Removing wallpaper no longer needs to be a stressful undertaking. Here is how to choose the right methods, tools, and materials to set your walls free.
I know it can be nerve-wracking to look at the no longer so good-looking wallpaper splashed all over your walls that is staring at you everytime you walk into your living spaces, the entryway, or the bedrooms. You’re so desperate to get rid of it, but you can’t be bothered to get started with the daunting task. I get you – removing wallpaper sucks! There you go, I have said it. But, there is no need to throw a pity party longer than necessary.
No matter how many layers of wallpaper you have to peel off your walls or the ceiling to repaint your room or apply a fresh new wall mural or wallpaper, the key is to gather the right tools, prep your room properly, and pick the best method that will ease the job ahead.
Keep reading to get a step-by-step approach that will help you remove wallpaper without turning it into a sob story!
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Gather your Tools and Materials
Before peeling wallpaper off your walls, you need to gather the right tools and materials to complete your task within a reasonable timeframe.
Below are the essential items you will need to invest in to methodically remove wallpaper. Bear in mind that you might need additional tools depending on the method you’ve chosen for wallpaper removal.
- Rubber gloves
- Bin bags – to dispose of discarded wallpaper
- Making tape
- Rag or cloth – to dry clean the wall after washing it
- Plastic bag or polythene sheet – to cover sockets and switches
- Dust sheets – in polythene or cloth. Polythene dust sheets tend to better resist dampness or moisture; they are good options if your rooms have carpets, but they can tear under huge foot pressure. Cloth dust sheets are washable and reusable; they are more eco-friendly. Some cloth dust sheets are made with a polythene backing that helps stop liquid spillages from ending on your floor or carpet.
- Large sponge – to clean your walls
- Step ladder
- Utility knife
- A broom
- A metal rule/straight edge
- A pair of scissors – to cut a polythene sheet/plastic bag
- A voltage tester for switches or a socket tester for sockets
- A stripping knife – about 100 millimetre wide for cleaning wall surfaces
- Safety gloves
- Protective clothing or overalls
Before moving forward with wallpaper removal, make sure to:
- Keep adhesives and chemicals away from children and vulnerable household members
- Use your step ladder to access the higher parts of your wallpaper that are close to the ceiling
- Wear safety gloves when stripping wallpaper to shield your eyes from dust, debris, and hot water
Choose the Right Method to Remove Wallpaper
There are two different ways you can choose from when deciding to get rid of the wallpaper in your room They are as follows:
Chemical stripping liquid
Chemical stripping solutions help loosen the wallpaper adhesive, making it easier to peel it off of your wall. They are very helpful when dealing with a small surface such as a feature wall or when removing one or two layers of wallpaper.
Rather than purchasing a ready-made wallpaper stripping solution, you can go down the DIY route by mixing a liquid detergent with hot water and store the mixture in a spray bottle. Just make sure that you pick a detergent that will not end up damaging your walls’ plaster.
Steam wallpaper stripper
An electric steam stripper is a small to medium tank with a hose that is attached to a steam plate. The tank is filled with water, which is then brought to a boil. The hot steam released from the steam plate, which when held against the wall, helps to detach wallpaper adhesive.
The hot steam gradually permeates the wallpaper to soften the dated adhesive underneath, wetting it enough to remove the paper from the wall.
Electric steam strippers are great choices to dislodge hard-to-remove wallpaper and woodchip and ease and speed up the process of removing wallpaper from large wall surfaces.
They are also relatively affordable; this makes them a good investment if you intend to reinstall wallpaper on your walls and swap it again after a certain time.
Once you have decided on the best method to remove wallpaper from your wall, use a stripping knife to detach a small portion of the wallpaper from a corner first. This will help you to figure out the number of wallpaper layers you need to remove from your walls.
Use that detached portion of the wallpaper to find out whether you can peel it away.
Removable wallpapers will easily come off your walls as they are designed to be easily released when they are pressed away from your wall.
This time-saving method will at least help you get rid of the outer layer of your wallpaper. All you might have to do next is to loosen the adhesive and the wallpaper backing sheet that may have remained stubbornly stuck on your wall.
Once you are clear about the wallpaper removal method that you want to go for, move on to getting your space ready for the task at hand.
Prepare your Room for Wallpaper Removal
Prepping your room before disposing of any wallpaper on your wall is important for practical and safety reasons. This ensures that you get the job done within a reasonable timeframe, whilst protecting yourself and anyone in your home from any potential accidents.
Declutter your room the best way you can. Anything that has to remain in the room must be placed in the centre of the room and shielded with dust sheets.
Remove all wall decor items and vents. Cover the openings with masking tape and plastic sheet. Use a small portion of a plastic bag or a polythene sheet for this.
Switch off the electricity for the room. This is to prevent liquid either from your wallpaper stripping solution or your wallpaper steamer from accidentally penetrating into electrical switches or sockets.
Depending on how the previous wallpaper was installed, you might need to remove or slightly unscrew the faceplates of your light switches to release the paper underneath it that is stubbornly glued to your wall.
Before proceeding with this, switch off your fuse box or consumer unit mains power or at least isolate the circuit you are working on.
Make sure you have actually deactivated the right circuit you are dealing with. To do this, use a socket tester on your main power circuit to ensure the electricity is off. If you are dealing with a lighting circuit, you are best served by a voltage tester or a voltage metre to confirm that power is off.
