How To Strip Wallpaper The Right Way Without Damages

Are you tired of your home’s old wallpaper? From stubborn wall covering to piles of soggy paper, removing an existing wallpaper can be a messy endeavour. Many homeowners prefer to paint over it or re-wallpapering over the existing one. Wondering what is way better than that? Stripping it off and starting fresh with a smooth, even surface! 

home repair concept, removed wallpaper on the floor, remodel apartment, selective focus

Either it is a small area of the house or a whole room, you can make this a DIY project and get the results you want. We are here to walk you through the easiest ways to remove wallpaper and show you how to do the job right without damaging your walls.

How hard is it to remove wallpaper?

We’ll be honest – removing your wallpaper can be labour-intensive and time-consuming. Of course, the difficulty varies, depending on its age and style. Typically, the most challenging point is removing the wallpaper glue and backing paper. Be careful; if you speed up the process and work too aggressively, you may damage your walls. Patience and preparation are vital to stripping your wallpaper the right way.

Determine what kind of wallpaper you’re dealing with

  • Strippable wallpaper will come off in one clean piece and is the easiest to remove without tearing. 
  • Traditional wallpaper needs more effort, but you can remove it with the help of scoring, solvents or steam. 
  • Laminated or vinyl wallpapers are the most difficult to remove; their washable surface makes it difficult for steam or solvents to penetrate. You may want to consult a professional, but you can also use the extra help of a wallpaper scoring device. 
  • Porous wallpaper may not come off in easy sheets, but it can quickly absorb water and loosen up. Use a sponge to apply some water to an area to figure out if it’s porous. It will be porous if the wallpaper soaks the water up but won’t be if it drips right off. 
  • Nonporous wallpaper. Many wallpapers have a decorative nonporous layer. You’ll see this mostly with one that’s metallic or has raised parts. This wallpaper will need a bit of extra work; you’ll need to score it before applying water to help it soak in and loosen the paper.

Pro-Tip: To strip laminated or vinyl paper, peel away the top layer first to reveal the backing. If you come across any hard-to-remove sections, use a wallpaper tool to score these pieces and soak into the vinyl and adhesive with a wallpaper remover.

A woman housewife peels off an old vinyl wallpaper with a trowel or spatula

Find out what type of walls you have

  • Most homes built before the 1950s have walls made of plaster over wood, gypsum or metal lathe. Removal is usually easy since wallpaper doesn’t adhere directly to the wood. Also, plaster walls are much more water-resistant than drywall, making steaming safer.
  • Most houses built after the 1950s are made with drywall. Removal should be easy if the wall was primed before wallpaper was applied. But if it bonds directly to the wall, it can be difficult to remove without damaging the wall.

Pro-Tip: To determine which type you have, check under a light switch or wall plate to see a wall’s exposed section. Drywall will be uniform and thin, while plaster will be troweled up to the electrical box.

What to do before removing your wallpaper

When it comes to DIY projects, preparation is always an important step. Before you start with your removal, make sure to prep the room so that your belongings and baseboards don’t get any water damage. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Clear the walls

Remove all decorations from the room you’re working on. When wallpaper comes away from the walls, it can release a lot of grime and dust. Clear out space ahead of time to make the job easier and save yourself from cleaning off these items later. This includes everything that’s attached to the wall, such as:

  • Pictures
  • Paintings
  • Lights
  • Television
  • Mounts
  • Switchplates
  • Vents
  • Hardware like nails and screws 

female Decorator hanging picture on white brick wall in room. Interior design

Step 2: Clear the room

Wallpaper removal is a messy business. The best way to protect your rugs, furniture, and other décor is by taking it to another room before you start. 

  • Take out chairs, sofas, beds, shelves, decorations, rugs. Leave them in another room until you’ll remove the wallpaper and decorate the room.
  • If there are certain objects you can’t remove, take them to the room’s centre to protect them and to give yourself more available space to work.

Step 3: Cover everything with plastic

  • Cover heavy-to-move furniture and whatever remains in the room with plastic sheeting or drop cloths.
  • Cover the floors to protect tile, carpet, and hardwood. 
  • Use painter’s tape to tape the plastic sheets’ edges to the baseboards, so wallpaper paste and water don’t leak onto the floor or soak the baseboards.
  • If there’s any furniture in the room’s centre, cover it with plastic too.

