How to Remove Old Wallpaper

Last update February 15, 2019
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Wallpaper used to be ultra-popular back in the day but, as time goes on, it gets dirty, fades, and ends up being more of a nuisance than an eye-catching decor choice. So if today you’re facing the challenge of removing old wallpaper, know you’re not alone and let us tell you all about the process.

Tools you need to remove old wallpaper

While wallpaper may be a nice way to decorate your walls and add a bit of color, few people are overjoyed when the time comes to scrape them off. The paper sticks to the wall, tears into pieces, and the whole process ends up being a massive headache. You might end up having to use drywall sanders after you’re done pulling off bits of old paper just to keep your wall looking presentable. Besides, a lot of homeowners nowadays are removing the paper altogether as the benefit of a cool image on your wall doesn’t always outweigh the cons. You’d have to spend several hours trying to scrape every last bit of paper off, trying not to damage the wall itself in the process. Since most people would prefer to do things a bit more efficiently, we’re here to get you acquainted with wallpaper and ways to get rid of it.

What Type of Wallpaper?

Different types of wallpaper

You’re probably a bit surprised right now, just as we were initially. After all, most people aren’t that well-versed in paper and don’t know that there are many types of it. And we’re not talking about separating the wallpaper by color or print, we mean the three types that will determine how you should actually remove the paper from your wall.

Strippable Wallpaper

First up is the strippable one. This is the one you should be hoping for as it’s much easier to remove than the two others. How do you know if you lucked out? Just gently dig at the corner of the paper with a knife and, once you can grab hold of it, pull it. If the paper comes off right away, congratulations, you’ve got the strippable kind and your task just got a lot easier.

Peelable Wallpaper

Next is the peelable kind, which is like the annoying cousin to the wonderful traditional wallpaper. This one can be simply pulled off as well, which is good news. But it leaves behind a thin layer of backing, which is bad (horrible, really) news. Basically, it fools you into thinking you’ve got the good paper but leaves behind a nasty surprise. Getting rid of that backing is the hard part of the task and that’s why you’re allowed to groan once you realize your paper is the peelable type. And you should never, under any circumstances, leave that backing on your wall. It ruins the look, second, it’s non-reliable and would simply tear off should you decide to put one of those TV wall mounts on it.

Traditional Wallpaper

Last but not least (that title goes to the peelable kind) is the traditional wallpaper. This one, should you pull it, will stay planted firmly on the wall. And while it’s also a chore to get rid off, at least it doesn’t fool you into a false feeling of luck like the peelable kind does.

What Is the Best Way to Take off Old Wallpaper?

Taking off old wallpaper with a drywall sander

Now that you know what wallpaper types there are, time to actually find out how to take off wallpaper with minimal time spent or at least most efficiently.

One of the popular but difficult methods includes the use of steam. You’ll have to buy an electric steamer and use it to consistently apply steam to all areas of wallpaper. This softens the glue that holds the paper to the wall and makes it much easier to peel off. However, this is pretty tiring, and buying the steamer just to do this one task is not the most practical solution. Besides, you’ll have to apply the steam to all of the wallpaper before scraping it off, which takes a long time as you have to wait on each area as the glue softens.

A girl is removing old wallpaper

The other popular method which you’ll likely have to resort to if you’re not one of those lucky people with strippable wallpaper is the use of a special solution. We’ll call it wallpaper remover because, well, that’s what it does. Using that one is easier as you only have to buy some wallpaper stripper, mix it with water and then apply it to the wallpaper. You still have to go slowly, coating each area in a bit of the remover but that way you don’t have to hold a heavy appliance that also has to be refilled. The only major holdup is the fact that the solution isn’t always absorbed well, in which case you’ll have to use a scoring tool. Roll it over the area to score the paper and make it absorb the solution you’ve applied. After the wallpaper is soaked well, scrape it off using the proper tool, just be careful as the paper might snag in some areas. If you’ve got drywall underneath the wallpaper, going too hard with the scraper might end up damaging the wall and leaving marks that deface the wall somewhat. Speaking of which, be careful not to soak the wallpaper too hard as the moisture could also be damaging to the drywall. You should be fine if your walls are made of plaster, though, yet another lucky break.

Whichever method you’ve used, you also have to remember that there’ll likely be something left after you’re done. Use a sponge or soft rag soaked in soapy water to remove the debris, it should wipe off pretty easily.

How Do You Make Wallpaper Remover?

Making wallpaper remover

This is the easiest step in your wallpaper removal process. Just buy some liquid stripper, mix it in with a healthy bit of hot water (the exact amount will probably be written on the packaging). Wait for a minute or so for the solution to settle and, well, that’s it.

If you’re on a budget or simply don’t feel like using chemicals, there are a few recipes floating out there that will help you make the wallpaper remover at home. The one we recommend is:

  1. Mix about 2 cups of white vinegar with 2 cups of water.
  2. Add just a bit of lemon juice (a third of a cup should be plenty).
  3. Wallpaper remover is ready.

While the store-bought stripper may be a bit more effective, this is a fine option as well.