Removing Wallpaper While Saving Your Sanity

Reading Time: 4 minutes

One way to see to the transformation of your space is to take down the old to make way for the new. Sometimes, the taking down part is pretty easy. But, sometimes it’s not. Take wallpaper, for instance. That job can be intense, and kind of messy.

So, how do you manage that job without burning up all the energy that you should be spending on your vision for a new space? Writer and home improvement expert Ryan Tupper is here to talk about how to tear down your old wallpaper without tearing your sanity to shreds …


The correct color and pattern of wallpaper brings a room to life far better than paint ever could. Unfortunately, sometimes bad wallpaper happens to good people, requiring the stylistic necessity to tear down the outdated or ugly product. You walk up to the first wall expecting the removal process will only take a few hours.

Fast-forward two days into the project, and you haven’t made a noticeable dent. Instead of throwing in the towel and learning to live with your unwanted wallpaper, try these easy tips and tricks to remove the covering in a minimal amount of time.

Preparing to remove the wallpaper

Pull away any furniture that’s adjacent to the walls. It’s not necessary to completely remove the furniture, unless the room is small and you need more room to work. Cover the floor with plastic drop cloths to protect the flooring or carpeting from drips and loosened adhesive.

Secure the drop cloths to the trim with painter’s tape to ensure it doesn’t slip as you work. Turn off the circuit breakers to the room before removing the outlet and switch plate covers and place them and their screws in a plastic container. Take down any pictures or mirrors from the wall, and pull out the nails or mounting brackets.

Removing wallpaper with stripping solution

Stripping solution is a DIY-friendly, quick way to remove wallpaper, if you score the walls first. Run the paper scoring tool, which is available at hardware or home improvement stores, over the wallpaper to create several hundred small holes. The perforations allow the stripping solution to penetrate beneath the paper and soften the adhesive.

Source: via shamrocknanna on Pinterest

Slip on a pair of rubber gloves and goggles before preparing the wallpaper stripping solution according to the package directions. Dampen a large paintbrush or roller with the solution and apply it to a 3 to 4-foot wall section. Allow the stripping solution to permeate for at least 10 minutes, or until the wallpaper begins to darken, before removing the wallpaper with a metal putty knife.

Starting at one corner of the softened wallpaper, scrape away the product using upward, sweeping motions. This is the labor intensive part, but the stripping solution is effective. Once the wallpaper is completely removed, wipe away any remaining residue from the exposed wall with soapy water.

Alternatives solutions for removing the wallpaper

There are other, safer alternatives to commercial wall stripping powder that are similarly effective and less damaging if you drip the product onto the floor or furniture. A mixture of white vinegar and hot water is a non-toxic alternative that is also less expensive. Create a mixture of five parts hot water and two parts white vinegar. The key to making this solution effective is using very hot water, as lukewarm or cool liquid won’t sufficiently soften the wallpaper adhesive.

Source: via Tiffany on Pinterest


A solution of one part hot water and one part unscented fabric softener is another alternative to remove the unwanted wallpaper. Apply the fabric softener or vinegar solutions in the same fashion as the commercial wallpaper stripper to effectively and inexpensively rid your home of the stylistic eyesore.

Removing wallpaper with steam

Steam is an effective alternative to stripping solution, although it does have its drawbacks. The biggest issue with steam is the possibility of scalding, which is less of a threat if you protect your skin with long rubber gloves and a long-sleeved shirt.

Start by renting the wallpaper steamer at your local hardware or home improvement store. Rent the steamer for at least one day, as this is generally cheaper than renting by the hour and there is no guarantee that two to three hours is sufficient.Score the wallpaper before holding the streamer against the top corner of the wall. Hold the steamer against the wall until the adhesive softens and the paper begins pulling away from the wall.

Grab your scraper or a large metal spatula and begin to slowly pull away the paper from the wall. Continue until the wallpaper is completely removed and once again, wipe away the remaining adhesive with a mixture of dish soap and warm water.

Painting over wallpaper

If you’re not up for the task of removing the wallpaper, and if the paper isn’t textured, consider painting over the covering instead. Before applying the paint, wash the walls with soapy water and a large kitchen sponge. Allow the wallpaper to dry completely before applying two thin coats of primer/sealer with a paint roller or brush.

This product is designed to not only provide an effective surface for the paint to adhere to, but also to seal in any cracks, damage or stains to ensure that they don’t show through the finished paint job. Allow the primer/sealer to dry for at least eight hours, or overnight, before applying at least two to three coats of semi-gloss paint. If applied correctly, the combination of the primer/sealer and paint won’t allow the wallpaper’s color or patterns to bleed through.


Thanks, Ryan!

Ryan Tupper has been a plumber, contractor, and DIY consultant for over ten years. When installing a new bathroom vanity or cabinets he always turns to



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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.