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How to Remove Wallpaper

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Are you looking for a quick and easy way to remove wallpaper before redecorating? Sorry to burst your bubble but there isn’t one! Every method I know is messy and takes forever. With that said, there is one method that outshines the rest – using an electric steamer. 

These things make removing wallpaper so much easier than the other popular method of using hot water and vinegar.

I’ll explain both methods in more detail later. First though, let’s look at the tools and equipment you’ll need and how to prepare your room.

What tools do you need for removing wallpaper?

  • Wallpaper scraper or putty knife – start with a wide one but have a narrower one handy too
  • Step ladder
  • Water, rags and a bowl
  • Dust sheets for covering the floor and/or furniture
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Large bin liners

How to prepare a room before removing wallpaper

Before you do anything – clear the room as best you can or cover your furniture with dust sheets, old bed sheets or whatever works for you. 

Take down pictures, photos and anything else hanging on the walls. Put them all in a safe place, preferably in another room (especially the telly). Your room will get very messy once you start wetting the walls, so you’ll have to hide stuff under sheets for protection, which makes them more prone to accidents.

Check the walls for nails, screws and anything else standing proud of the surface – remove them if you can.

How to remove wallpaper

Have a look around the room at the current state of the wallpaper. Are there any loose pieces you can easily remove without wetting the wallpaper? If so, go ahead and do that. Remove as much as you can using this method.

If there aren’t any obvious places to start, try the bottom corner of any piece you like. Get your thinner scraper under the corner and try to remove some paper from the wall to give you a bit of leeway. 

Corners are often a good place to start because they tend to hold the least amount of paste. 

Once you’ve freed one corner, try the other one on the same strip. When they’re both free, grab each one and try to pull the entire strip off the wall. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s definitely worth trying as you could save yourself a ton of time and effort.

What often happens when you do this you pull off the top layer of the wallpaper while the backing remains attached to the wall. This isn’t perfect, but it does make it easier to remove later on.

Put all the paper into the large bin liners as you go. 

Once you’ve removed as much wallpaper as you can using this dry method, it’s time to start getting serious. Put the kettle on!

Yes, it’s time for a brew but you’re going to need hot water for the next stage. 

How to use a steamer to remove wallpaper

This is definitely my preferred method for stripping wallpaper from a wall. It’s fast, efficient and you can get the job done in just a few hours.

If you’ve never seen one before, a wallpaper steamer look a bit like a vacuum cleaner and works like a kettle.

The steamer has a plastic chamber which houses a heating element. A plastic hose leads from the chamber to a flat handle a little larger than your hand. Once you’ve added hot or cold water to the chamber (hot or boiling water is best if the steamer takes a while to heat up) and switched it on, the steam travels down the plastic hose and out through the handle, which you hold against the wall for a few seconds to allow the steam to do its work.

Once the steam has soaked in and started breaking down the adhesive holding the paper to the wall, you go at it with your scraper. 

In most cases, the wallpaper will come away from the wall with ease. Even if you’re working with woodchip.

The handle of the steamer is typically a little larger than your hand and can be moved around a fairly large area before you need to start scraping. You need to allow time for the steam to penetrate the wallpaper and adhesive to do its work, so you could, if you wanted,  steam one area and scrape another at the same time.

The time needed for the steam to penetrate the paste will vary from room to room so experiment with your timings to see what works best for you. To be on the safe side, start low and increase the time you leave the steamer on the wall when your confident it can take it.

A word of caution when doing this, and when using a wallpaper steamer in general – don’t hold it against the wall in one position for too long as it may crack the plaster. The same principle applies to drywalls.

How to remove wallpaper without a steamer

If you don’t have a steamer or you don’t fancy the idea of using one, the other method for removing wallpaper we’re going to look at it follows the same principles but takes a lot more elbow grease and time.

Depending on the size of your room, you might want to do one wall at a time.

The idea here is to combine equal parts boiling water and vinegar in a bowl, bucket or spray bottle, then apply the mix to the wall. The hot wallpaper loosens the wallpaper paste and the vinegar helps dissolve it. Once you’ve done that, leave it to soak for 5-10 minutes before removing the wallpaper with your scraper.

If you’re using the bucket or bowl method and hot/boiling water, use a sponge to apply the water and wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.

Once you’ve removed all the main pieces of wallpaper, you’ll need to go back over the walls to remove the smaller bits. A lot of these will be tricky to see. Use your scraper to find and remove them.

If you wait for the wall and leftover pieces of paper to dry out, you might be able to use a stiff-ish brush to remove them.

The key to great decorating is thorough preparation so don’t skimp on the final checks. Be sure to go over every surface several times to make sure all the pieces of wallpaper are removed.

Once you’re happy everything is in order, you can start the next stage, which will either be fixing cracks and marks, rewallpapering or painting.

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