Step 4: Turn off the electricity to the room you are working in

You shouldn’t risk any water getting into an electrical outlet and causing a problem. 

  • To turn off the electricity, find the electrical panel, often in a closet or basement.
  • You should shut off the individual breaker that powers the room you’re working in. If breakers are not marked, you may need to test several options to find the right one. 
  • Plugin some spotlights to other rooms’ outlets, and with the use of extension cords, get them in your work area.

Step 5: Unscrew all fixtures from the walls

Using a cordless screwdriver, you need to take off:

  • Lighting fixtures
  • Switchplate covers 
  • Electrical outlet covers
  • Grates
  • Vents
  • Anything else attached to the wall 

Place the screws and hardware into a resealable plastic bag so you don’t lose them. Keep in mind that sometimes the places underneath fixtures are the best ones to start peeling away wallpaper.

Worker man electrician is repairing damaged switch in the apartment, installation of new closeup

Step-by-step guide: How to strip wallpaper from plaster and lath walls

It is now time to remove the wallpaper. Remember, the process you’re going to follow depends on the material of the wallpaper and the type of your walls. Here is how to remove wallpaper from plaster and lath walls.

Step 1: Gather the tools needed

For dry-strippable kinds of wallpaper:

  • Wallpaper scrapping tool
  • Putty knife

For porous wallpaper:

  • Wallpaper scrapping tool
  • Putty knife
  • Wallpaper remover solvent
  • Bucket of water and sponge
  • Spray bottle

For nonporous wallpaper:

  • Wallpaper scraper
  • Putty knife
  • Wallpaper remover solvent
  • Bucket of water and sponge
  • Spray bottle
  • Wallpaper perforating tool (or sandpaper, sander)

Step 2: Consider renting a steamer

Have you heard of clothes steamers? There are also devices that help you with wallpaper! When you have a tough job on your hands, wallpaper steamers can be extremely helpful. You can use the steamer to apply hot steam to the wallpaper instead of soaking your walls in hot water. That way, it will be easier to loosen it right up and allow you to strip it away. Steamers aren’t expensive to rent for a day of work – you probably won’t pay more than £10 – £20 for the job. You can also buy your own steamer for about £35 if you plan to use it for more than one day or more projects.

young woman removing wallpaper using a stemaer, standing on a ladder

Step 3: Mix your wallpaper removal solution

  • Fill a bucket and a bottle with a mixture of warm water and removal solution.
  • The recommended ratio is 140 gram of wallpaper stripper diluted with 3.8 L of water.
  • Dividing the mixture between a bucket and a bottle will help you reach every corner.

Step 4: Perforate the wallpaper if necessary

  • If you are stripping a nonporous wallpaper, start using a perforation tool or sandpaper to perforate it. 
  • It’s easiest to do all of the wallpaper, rather than doing it section by section, so you won’t have to go back and do more later. 
  • Make sure you do it evenly, from top to bottom and side to side, to ensure it will take in water or steam.

Extra tip: Don’t use a knife or another sharp object for this process as it could damage the plaster underneath the wallpaper.

Step 5: Soak the walls

  • If your wallpaper is dry-stripping, you can skip this step. If you have porous or nonporous wallpaper, start by wetting the walls. 
  • Use a bucket and sponge or bottle to soak the wallpaper thoroughly. Give it around 10 minutes to soak in and loosen the wallpaper.
  • If you’re using the steamer, go over a section to loosen the wallpaper along the way. After you’re finished, rest the hot steamer head in a baking pan.
  • Continue soaking or steaming, letting it sit, and stripping until you’ve removed every layer of wallpaper. After you are done, get the pieces of paper that remain. As long as the wallpaper is wet, work at it a while, and keep your scrubby sponge handy to help it along.

Extra tip: Don’t soak all of the walls at the same time. It works better to wash a large section at a time. It will only take you about 15 minutes to remove the wallpaper there. Don’t let water sit in the walls for a more extended time; it could damage the plaster. 

Step 6: Start stripping

  • Use the knife to strip the wallpaper. 
  • Pull it back at a sharp angle to reduce the chance of pulling off the plaster. 
  • Keep stripping until you remove the wallpaper from the area you wet down.

