How to Remove Wallpaper

In an old house, you’re bound to run into wallpaper in at least a few of the rooms. In my grandma’s house, there’s wallpaper in almost all of the rooms – generally multiple layers.

As we’ve de-papered several area’s now, I thought I would share the tips and tricks that have been picked up along the way…

How to remove old wallpaperI love this brightly lit bedroom that sits at the back of the house, but the dainty wallpaper my grandmother installed sometime between 1975-80 just had to go…

I would like to say that this was the only layer of paper in the room, but under this sweet stripped floral print was some pretty serious pink polkadot and flowered stuff from the late 50’s.

1. Prepare the room. In our case we’d already removed all of the furniture. We took down the curtains, removed all of the switch pates and outlet covers and put down a sturdy drop cloth.

Scoring Wallpaper

2. Score the existing wallpaper. Use a small wall paper scoring tool to create small holes in the paper. These little helpers can easily be found for less than $10 online, or at any home improvement store. The small holes created will allow any solution you use to remove the glue to settle down in behind the paper. THIS STEP IS CRUCIAL TO EASY REMOVAL.

2. Remove design layer. Most residential homes have a vinyl design paper. Removing this layer is usually pretty simple, simply find a loose corner and pull from the bottom up. You may want to re-score the paper backing surface again (or even pull the design layer off first and then score). If you’re working with newer paper or something small, like a boarder, you can probably skip this step.

3. Mix solution. Whether you purchase a product, or make a DIY version at home, you will likely need to mix your product up. You can see in this room, we used a product called Piranha’s Wallpaper and Paste Removeal – it worked really well. In the end we used a store bought product, because it was cheaper and simpler than using a DIY recipe.

However if you’re looking for a simple DIY wallpaper remover recipe, you can’t beat this one…It’s perfect for smaller projects (one room) or when you’re in a pinch.

4. Spray solution onto walls. Technically I suppose this could say roll, I found that a bit messy and in this room we were actually using a store bought solution that came with a spray.

Saturate walls with wallpaper removal

Completely saturate a small section of the wallpaper. Only cover as much of the wall as you think you can get to in 15 min, otherwise you will just end up needing to reapply (speaking from over ambitious experience here). Let the solution soak in for about five min. before trying to remove the paper.

how to remove old wallpaper

5. Remove the paper. We found a plaster putty knife worked great for helping work the paper off the wall really well.

how to remove old wallpaper

As you can see, the older wallpaper was pretty determined. It didn’t come off in huge chunks, it peeled off in smaller curls.

7. Clean the walls. In a bucket to mix a dash of dishwasher detergent with very hot water. Using a sponge doused in the solution, scrub down your walls removing all of the remaining glue residue and paper bits. Once the walls are completely dry, repeat the procedure with plain hot water. Be careful not to get the walls to wet during this step. 

You might think that after the amount of wallpaper that we’ve removed (three rooms down, three to go), I’d never have it up again. I actually rather enjoy some of the papers that are coming out these days and most of them require only simple dry removal.

If you’d like to see some of the modern patterns I’ve been collecting, you’ll have to check out my wallpaper Pinterest board. Be warned, the patterns are gorgeous and have tempted more than one friend into a purchase. In fact, I think my friend Amy has been eyeing some for her home.

If you have a smaller project, like wallpaper boarders, you might want to check out Pretty Handy Girl’s take on the subject

Tauni is a former public relations executive who spent 12+ years handling communications and events for an array of clients, from the NBA and Olympics to numerous high ranking politicians. Today, she handles social media for a local agency and hosts SNAP!, an annual social media conference for bloggers focused on entertaining, craft and home DIY.

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  1. Wallpaper removal is not for the faint of heart! I’ve had to do this at my parents and grandparents homes … the worst one was when the paper would tear come off in 1″x1″ sections on a 9′ x 20′ wall! I thought I was going to die!

    • Jacque, it’s definitely a lot of work…I think the hardest part is that you’re not creating, you’re taking away so no one ever really sees all of the work. You know?! I am soooo glad to hear that you and Matt will be joining us in the spring. Seriously a highlight for me the other day!

      xoxo, Tauni

    • Lauren, Good luck! I don’t know if the tricks have helped, or if I just expected the process to be worse than it really is, but it hasn’t been all that bad. It IS time consuming. Good luck! xoxo

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