area, and waited at least 5 to 10 minutes before trying to lift the paper with the scraper.

This worked quite well, but there were bits that would not lift, so I used a rented steamer. 

The only problem I will tell you with the steamer idea, is that it sometimes lifted the paint that was underneath the wall paper with the intense steam.  Now we were repainting anyways, but now we had to sand the wall because some of the paint had lifted, so use a wall paper steamer only when you have to in my opinion.

The wall paper score tool and the water with fabric softener worked well.  You can purchase commercial wall paper removal gel, but personally I found anything in a spray bottle just didn’t get the paper wet enough and it hurt my hand after one wall with the trigger action you had to keep using!

Using a good wet sponge worked the best.

Now no matter which wall paper type you had to remove, one thing for sure is that there cannot be any little bits still on the wall if you plan on painting. 

One of the best ways I found to get off any little tiny pieces, was with a scouring pad.  Like the ones you get on the back of sponges for doing dishes.  It was just enough friction to remove the little bits of paper and residue without damaging the wall.

Now your wall is ready for action.  You can simply fill any chips or holes, or if the wall is quite badly damaged after removing the paper you can use texture paint.  We did that for one wall.  It is simply paint with a bit of sand in it and it hides imperfections.

These were our wall paper removal techniques and they worked well, I hope you will try them and have the same success.


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Comments

Apr 21, 2012 5:24pm
Lynsuz
Great tips on removing wallpaper. A messy job to say the least, but when removal in our small hall bath was done the room looked so much larger. And well worth the effort.
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