How to remove wallpaper from your walls

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Wanting to remove that wallpaper from your childhood room or just fancy a shakeup? Wallpapering is no easy task, but I’m going to walk you through every step so you know exactly remove wallpaper from your walls.

There are a few essential things you need to know before you get into it though. For instance, what type of surface is beneath the wallpaper. If it’s an older style home, perhaps it’s wood, or maybe it’s drywall or plaster in a newer home. This will impact how you remove your wallpaper.

From removing old wallpaper when you’ve recently moved into a new home to vinyl wallpaper and also how do you remove wallpaper borders or glue. It can be difficult to navigate if it’s your first time, especially if you want to prepare for a new wallpaper installation. But don’t fret because we’ve got your back! Let’s jump in.

How to remove old wallpaper

Even the oldest of wallpaper can be removed when you know the best method for doing it. Our proven process can eliminate any outdated wallpaper.

vintage old wallpaper that needs to be removed

Removing wallpaper with a steamer

This is one of the best methods for old wallpaper as the hot steam helps to loosen the glue, which allows you to easily scrap the wallpaper off the walls.

You might be able to borrow a wallpaper steamer from someone in your network or you can even hire them from your hardware shop but here’s a complete list of what you’ll need:

  • Wallpaper steamer
  • Perforator
  • Drop sheets
  • Personal protection clothing (masks, gloves etc)
  • Scraping tool
  • Ladder
  • Electrical tape
  • Warm water
  • Sponge

Steps to using a steamer to remove wallpaper

  1. Lay down your drop sheet and cover power points with electrical tape. Put on your PPC.
  2. Get the steamer set up per the instructions, it will probably need a bit of time to warm up
  3. Use your perforator to make little holes in the wallpaper which helps the steam to penetrate the glue – just don’t press too hard so you don’t damage the walls.
  4. Once heated, put the steamer on the walls and allow it to seep in for about 30 seconds. You’ll want to take it nice and slow, it will make the next stage way easier.
  5. Scrape the walls until all the wallpaper comes off. You’ll need to repeat these last two steps as you move around the room.
  6. To remove residue etc, clean the walls with warm water and soap.

Homemade wallpaper removal method

Before you get started, you might need to make a quick dash to the shops to pick up some supplies because quality tools are vital for the best results. You can purchase smaller brand names if need be, but we recommend splashing a bit of cash to guarantee a simple procedure. Here is a list of some things you’ll need to get the job done in a flash:

  • Paint roller
  • Fabric roller
  • Putty knife
  • Bucket or large bowl
  • Paper towel
  • Hot water
  • Personal protection clothing (gloves, masks etc)
  • Drop sheets

Once you’ve filled your shopping basket, checked out, and lugged it home, we can get started on the work.  

Here are the steps to say goodbye to old-fashioned walls:

  1. Mix fabric softener and hot water (nearly boiling) into a bucket or large bowl. The ratio between water and softener should be approximately 50/50.
  2. Protect your floors with a drop sheet
  3. Use your paint roller to spread the solution over your wallpaper. The paper should be completely saturated.
  4. Use your putty knife to scrape the paper from the wall. You will need to apply some pressure and scrape over some areas multiple times.
  5. Once the bulk of the paper has been scraped off, you can gently brush over the zone with a paper towel, pushing any residue away, to see if wallpaper still remains.
  6. If there is paper left, begin the process again. If it’s all gone, you can pop the champagne and get ready to paint or replace it with new wallpaper.

Hot tip: Only cover small areas of wallpaper with the solution at a time. If you coat an area that is too large for you to scrape quickly, the solution could dry the paper out and make it more challenging to remove. Between soaking the wallpaper and scraping, you have about 15 minutes until it starts to dry out.

How to remove a wallpaper border

Perhaps I jumped ahead a little by explaining how to remove the centrepiece of wallpaper before the border. To fully replenish your walls, you need to understand how to remove wallpaper borders. The border is where the removal process begins, and it’s often the section that is most unbelievably stuck to the wall.