Double check the efficacy of your test equipment one more time against a known power source of power to ensure that your tester is working properly.
Don’t hesitate to enlist professional help from an electrician if this is too much for you to handle.
Use a plastic sheet secured with a masking tape to cover any sockets and light switches from dust, liquid drips, and any wallpaper debris.
Protect your floor underneath the wallpaper with dust sheets to facilitate the cleaning process once you are done striping away the old wallpaper.
Use an orbital scorer on the wallpaper you are seeking to remove from your wall. This will ease the penetration of the stripping liquid or steam, making it easier to to release the wallpaper adhesive and to pull the wallpaper altogether away from your wall. Scoring is particularly helpful when dealing with a water-repellent painted wallpaper. It speeds the paper removal process.
Apply even and consistent pressure on the wallpaper when scoring it. Be gentle enough so as to avoid damaging your wall plaster underneath the wallpaper. Stay away from using a pair of scissors or a knife to perforate the wallpaper, because it can make scoring more difficult and inconsistent, which might eventually lead to wall damage.
Now that your room and walls have been prepared, it is time to get rid of the annoying wallpaper by using your chosen stripping method.
How to Remove Wallpaper with a Stripping Liquid
As mentioned earlier, you can choose to make your own wallpaper stripping solution or use a ready-made version that is specifically formulated for wallpaper removal.
Some highly concentrated formulas might need to be diluted in water before being applied on the wallpaper. Read the stripping liquid recommended instructions on the product label before using it. Make sure to wear protective gloves before moving forward with wallpaper stripping.
Spray the stripping liquid onto the portion of the wallpaper you are working on as per the product manufacturers’ instructions and let it take effect. Some wallpaper stripping liquids have a non-staining yellow shade that allows you to see exactly where precisely you have sprayed the product to ensure you do not miss out any section.
Once the wallpaper has loosened up, use a stripping knife to gently detach the wallpaper from your wall. Keep the knife as flat as you realistically can to ensure its sharp edge does not permeate your wall plaster.
Keep applying the stripping liquid solution as and when needed to ensure the smooth removal of wallpaper.
Clean up your dust sheets as you go to avoid wallpaper debris and dust from piling up on your floor, escaping a potential safety hazard.
Moreover, dried wallpaper debris might easily end up sticking to your dust sheets, making it more complicated to get rid of.
Once, you have meticulously removed all wallpaper with your stripping solution, the next step is to do a wall clean-up before envisaging applying a fresh new coat of paint or wallpaper
Now you’ve stripped the wall, move on to the section on how to clean the wall after removing wallpaper.
Before we get on with it, let’s look at how you can kiss goodbye to old wallpaper with a stripping steaming machine.
How to Remove Wallpaper with an Electric Steam Stripper
When dealing with large surfaces, do yourself a favour by investing in an electric steam wallpaper stripper. To get the job done properly, you will also need heat-resistant protective gloves, a jug to fill the steam stripper with water, and a wooden tray or a wood board to sit the steamer plate on.
Make sure to keep your room windows and door open whilst using the wallpaper steamer to ease the air flow and ventilate your space.
Fill the tank of the steam stripper with cold tap water. Avoid pouring hot tap water in the tak because it might end up heating up far too quickly. Wait until the steam starts to be released from the steam plate before applying it on the area of your wall you are seeking to detach wallpaper from.
Place the steam plate on the section of the wallpaper you are seeking to loosen up for about 10 seconds, starting from the bottom to the top. This will give enough time for the hot steam to gradually soften the wallpaper adhesive for you to strip it from your wall.
Repeat the same approach with the next section above the area you’ve just cleared. Use your stripping knife to loosen stubborn wallpaper sections before applying a steam plate.
Use the same bottom up method to remove wallpaper on all your walls. The rising steam eases the process, enabling you to more quickly detach large portions of wallpaper by pulling them upwards with minimal effort.
Refill the wallpaper steam stripper tank at regular intervals to avoid the steamer to boil dry, as it might damage the machine and overheat your room. To do this the right way, allow for the machine to cool down for two minutes or more before filling it up.
Make sure to regularly clear the old wallpaper from your dust sheets to ease your room clean-up further down the line.
For more complicated wall spots such as light switches, radiators, or sockets, consider unscrewing some of them to get access to wallpaper that may be blocked under these corners. Always switch off power before venturing near these areas of your room.
Once you have successfully removed old layers of wallpaper, give your walls a thorough clean-up and refill cracks and holes where necessary.
Cleaning your Walls after Removing the Wallpaper
When the bulk of the work that you did to remove wallpaper all over your space has been completed, there might be some residues left behind that you will need to dislodge to restore smoothness and cleanliness to your walls before painting and decorating.
Use a broom to clean your walls in downward movements and your stripping knife to scrape off any leftover wallpaper residues from your walls.
Gently score any remaining wallpaper found on the edge of your walls that connects to the ceiling by using either a straight edge or a metal rule together with a utility knife. Then scrape away all residues.
This process is designed to protect the decoration on the ceiling from being affected by the pulling away of wallpaper from your walls.
Any remaining wallpaper residues should be removed with the help of a stripping solution and a stripping knife.
If there are any cracks or holes on your walls’ plaster, take time to repair them and smooth your walls thereafter with the right materials.
Clean your walls with a sponge soaked in lukewarm water and dry them with a rag or a clean cloth. Leave your walls to fully dry for a few hours or a day before redecorating them. Switch on all electricals once you are done with your cleanup.