Getting yourself out of a sticky wallpaper situation isn't as hard as it sounds.

By Daley Quinn
March 20, 2021
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With many of us spending a lot more time at home these days, it might be time to get rid of that trendy-at-the-time wallpaper you can't stand to look at any longer. A seemingly daunting task, removing wallpaper is actually easier than you think. Below, we give you a step-by-step guide on how to remove wallpaper, depending on which wallpaper type you're dealing with.

How To Remove Wallpaper

The basics for removing wallpaper are always the same: To remove paper from your wall, use hot water in a spray bottle and wallpaper remover solvent (such as Zinsser 2488 DIF Fast Acting Spray Wallpaper Stripper ($16, walmart.com) or a liquid fabric softener, wait, and peel with a scraper. That being said, not all wallpapers are alike, and neither are the walls. 

There are two types of wallpapers that you might be removing, as well as two types of walls you'll be removing from—there's vinyl wallpaper versus paper wallpaper, and plaster walls versus drywall.

"All wallpaper consists of two layers glued together," explains Malka Helft, a New York-based interior designer and founder of Think Chic Interiors. "The outer (visible) layer can be either vinyl or paper, while the inner layer which is glued to the wall is always paper." 

If the outer layer of your wallpaper is vinyl, it will simply peel off the wall in nice large sheets, revealing the paper layer underneath. "Find a loose corner or create one by making a cut in the vinyl, and pull," suggests Helft. "Now you are left with a single layer of paper, which is far easier to remove than two."

If your wallpaper is paper, it will take a bit longer to remove, simply because you are removing two layers of paper instead of one.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. “I suggest buying a wallpaper remover scoring tool—you can find it in any Home Depot,” says Helft. “Run the scoring tool over the paper, and there is no need to apply much pressure.” The goal is to create tiny punctures that will help absorb the moisture you will be applying.
  2. Next, fill a spray bottle with hot water (make sure it is not too hot to the touch or you will not be able to hold the bottle) and add some solvent such as DIF or fabric softener in a ratio of 3/4 water to 1/4 solvent. Then, start spraying the wallpaper. “Try to get it as wet as possible and then give it five minutes to sit,” suggests Helft.
  3. Then, grab a scraper, find a loose corner, and start pulling off the top layer of paper. "If all goes well, it will pull off in large sheets," says Helft.
  4. Now you are left with the bottom layer that’s glued to the wall. “No need to puncture, just refill the bottle with the solution making sure it is hot, spray, wait, and start scraping off,” suggests Helft. “Once all wallpaper has been removed, use a warm damp cloth to wipe off any excess glue remaining on the wall.”

Plaster Wall vs. Drywall

The wallpaper removal process is identical in both cases, but the result may vary depending on the state of the house and the walls. "If you live in an old home with old wallpaper, it may have been applied to conceal a crumbling plaster wall," explains Helft. "You might also find that there are several layers of wallpaper on the wall, applied by previous homeowners as support, rather than mending the crumbling walls."

If the wallpaper feels lumpy before removal, Helft suggests protecting the floors with plastic and preparing yourself for some unpleasant surprises. "If after the wallpaper is removed, you find a wall in need of repair, you will need to skim coat the wall prior to any new application," she says.