How to take off stubborn wall paper

If only every sheet of wallpaper would come off in one sheet! Life would be so much easier. While modern wallpapers often incorporate easy strip features, many older papers are difficult to remove for several reasons. Often these have been stuck with glues which are not easy to dissolve. This could be one reason for the difficulty posed. Another is that the surface of the paper is impermeable, meaning that any attempt to use water to remove it makes little effect. This guide walks you through the process of wallpaper removal for those difficult to remove papers.


Step 1

All methods — Preparation of room.

Prepare your room, as wallpaper stripping makes a mess. Move all furniture out of harms reach, and ensure that all floors are protected. If you use plastic protection, use a cloth dust sheet on top of this as the dampness will make the plastic slippery and dangerous for your ladder.

Step 2

Preparation of wallpaper.

Much paper removes easily, although the kind which does not is that which has a water resistant surface. The surface needs to be broken before attempting to soak the paper. This allows water to penetrate through the layers. You can purchase a tool specifically made to score the paper surface, or use a craft knife, gently running this over the surface. Also remove areas which are easy to remove as this allows the water to penetrate behind those adjoining areas.

Step 3

Manual method — getting your tools together.

For the manual method of removing the wallpaper, you will need a large bucket of soapy water, a sponge and a ladder enabling you to easily reach all areas. If there are light sockets or electrical outlets of any kind on the wall in question, switch off the electricity to this area.

Step 4

Soaking the wallpaper.

The paper needs to be tackled an area at a time, and each area needs soaking. Often people make the mistake of trying to peel off the paper before the soak process has time to take effect. This can add to the difficulty level. Soak an area of wallpaper, and allow the water to soak into that area. Soak the next area. This way you can work on the next area as soon as the first area is done.

Step 5

Test the soaking.

Test to see if the soaking has worked. Peel off a bit of paper and see if it removed easily. If using a paint scraper, do not dig into the wall. Merely find a loose edge or one of your cuts, and work flatly in this area. If the water has not soaked sufficiently, add more soapy water to both areas. A paint scraping tool can be used instead of a scraper.

Step 6


Scrape from the edges of each piece of paper. You will find this easier because the natural join of the paper will come loose easier.

Step 7

Subsequent layers.

Since papers have several layers, work on each area at a time, soaking more as needed.

Step 8

The steam method.

Prepared your walls, by covering all light switches and electrical outlets with plastic and masking tape to avoid water ingress.

Step 9

Fill up your steamer.

The steamer will need to be filled with water. Follow the instructions given by the Steamer manufacturer.

Step 10

Steam stripping.

The head of the steamer can get hot. Be careful for drips of hot water, especially if stripping ceilings. Hold the steam head flat against the wall for a few moments, and try to see if the paper has loosened.

Step 11

Work over all the areas of the walls.

Continue in this fashion, steaming and then stripping, until all the paper has been removed.

Step 12

Stripping difficult glues.

If a glue has been applied which is difficult to remove, do the best you can with a paint scraper, and then apply white spirit on a cloth. Leave this to soak. Then scrape the glue away.

Step 13

Wash and size.

Your walls will need to be washed and sized ready for new wallpaper. Wash down thoroughly.

You will Need
• For different alternatives:
• Paint scraper.
• Surface breaking tool or craft knife.
• Wallpaper steam stripper.
• Hot soapy water.
• Sponge.
• Protection for flooring areas.
• Patience.
• Paint scraper tool.

Tips & Warnings
• Never apply a steam cleaner for too long as this may damage old plasterwork.
• Always protect floor areas from dampness and debris.


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