Hot tip: You should put old towels or sheets on the floor before you begin removing any wallpaper, paint or material from your walls. The wallpaper will be scraped onto the floor and could get stuck to floorboards or carpet if they aren’t protected. Nobody wants to undertake a second round of removal!

To really get behind the edge of wallpaper, you may need to place some of the water into a spray bottle and directly shoot it onto the corner of the paper. With enough sprays, the paper should soften and eventually be able to be lifted from the wall without the need of a putty knife which could cause more harm than good.

Once the border is removing smoothly, you can proceed to drench the rest of your wallpaper and scrape it off as per the methods mentioned above.

How to remove wallpaper glue

Once you’ve managed to get rid of the wallpaper, there’s a chance that your job won’t be complete because some nasty wallpaper glue might still remain. In most cases, the yellowed and dried glue is even more hideous than the wallpaper was itself. Removing wallpaper glue is as simple as following these four steps:

  1. Combine hot water (nearly boiling), many squeezes of liquid dish soap, and a dash of baking soda into a bowl or bucket.
  2. Spread the soapy solution over the wallpaper glue with a soft sponge.
  3. Try to get as much as you can gently with the sponge, and only use a scraper or knife if you must.
  4. Apply more soapy solution if you need.

The combination of baking soda and soap has enough chemical strength and hardiness to soften the glue for removal. The baking soda brings the acidic touch, whereas the soap makes the solution an ideal texture for working with oily, flexible materials.

How to remove vinyl wallpaper

Vinyl wallpaper is a little unique in comparison to other forms of wallpaper. Vinyl is essentially a synthetic resin or plastic that can be stuck to your walls. Because of its smooth and sometimes shiny appearance, it is a popular kitchen wallpaper and bathroom wallpaper.

But just like other wallpapers, it can be an unfortunate pain to get rid of.

Hot tip: If you are really struggling to remove wallpaper, you might benefit from adding some vinegar to your fabric softener solution. Vinegar is highly acidic, so as well as destroying your insides when you consume too much, it can help destroy sticky vinyl, paper, paint or glue.

Removing vinyl wallpaper requires more emphasis to be placed on the edge, sides and border of your wallpaper. You will need to get a good grasp of a corner in order to begin the displacement.

Rather than scraping, vinyl should be able to be peeled from your walls. It typically peels away like a sheet or sticker and ends up coming off in large strips. If the vinyl rips and your strip of peel have ended, you can loosen another corner and begin peeling again. You know this can be strangely satisfying so you might find this all pretty relaxing.

If it’s a little tricky, put some water in a spray bottle to help loosen it.

How to remove painted wallpaper

Painted wallpaper is one of the more stubborn types of wallpaper because you can find that there are several layers of paint on the top of the original wallpaper. That’s why we’ve left it to the very last to discuss – take a deep breath!

leaf wallpaper designDesignEcologist

Similarly to other types of wallpaper, you should use a chemical removal method to soften the glue. The difference between removing painted wallpaper and other types of wallpaper is that the paint cannot easily be scraped, pulled or peeled from the wall.

Instead of a scraping tool, we suggest using a scruffy brush or gritty scourer to gnarl the paint from your wall. Although this process requires a fair amount of elbow grease, it is the best way to make inroads with the paint so that the soapy solution can get through to the glue and work its magic.

Rally a team of helpers, otherwise known as forced relatives, and get to work. It’s scrubbing time!

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How to remove wallpaper FAQs

The most effective and least time-consuming way is to use a chemical solution or water and soap to soak into the wallpaper and soften the glue before scraping off.
As well as having the option to make your own wallpaper remover, there are some wallpaper remover solutions available at supermarkets and hardware stores. But, if you would rather avoid any harsh chemicals and try a more natural method, you can use a vinegar and hot water solution to soak your walls. This is also likely to be the most cost-effective combination.
After your wall has been stripped clean, you can start investigating what other wallpaper you might want to use in replacement. Applying new wallpaper to your walls requires the expertise of a wallpaper installation professional. If you’re in need of some pro wallpaper assistance, have a browse of Airtasker’s reviewed, rated and trusted wallpaper installers.

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