Knowing how to remove wallpaper is always useful, whether you’ve just moved in and want to change the hideous walls, or simply fancy a new stylish pattern.
Unlike learning how to paint a room, knowing how to remove wallpaper without damaging your walls can seem challenging. This is often the case if you have layers of wallpaper that stubbornly stick to the walls, making it harder to strip. In addition, if you damage the wall or plaster underneath, this will be more costly.
Luckily, learning how to remove wallpaper is not as hard as it seems. With a little patience and care, you'll be able to create a clean and blank canvas for you to wallpaper a room like a pro. In addition, wallpaper can instantly add character and style to a lacklustre space. So whether you want to makeover an entire room or a feature wall, here’s how to remove wallpaper and transform your room.
How to remove wallpaper
Putty knife or wall scraper
Scoring tool (optional)
Before you start, open any windows or doors to make sure there is plenty of ventilation in the room. This is often the case if you opt to use a wall steamer, as the space can get very warm.
1. Protect the room
First, clear the room as much as possible. Remove pictures, wall hangings, and light switches from the wall. Move heavy-duty furniture into the middle of the room, and cover wall sockets. Shut off the electricity and cover any power outlets or light switches with painter’s tape. Finally, lay drop cloths down against the wall to protect your flooring from mess.
2. Peel off the surface layer
Start by pulling off the wallpaper by hand without using any water. Peel it back from the corners or edges slowly to ensure a smooth lift-off. A scoring tool can be helpful to get into the corners that are difficult to lift. Then, use a paper scraper or putty knife like this Amazon Basics 2" Flex Nylon Handle Putty Knife ($6, Amazon (opens in new tab)), to help lift and remove any stuck-on paper.
3. Spray the wall
Next, fill a spray bottle with warm water and generously spray the wall. This will help to soften and easily separate the paper from the wall. Wait up to 15 minutes until the water has soaked into the wallpaper before stripping.
For stubborn wallpaper that can’t shift, you can use a wallpaper removal stripper like this Rust-Oleum 249055 32-Ounce Dif Quick Wallpaper Stripper ($14, Amazon (opens in new tab)). Or if all else fails, invest in a wall steamer like this Wagner Spraytech 0282036 715 Power Steamer ($76, Amazon (opens in new tab)) to tackle tough jobs. Just remember to wear protective gloves as it can get very hot.
4. Strip off the wallpaper
Next, take your putty knife or scraper to gently strip off the damp layers of wallpaper. Strip off wallpaper until it’s all removed, and if you find another layer underneath, just repeat the process. Don’t use too much force with metal tools, or rush the job, as you might scratch or badly damage the wall underneath, especially if there's old, fragile plaster underneath.
5. Wash the wall
Once you’ve removed the wallpaper, wash the wall to get rid of excess paste or primer. Dampen a sponge or rag with water and wipe down the wall thoroughly. Experts recommend going over the wall several times to prepare it for your new, beautiful wallpaper.
6. Repair, sand and prime the wall
Depending on the condition of the wall, you’ll need to repair any holes or gouges with a suitable filler. Then, sand the wall smooth using a hand sander and 120-grit drywall sanding paper. Before reapplying wallpaper, always prime a wall with a good quality opaque/white primer. This helps the wallpaper paste to stick properly and do its job.
Can I paint over wallpaper?
Yes, you can paint over wallpaper with either a latex or oil-based paint. However, experts always recommend removing old wallpaper (and laying new wallpaper if desired) before painting to get a far superior finish and longer-lasting results. In addition, the extra moisture from painting may cause the wallpaper underneath to loosen its adhesive, and eventually peel off the wall.
If you’re giving your home a makeover, be sure to check out our guide on how to paint a ceiling without making a mess. And if you’ve made a mess, here's how to get paint out of the carpet. If you want to know how to decorate a rental property without annoying your landlord, you may also want to know how to clean painted walls to remove stains.