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man removing wallpaper

How to remove wallpaper

When it’s time to redecorate with paint or wallpaper, you will need to remove any old wallpaper first.  It is a pain to do, but a necessary job.  Painting over old wallpaper won’t leave a great finish and will make the paper a lot harder to remove in future.  If you put new wallpaper over the old, you will get air bubbles and creases.  This is never a quick task so leave a few days to complete it.

Easiest way to remove old wallpaper


Firstly, protect the room by taking everything off the walls and removing furniture where possible, or moving it into the middle of the room.  Cover the furniture and the floors with plastic sheeting.

Turn off the electricity for the room.  This is essential in case any water gets in the electrical sockets or outlets.  Double check the right circuit has been switched off, it’s never worth taking a risk.  Then, cover all switches and sockets with plastic sheeting and masking tape (you may need to remove the light switches if there is paper stuck behind them).

Check what type of walls you have, as drywall should not be exposed to water for any longer than 15 minutes.


Now, see how stubborn the wallpaper is by removing a small section with a putty knife.  This will allow you to see how many layers of wallpaper there are as well.  If it peels away easily (some more modern wallpapers are designed to do so), you can carry on.  This will make the job much quicker but the backing sheet and paste will still need to be dealt with.

Use a scoring tool to score the wallpaper. This allows the water to penetrate and it will come away much more easily.  You just need to allow the tool to cut into the wallpaper, be careful not to press too hard as you may damage the walls. Do not be tempted to use a knife or scissors to do this for the same reason.

There are two options when it comes to getting the wallpaper off the walls, a remover solution or a steamer.

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Remover solution

After scoring the wallpaper, use a remover solution to dissolve the adhesive. Saturate the walls as per the instructions.  You may find using a sponge or roller to do this is best.  You can make your own wallpaper remover using hot water and white wine vinegar or fabric softener, but if it is your first time removing wallpaper, make life a bit easier and buy a solution.

Use a stripping or putty knife in short, sharp movements to remove the paper once the solution has loosened it from the wall.  Keep the knife as flat to the wall as you can to avoid damaging it.  Work your way from the bottom of the wall to the top in sections, peeling off the wallpaper towards you.  If the wallpaper is stubborn, you may need to apply more of the remover solution.

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Steam wallpaper stripper

Another option is to use a steamer, which can be easier for removing really stubborn wallpaper.  You will need more tools for this though, which increases the cost whether you are buying or renting them.  Make sure you read the instructions carefully before starting. Wear goggles and heat resistant gloves so the steam does not burn you.

Make sure you do not allow the steamer to boil dry at any point.  Put it on an old piece of wood or metal tray to avoid damaging the floor.

Once you have filled the steamer and steam is rising from the plate, it is ready to use.  Start from the bottom of a length of a wallpaper and hold the steamer against it for around 10 seconds.  This should allow the steam to penetrate.  Once it has loosened, use a scraper to remove it.  Always work bottom to top as heat rises.

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Clean up

Once you have finished removing the wallpaper, it is time to clean the walls.  Don’t skip this step as you need clean smooth walls for the next coat of paint or wallpaper to adhere properly.

To get rid of any paste and remover on the walls, mix hot water, washing up liquid and a tablespoon of baking soda in a bucket.  Rub the solution in a circular motion on a section of the wall using a sponge (wear rubber gloves for this).    Leave it for a few minutes then remove it with a rag.  Do the wall in sections so the solution doesn’t have time to try out.

Once this is done, take a clean, damp rag and wipe off all the solution that is left on the walls in a circular motion.  Then dry them with a clean rag.  You will need to allow another 24 hours drying time after which they should feel dry to the touch, with no stickiness.

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Finally you are ready to paint your walls or apply wallpaper to them.

If this all sounds like a big task, why not just get the experts in to do the job for you! Herts Decorators provide high quality and professional decorating services to our clients across Hertfordshire, book a free estimate with our team today.

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George Ryland

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