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How To: Remove Wallpaper

17.11.14 | Darryl Husler

How To: Remove Wallpaper

Stripping old wallpaper is a job that is not popular. It is messy, time consuming and requires a lot of effort. To get a good looking room at the finish, preparation is the art and the key, and this starts right at the very moment the whole process of decorative renovation begins. With this blog post some suggestions and tips should make your life easier when undertaking this task.

In with the new and leave the old?

Some people would rather paper the new wallpaper on top of old or just naturally do this anyway.

It can be done, but you have to be very lucky! This would only tend to work if your new wallpaper is much thicker and it is able to hide the existing. To work effectively the old wallpaper needs to be a smooth and single layer. The walls would then need to be prepared perfectly ensuring that any loose areas are pasted, and rough areas sanded down etc. It is recommended in this instance that a solution of ammonium hydroxide (a kind of soap wash) is used to clean the wall down with a cloth / sponge – be careful when using chemicals.

There are many problems that could arise with leaving the old wallpaper on, these include:

* When new paste is added the moisture may make the old wallpaper loose and peel off.

* The ‘ink’ from the old wallpaper may bleed through the new when paste is added.

* The new wallpaper may not take on top of the old wall paper and does not adhere.

If this has put you off, then maybe you can take less drastic action? Sometimes a simple paint of the walls and ceiling can brighten and freshen-up the room without going to the expense and trouble of stripping old wallpaper and buying new.

Let’s do it! 

So you either have no choice, or are going to be brave and do it anyway, here is the rest of the guide.


Dust sheets or other protective layers,

Steps,                                      Scrapper,                                 Bin bags,

Water – bowl / sponge etc.

1) Firstly cover all areas such as carpets and flooring with a dust sheet. The working area will get very messy, dirty and potentially slippery. Having loose paper everywhere on unintended surfaces is hard to clean up.

2) Using a scraper, dig into the old wallpaper till you create an indent that you can grab hold of.

If you are lucky you may be able to gently tear the wallpaper slowly, all the way up the seam / line which removes a section all in one go. Alternatively, scrape upwards and remove the wallpaper as you go – this will take longer but is sometimes the only way.

You will have varying degrees of luck when doing this, some sections may come off easier than others, while some will need extra attention to fully remove the old paper.

3) As you go along, clear up the fallen old wallpaper into the bin bag.

4) After you have removed the initial face of the wallpaper, there is likely another layer behind (called the backing paper) – this needs to be removed aswell.

To do this spary or soak the wall with HOT water to make the material and existing paste softer.

You may need to leave this for a while to soak in or soak the wall a few times.

5) Scrape the backing paper off in much the same way as you have fetched the top layer off. At this point be careful not to dig the scrapper in too hard or it will damage the wall and cause dents.

6) Once again, clear up wallpaper.

7) After all the wallpaper is removed, the job is not finished as the wall will be full of old adhesive. This needs to be removed as it can inhibit the working of the new paste. Again plenty of warm / hot water and some vigorous rubbing down of the walls with a sponge should do the trick – as long as your energy can take it!

All this might seem far too hard work and leave you feeling a bit frustrated.


Help can and does exist when it comes to stripping wallpaper and below are a suggestion of lines worth investigating to try and make the job easier.

* Wallpaper steamers.

These are quite popular can be purchased from any DIY type store. The range and quality depends on price. Cold water is poured into the tank which heats like a kettle and eventually pours out steam which loosens the wallpaper.

Due to much more water use, this process is normally even messier than the conventional way. Take care also as steam is boiling hot and can burn you. The method is effective for tough areas of stubborn old wallpaper however.

* Removal solutions.

Similar to the ammonia mixture mentioned above, DIY shops also carry a range of wallpaper removal chemical sparys, although they do tend to be pricey for a small bottle. It is best to cope with water first and use these at the end or on stubborn pieces.

*Other tools

Scoring tools can be used to aid wall paper removal. These are particularly good for glossy or shiny wallpaper surfaces. They work by making lots of holes in the wallpaper which makes soaking it with water easier. Be mindful of sharp points to the equipment as it is a knife of sorts.

Once complete feel the bareness of an empty wall and know you are halfway there – now you need to find wallpaper you actually want!