How to Remove Wallpaper

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(Level: Intermediate)

If you are redecorating a room that is covered in wallpaper, it is usually necessary to remove the old wallpaper. Whether painting or wallpapering, a clean surface free of old paper and adhesive is necessary. As in most cases, the prepping stage is the most time consuming, but it definitely pays off with your final result.

Removing wallpaper is an easy job once you learn the best way to remove your type of paper.

Tools and Materials you need:

  • Electric wallpaper steamer (rental item, shown)
  • Utility knife (or razor blade)
  • Taping knife (or wall scraper)
  • Protective goggles
  • Rubber gloves
  • Heavy-duty detergent (trisodium phosphate)
  • Large sponge

Step 1: Score the Wallpaper

Before using either a chemical agent or steam, you must score the wallpaper with a utility knife so the chemicals or steam can soak into the paste and soften it. (See Figure 1.) To score the paper, make cuts in it in a crisscross pattern. This helps the softening agent to get through the paper to the glue. Many wallpapers are made of vinyl or foil which are waterproof. If these papers aren’t scored, the paste will not soften at all.


Step 2: Soften the Paste with an Electric Steamer

A steamer is easy to use and can be rented from most rental stores or hardware stores. Fill the steamer’s tank with water and heat it electrically. Once the hand held plate starts pumping steam, hold it against the paper until the paste becomes soft.

Caution: The steamer will become very hot, so hold it a good distance from your body and wear protective gloves and goggles.

Step 3: Scrape Off Wallpaper

When using chemicals, you can saturate the entire wall before scraping. If you are using steam, only steam a small portion at a time before you scrape the wallpaper. Use a taping knife or wall scraper to scrape the paper as soon as the glue has been loosened by chemicals or steam. The surface may be soft, so be careful not to gouge it with the scraper.

Step 4. Remove Old Adhesive

Use a heavy-duty detergent, such as trisodium phosphate and a sponge to remove the excess adhesive from the walls. Some areas may restrict trisodium phosphate, so you can use its nonphosphate equivalent. Your hardware store can help you find the right one. Rinse the walls using a clean sponge. Do not wallpaper or paint over the walls until they are completely dry.

Caution: When working with trisodium phosphate or any heavy-duty detergents, wear rubber gloves to protect your skin.

Step 5. Remove Peelable (or Strippable) Wallpaper

Some wallpapers are peelable or strippable and do not require chemicals or steam to be removed. These papers are easy to remove if you just use a utility knife to pry up a corner and pull the strip off the wall. Once you have removed all the strips of wallpaper, use warm water and a sponge to soften the adhesive, and scrape it away with a wide taping knife or wall scraper.


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Last Update: 9/21/2017 1:24:16 AM