A Quick Guide to Wallpaper Removal

Wall coverings can be the most interesting feature of any room in your home, and cover a multitude of irregularities on any wall.

But remember the old adage: What goes up, must come down.

When the time comes to remove that old wallpaper (look here and here if you want to see some ugly photos), your two best choices are to peel it away or steam and scrape it off, depending on what type of wallpaper was used and how it’s been installed.

Ideally, all walls should be prepped and painted with primer before any wallpaper is hung. If that was done then the removal process down the road will be easier. However, if this step was skipped, whoever is the homeowner will have their work cut out for them.

Removing Strippable Fabric or Vinyl Wall Coverings

Fabric, vinyl and other strippable wallpapers are usually very easy to remove. These include wall coverings that were originally put up with a strippable wallpaper paste.

To remove them, work top to bottom, left to right. Select the top-left corner to begin working the wallpaper loose. Use a butter knife, small metal spatula or flexible paint-scraper to loosen the wallpaper from the wall. Once a corner is loose, simply peel the wall covering away, usually in strips. Be certain to get all of it.

If you’re not certain whether the wallpaper you’re removing is strippable, you’ll only need a minute or two in the removal attempt to be clear on that question.

Removing Non-Strippable Wallpaper

The quickest and easiest way to remove non-strippable wallpaper is to rent a steam machine that’s designed to infuse the paper completely with steam, making the wallpaper pliable and soft.

Most carpet or upholstery portable deep cleaners will do the job and you can rent them for less than $20 per day.

You’ll then literally scrape the softened paper off with a large, wide putty knife.

This is typically a two-fisted task. Hold the steamer plate in one hand, applying steady steam directly to the spot you’ll be scraping first. Then, when the wallpaper seems loose enough to scrape, begin applying steam in another adjacent spot while scraping the paper off with the other hand.

Again, move top to bottom, left to right, if you’re right-handed. Lefties may find it easier in this case to hold the steamer in their left hand and scrape with their right. This means left-handed people may want to work right to left on the wall.

A couple of ideas to make the chore easier: If the area you’re working on is large, take frequent breaks to prevent sore muscles. Keep a trash bag at your side to dispose of the damp scrapings as you remove them from the wall.