How To Remove Wallpaper Like A Pro

There are many reasons why you might feel like it’s time to remove the wallpaper in your home. It might be dated, it might not match your furniture and decor, or there might be other health and safety reasons – which we’ll get into later.

Depending on many factors, such as the type of wallpaper, the adhesive used, and how long the wall covering has been on the walls, the wallpaper may or may not be easy to remove.

Luckily, we have years of experience and plenty of removing wallpaper tips that will help you learn how to remove wallpaper like a pro. With four different methods, you’re bound to find the best way to remove the wallpaper for you.

One of the simplest methods is to soak the paper and scrape it off using these basic tools.

Reasons for wallpaper removal

Most people tend to want to remove their wallpaper for aesthetic purposes. For example, they might have bought a home and are in the process of redecorating. However, there are also other reasons unrelated to aesthetic reasons, such as mould and poor adhesion.

If the adhesive used was not applied correctly or wasn’t the right consistency, the wallpaper will eventually peel away from the surface over time and will need to be stuck back down or removed entirely.

To re-stick wallpaper, it’s recommended to use a ready-mixed tub adhesive like border paste. But, if there’s evidence of mould growth on the wallpaper, you will have to remove the wallpaper. Before wallpapering again, be sure to treat the mould and prepare the area properly.

Health and safety tip

Be extra careful when removing wallpaper contaminated with mould. To avoid spores getting into your lungs, wear goggles, a respirator, gloves, and overalls. Dispose of the old wallpaper in a sealed heavy-duty polythene bag and sterilize your equipment and PPE afterwards.

Removing wallpaper using the wetting in/hand soaking method

This first method is the most common for professional decorators and is widely considered the easiest way to remove regular wallpaper.

What you’ll need:

  • Dust sheets
  • Masking tape
  • Bucket
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Large flat paintbrush
  • Scraper/stripping knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Wallpaper scourer (optional)
  • Scoring tool (optional)

Step 1: Start by securing dust sheets down with masking tape to protect the area from any water damage or debris.

Step 2: Turn off all electricity at the mains and loosen plug sockets and light switches so you can strip off the paper behind them. Only switch the electricity back on when the surfaces are completely dry.

Step 3: Fill a bucket with warm water and a small amount of dishwashing detergent. Apply the soapy water to the walls using a large flat paintbrush, working from the bottom to the top. Going in this direction will help the water break the surface tension and allow for better penetration.

Step 4: When the wall is thoroughly wet, leave the water to soak in and penetrate the wallpaper so the paste used to stick the wallpaper softens. The water needs to penetrate the paper so the adhesive will revert to its liquid state and stop sticking to the wallpaper.

Step 5: Remove the wallpaper with a scraper or stripping knife. For hard-to-remove wallpaper, you might need to use a wallpaper scourer or saturate the wallpaper a second time. Dispose of the wallpaper during the process to maintain cleanliness and avoid any hazards.

Tip: Poking holes with a wallpaper scoring tool can help the water penetrate through more easily.

How to remove wallpaper with a steamer

Commonly known as “steam stripping”, this method is used to remove stubborn wallpaper, for example, washable wallpaper and multi-layered wallpaper, and for removing painted wallpaper. These wallpaper types would be difficult to remove with the wetting-in/hand-soaking method.

Wondering how the steamer works? Steam strippers consist of a water tank that heats water into steam. The steam then travels along a hose onto a plate pierced with holes, which is pressed against the wallpaper so it can penetrate into the wall covering to soften the wallpaper and adhesive.

What you’ll need:

  • Wallpaper removal steamer
  • Scraper
  • Dust sheets
  • Masking tape
  • Gloves
  • Goggles

Step 1: Start by protecting the area – lay down dust sheets and secure them with masking tape, and remove any furniture and items.

Step 2: Pour warm water into the steamer’s reservoir with the power off.

Step 3: Turn on the machine and wait for the water to boil.

Step 4: With gloves and goggles on, place the stripper’s steam pad firmly on the wallpaper for 30 seconds.

Step 5: Move the pad and remove the loose paper with a scraper.

Choosing the right wallpaper removal steamer

While there are some stores that allow you to rent a steam stripper, it’s important to consider a few factors if you’ve decided to purchase one. A good wallpaper removal steamer might feature:

  • An easy-to-fill spout
  • Safety release valves to prevent overheating
  • A large steam plate to cover large areas and save time
  • Water level indicator
  • Built-in hose and steam plate storage

How to dry strip peelable wallpapers

Dry stripping is different from the last two methods we discussed, as it doesn’t involve water or steam. If you’re removing vinyl wallpaper, this is the method for you. Because vinyl wallpaper is made up of a peelable top layer and backing paper, it is typically much easier to remove than other types of wallpaper. However, some might have issues gripping onto both layers to effectively remove it.

What you’ll need:

  • Putty knife

Step 1: Using a putty knife, loosen the wallpaper from the wall.

Step 2: Peel back the wallpaper slowly at a 10- to 15-degree angle.

If for any reason the wallpaper backing remains on the wall, you may need to use the wetting in or steam stripping method to help.

Removing Wallpaper With Fabric Softener

You can also remove wallpaper with fabric softener, using steps similar to the wetting-in method.

What you’ll need:

  • Fabric softener
  • Spray bottle
  • Scoring tool
  • Scraper
  • Dust sheets
  • Masking tape

Step 1: To start, remove as much wallpaper as you can by hand.

Step 2: Pierce the wallpaper with a scoring tool and saturate it with hot water.

Step 3: Mix 1 part fabric softener and 1 part water in a spray bottle and spray the wall evenly.

Step 4: Let the solution soak for around 15 minutes.

Step 5: Scrape the wallpaper away!

How to remove wallpaper glue

So what happens if you’ve spent hours removing that wallpaper you don’t want anymore and end up with a wall full of old glue? In order to move on and start painting or putting on new wallpaper, read on to find out how to remove that pesky wallpaper glue.

What you’ll need:

  • Dust sheets
  • Masking tape
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Bucket
  • Putty knife
  • Sponge
  • Rags
  • Baking soda

Step 1: Prepare the room like you would with water- or steam-based wallpaper removal with dust sheets secured down with masking tape. Remove all items from the area and turn off the electricity.

Step 2: Mix hot water, detergent, and a teaspoon of baking soda in a bucket.

Step 3: Apply the solution to the wall in sections by using a damp sponge (this is so you tackle the glue when it’s at its softest). Let the solution sit and then wipe the residual glue with a rag or scrape it off with a putty knife.

Step 4: Once done, wipe the rest of the cleaning solution off the walls in a circular motion. Make sure you use a clean rag and a little bit of warm water.

Step 5: Dry the water with a clean towel.

Safety considerations when removing wallpaper

While removing wallpaper might seem risk-free, there are still a few safety considerations to keep in mind.

  • As mentioned previously, take precautions when dealing with mouldy or defective surfaces as they can be damaging to health.
  • Consider the state of your house or building through a risk assessment before starting your project.
  • Prepare the room adequately by removing slipping or tripping hazards.
  • Always consider electrical safety – turn off the electricity and cover sockets
  • Dispose of any waste and debris safely and keep the area clean to prevent cross-contamination
  • If your home is older, check to see whether asbestos was used in construction.