Extra tip: While you’re stripping one area, leave another area soaking to save time. If the wallpaper of the area you left soaking is stubborn, do it thoroughly again and wait another 10 minutes.

hands in glove removing old wallpaper with spatula during repair

Step 7: Clean the walls

Now that the wallpaper is off, clean the walls with fresh, clean hot water. That way, you’ll prep your walls for whatever you decide to do next, whether it’s just repairing your walls, painting them or even hanging more wallpaper!

Step-by-step guide: How to remove wallpaper from drywall

As already mentioned, the process you’re going to follow depends on the material of the wallpaper and the type of your walls. Removing wallpaper from such walls can be more difficult and time-consuming than the previous guide. We are here to help and offer detailed instructions, so you don’t have to worry!

Step 1: Gather your supplies

  • Plastic covers or tarps
  • Painter’s tape
  • Scoring tool
  • Chemical wallpaper stripper
  • Wallpaper removing fabric sheets
  • Compression sprayer or a bottle for spraying
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Water (hot)
  • Ladder or chair
  • Scrapping tool

Step 2: Dry strip what you can

No matter the wallpaper you have, start by tearing off all the loose pieces you can.

  • If you have strippable wallpaper, strip it off with your hands without adding water or stripping chemicals to remove most of it. Loosen the corners with the scraper or a putty knife, and then peel off the paper at a 15-degree angle. With a damp sponge, moisten any leftover paper, and use your tools to remove the rest of it.
  • If you deal with peelable wallpaper, you can remove the paper’s top layer easily, but the backing will stay behind on the wall. You may withdraw this later with water and a chemical stripper.

Man wearing white shirt and jeans, with a scraper in the process of removing old wallpaper. Preparing the wall for sticking new wallpaper.

Step 3: Score the remaining wallpaper

  • Go over all the wallpaper surfaces you want to remove with the wallpaper scoring tool to punch small holes or backing
  • Be careful not to press too hard, as the scorer can damage the wall underneath.
  • Use coarse sandpaper to rough up the wallpaper’s surface or backing if you don’t have a scoring tool.

Step 4: Soak the wallpaper removal sheets in hot water

  • Fill a bucket with water in high temperature.
  • Soak in the removing sheets to saturate them. 
  • If you’re using a powdered chemical stripper that mixes with water, you can soak the sheets in the chemical stripping solution instead of plain water.
  • Wallpaper strippers come as a powder, a premixed liquid, or a liquid concentrate. If you work with a powder or liquid concentrate, place the stripping chemical in a bucket and mix it with water according to its manufacturer’s instructions.
  • When working with harsh chemicals, it’s better to wear gloves, protective eyewear and work in a well-ventilated room.

Step 5: Put up the wallpaper removing sheets

  • Take the sheets out of the bucket and place them on the wall one at a time
  • Wring out each sheet gently to remove excess water. 
  • Place them on the wall vertically, starting at a corner. 
  • Their edges should be touching to ensure there are no areas of exposed paper between them.

Step 6: Spray and soak the cloths with stripping solution

  • Once you’ve placed all the sheets on the wall, spray them down with an even layer of chemical stripper
  • Use a spray bottle to soak the sheets or transfer the mixture to a compression sprayer for faster application.
  • Leave the sheets to soak on the walls for 30 minutes.

Step 7: Scrape off leftover wallpaper

  • Gently scrape away any leftover paper or paste with a scraper or a knife
  • Slide the scrapping tool carefully between the paper and the wall and lift the excess wallpaper off to avoid damaging the wall.
  • Remove as much glue as possible while you work.
  • Be careful with the scraper’s sharp corners, as they can poke holes in the damp wall.

Step 8: Remove leftover wallpaper adhesive

  • Soak a sponge or rag in a bucket with water in a high temperature and go over every cm of the wall to rinse and wipe away excess glue. 
  • Rinse and wring out your sponge frequently as you work, changing the water as necessary. 
  • Continue until you remove all the glue.
  • Allow the walls to dry for at least 24 hours before you do anything else. 

hand wearing yellow rubber gloves wringing cloth during house cleaning
Finally ready to remove that ugly old wallpaper? This is a home improvement project that will take you about a weekend to finish, but the results will be so worth it! Follow our instructions, depending on the wall you have, to do the job right without any damages. After you are done with it, you can repair the wall, paint it, or add new wallpaper. You can then decorate your bedroom walls or upgrade your living room. Either it is a small section or a big room, the out-turn will amaze everyone!

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