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What are the Best Ways to Remove Wallpaper?

By S. Zaimov
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are a number of different ways to remove wallpaper when redecorating a home. The best method usually depends on the type of wallpaper and how long it has been glued to the wall. Hot water steams, chemical solvents and dry peeling are all possible means of removing wallpaper.

One way to remove wallpaper is with a cleaning solution, called a solvent, which softens and relaxes the glue binding the paper to the wall. Many people add laundry detergent to warm water, which they then apply to the surface. This helps loosen the adhesive so that the wallpaper can be easily peeled off. Rubbing alcohol or vinegar may also make good solvents when added in a one-to-four ratio to water. Others prefer to use liquid fabric softener because it can be sprayed directly on the desired area.

Steamers are also commonly used to remove wallpaper. These appliances are similar to irons that smooth out the wrinkles in clothes. Steamers boil water and release hot steam when pressed next to a surface. When applied to a wall, the steam heats up the wallpaper and loosens the ahdesive. Utility knives or putty knives are sometimes needed to help lift the corners of strips of paper and scrape off stuck pieces. Some people use gloves to protect their hands from burns when working with steamers to remove wallpaper.

Metallic wallpaper or other non-porous paper is often harder to remove. Solvents alone may be ineffective. In these cases, a scoring tool, such as a Paper Tiger®, may be required. After applying solvent, the scorer is rolled over the wallpaper to pinch and tear the wallpaper off the wall.

Even when the wallpaper has been removed, patches of glued wallpaper may remain stuck to the wall. In most cases, they can be easily scrubbed away through a common household method. A kitchen scrub and a bucket full of hot water usually do a good and inexpensive job. Since the process of scrubbing off the extra glue can often be messy, however, it is usually recommended that the floor and the furniture in the room be covered up first.

More modern wallpaper is often much easier to remove because it does not require any special solvents or steaming. It can simply be peeled off at a 45-degree angle by pulling the strip of paper backward. The strip should come right off, but if some pieces get stuck, hot water and a scrub may have to be utilized.

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Discussion Comments

By Wisedly33 — On Oct 23, 2014

I want the kind of wallpaper you just peel off. It seems in this day and age, that fooling with scoring and softening and all that stuff is just too much work if a wallpaper is available that just peels off the wall, without leaving a lot of residue. Peel-off adhesives work with the picture hangers. Why not wallpaper?

I love the look of wallpaper, but I'm just too sinfully lazy to want to deal with putting it up and then peeling it off when I'm tired of it. I'm not really into decorating anyway, so all that just exhausts me. Some people really get into the whole interior decor hobby, but I'm definitely not one of them.

By Scrbblchick — On Oct 22, 2014

I think, actually, the order of business is to score the paper with the paper tiger *first,* and then apply the solvent, so it can soak into the holes in the paper and soften the glue. If you put the solvent on first and tried to score it, I suspect you'd have a rather large mess on your hands.

In any case, scoring, then solvent is the method I've seen on all the home improvement and DIY shows. I'm always torn between using wallpaper and just painting the room. Which is easier? I'm inclined to say painting because you don't have to remove the old paint to add the new paint.

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