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How to Strip or Remove Wallpaper

Written by David | January 29, 2022

As a paint and wallpaper contractor, one thing we have to do is strip wallpaper. One call we frequently receive is “How can I remove wallpaper? Do you have any tricks?” We don’t have any tricks, just years of experience in wallpaper removal we can share with you.

Wallpaper can be removed several ways. Mechanically, chemically, physically, or with water.  You may have to use more than one of these wallpaper removal methods in order for the wallpaper to come off the wall.  For example, some wallpaper is made with two layers. The front or top of the wallpaper has the design/fabric/color on it. Then the backing of the wallpaper looks like a bleached paper bag. This means you may have remove the top layer before the backing will release from the wall.

4 Ways for Removing Wallpaper

1. Removing wallpaper mechanically

This is pure hard labor. It is very time intensive, and we really do not suggest this method. You are using your hands, or scrapers to remove the wallpaper.

There are actually tools and machines that can be placed on a wall that will perforate and then use an abrasive to take wallpaper from a wall- Paper tiger wallpaper removal tool.

The idea of this tool, is that it will make these tiny holes on the wallpaper which allow water or removal solution to penetrate through the wallpaper and allow the wallpaper removal solution to work though and under the wallpaper. We have had little use of this method, as our experience has shown that the wallpaper comes off in small bits, and the tool leaves small marks all over the wall- that you now have to fix.

2. Removing wallpaper with Chemicals 

remove wallpaper - geneva

Here is wallpaper that had the top layer removed and we have added water to remove the backing seen here

It is one of the ways we have to resort to to get stubborn wallpaper from that wall. There are several brands of wallpaper strippers at paint and home improvement stores for you to use.

  • One is DIF gel- this product is sold in gallon jugs.  You simply roll it onto the wall like you would paint, and allow the chemical to work though the paper allowing the adhesive to re-wet which then releases the paper from the wall. There will be times that there are two layers of wallpaper. The top layer must be removed so you can see the wallpaper backing and get the adhesive so the chemical process of releasing the wallpaper can begin. This process can also be messy-all of that water and chemical has to go somewhere (E.g. carpet or hardwood or tile floors).
  • One other thing you can use is fabric softener. This one I have not tried, but I know others that swear by it. Fabric softener somehow also penetrates the wallpaper and allows the wallpaper adhesive to release from the wall.
  • My favorite product to use is a product called Safe and Simple. This product is placed into water then either sponged or sprayed onto the wall and after you wait (patience is required here) the wallpaper will relax and more times than not, pull right off the wall.
  • When using chemicals there may be the need to scrape the walls. Keep reading as we will discuss this in the water method.

3.  Physical removal

All of these removal types require some physical labor. However, IF the wall was sealed properly prior to the wallpaper application process, you may be able to grab a corner of the wallpaper and simply pull the paper from the wall.  I have been able to do this several times in residential jobs, but it’s more common in commercial buildings with 54″ commercial vinyl wallcoverings.

Sometimes this process causes significant damage to the walls. Commercial wallpaper that was not applied correctly, will rip the drywall surface from the wall. Which means you are skim coating and resealing walls.

4. Water removal

Water is my go to method to remove wallcoverings. I have a few ways water will work.

  • Using a 5-gallon bucket of hot water (the hotter the better from my experience) take a sponge and start wetting the wall. Again this is a method that does require patience. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then get it wet again, letting it sit for 5-10 minutes. You should see the wallpaper get darker as the water saturates the wallpaper. Test a part of the wall to see if it will come off the wall.  You may have to put more water, but this is the “greenest” method. Most of the time you will need some type of scraper to peel back the wallpaper.
    wallpaper removal

    Here we have started to scrape the wallpaper and glue from the wall

    how to remove wallpaper

    After adding more water to the walls, the paper is coming right off the wall.

  • Then there is steam. This process can be dangerous as you are working with steam and you can get burned. This method can allow for several layers of wallpaper to be removed at once. It also allows for more of the glue to come off the wall as well. Here is a video of removing wallpaper with steam for you to see how easy this can be.

There are a few issues with each wallpaper removal method we presented to you.

  • Wall damage will take place, some is previous damage you have to now take care of. You may have scraped the wall too hard and will now need to do some patching. You may have used too much water and paint comes off the wall.
  • If you do not use patience in these methods they will not work and you will damage your walls.
  • You may be allergic to the products used to remove wallcovering, the wallcovering itself, and/ or the previous adhesive used. We use rubber mechanics gloves most of the time.

Here are a few videos of how to remove wallpaper

Do you have a question regarding wallpaper removal we did not answer? If so, please let us know! We also have other YouTube videos that we did not list here but can be found under the D’franco Painting & Wallpaper channel that may help. We can be reached at (847) 553-1726, Ask for David!

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