How Do You Strip Wallpaper

How Do You Strip Wallpaper

How Do You Strip Wallpaper

Introduction to Wallpaper Removal

Wallpaper has a way of sprucing up a room, giving it a unique flair that represents your style. However, there comes a time when the wallpaper's appeal fades, or you might simply want to give your space a new look. This is where the need for efficient wallpaper removal comes in. Stripping wallpaper can be quite challenging, especially if you're doing it for the first time. However, with the right tools, techniques, and of course, patience, the task becomes far more manageable.

Understanding the Types of Wallpaper

Before you start, it's crucial to understand the type of wallpaper you are dealing with. Knowing whether your wallpaper is traditional, strippable, or peelable will determine the removal process. Traditional wallpapers are the most difficult to remove, requiring a lot of soaking and scraping. Strippable types, on the other hand, should come off easily and peelable ones usually come with a top layer that peels off leaving a backing paper.

The Needed Tools and Preparations

A successful wallpaper removal project starts with the right tools. You'll need items such as a scoring tool, a spray bottle with water or a wallpaper removal solution, a stripping knife, and a sponge. Safety gear like gloves and goggles are also vital. A well-prepared workspace with protective covers over furniture and floors can save you from unnecessary cleaning effort afterwards.

Steps in Wallpaper Removal

The first step is to remove all objects from your walls, say pictures, and wall lamps. The second step involves cutting through the wallpaper using the scoring tool. Be careful not to damage your wall in the process. Next is the process of soaking the wallpaper using your water or removal solution. Let it sit and absorb for a couple of minutes before moving to the scraping. The final step includes cleaning the wall and preparing it for the subsequent repainting or re-wallpapering.


Keeping these factors in mind will make the process of wallpaper removal less daunting and more enjoyable. Moreover, it will yield better results, providing a clean and fresh wall, ready for any new décor ideas you might have.

Necessary Tools and Materials for Stripping Wallpaper

Stripping wallpaper is not a complicated task, but you indeed need the right tools and materials to successfully perform it. Here, we will discuss the essentials, including protection for your surfaces and yourself, the actual tools to help remove the wallpaper, and additional materials you'll need for the task.

Protection for Surfaces

Before diving into the actual stripping of the wallpaper, it's crucial to take measures to protect your surfaces. To this end, tarps or drop cloths are an absolute necessity. They will safeguard your floors and furniture from the wallpaper scraps and adhesive that will come off during the process. Additionally, consider masking tape to keep the drop cloths in place.

Protection for Yourself

Protective wear such as safety glasses and gloves are crucial when stripping wallpaper. The protective eyewear is necessary to prevent any dust or debris particles from getting into your eyes and causing discomfort or damage. Gloves are needed to prevent blisters and skin irritations you may get from handling the tools for an extended period.

Tools for Wallpaper Stripping

The actual task of stripping wallpaper calls for specific tools, the first of which is a scoring tool. This tool creates tiny punctures in the wallpaper, allowing the stripping solution to infiltrate and loosen the adhesive. Next, you need a spray bottle or a garden sprayer to apply the wallpaper stripping solution.

Wallpaper Steamer

At times, the adhesive is too stubborn, demanding more than just a stripping solution. In such cases, a wallpaper steamer comes in handy. It uses heat to soften up the adhesive, making it easier to scrape off the wallpaper.

Scraper and Putty Knife

Once the solution or steam has done its job, a scraper or a putty knife can be used to gently lift and remove the loosened wallpaper.

Additional Materials

Additional materials you might need include a ladder for reaching high areas and sponges or rags for cleaning. Buckets will also be essential for holding the stripping solution and clean water for rinsing.

Stripping wallpaper can seem daunting, but with these tools and materials at your disposal, the task becomes more approachable and manageable. Preparation is key, and having a well-equipped toolkit will certainly ease the process.

Safety Precautions Before You Begin

Before you start the process of removing wallpaper, it's crucial that you take certain safety measures to ensure your well-being and the protection of your home.

Setting Up Your Work Area

The first step to ensuring safety is to prepare your work area. This involves removing furniture, electrical fixtures and covers, and other objects on or near the wall. Use drop cloths to protect your flooring and any remaining furniture from water and debris. Ensure that your area has sufficient lighting, so you can effectively see what you're working on.

Using Safety Equipment

Remember, safety equipment is not optional. The appropriate safety wear includes protective eyewear, gloves, and clothes that cover your whole body. A respirator mask can be particularly useful if you are working in an area with poor ventilation or if the wallpaper is extremely old, as mold and dust might be present.

Chemical Strippers

If you opt to use chemical strippers to remove the wallpaper, be extremely cautious. Some chemical wallpaper strippers can be hazardous if inhaled or if they come into contact with the skin. Always work in a well-ventilated area and consider using a respirator. Make sure to read and follow the instructions and precautions on the label tightly.

Electrical Safety

Another significant safety concern when stripping wallpaper is electrical safety. If any wall outlets or switches are encountered while stripping the wallpaper, be sure to turn off the electricity at the main panel. Avoid using excessive water near these areas.

First Aid Kit

Have a first aid kit on hand for any minor injuries that might occur during the process, such as cuts or scrapes. Include essential items like antiseptic, bandages, and tweezers for any unexpected wallpaper-related incidents.

Clear Pathways

While you work, ensure that you maintain a clear and safe pathway in your working area to avoid trips and falls. Keep your tools organized and out of the way when not in use. This can not only make the job smoother but also reduce the risk of accidents.

Respecting Your Limits

Lastly, as you work on stripping wallpaper, it's important to acknowledge and respect your limits. Take regular breaks to rest and hydrate. If an area feels too high or hard to reach, use a step ladder or long-handled tools for safe access. Straining or overworking yourself can lead to accidents.

By taking these essential safety precautions, you can ensure a successful, accident-free wallpaper stripping project.

Determining the Type of Wallpaper and Appropriate Removal Method

In the process of wallpaper removal, one essential step is to identify the type of wallpaper that has been installed and choose the correct removal method accordingly. Inappropriate removal methods can lead to wall damage. Hence, it is crucial to assess the type of wallpaper before proceeding.

Types of Wallpaper

There are primarily three types of wallpaper:

  • Vinyl Wallpaper: This is waterproof, washable and durable. It's usually more challenging to remove than other types.
  • Foiled or Flocked Wallpaper: These are generally thinner and easier to remove, but may require some scraping.
  • Traditional Wallpaper: This type of wallpaper can be either easy or difficult to strip, depending on its age and adhesive used.

Identification of Wallpaper Type

To determine the wallpaper type, start by scraping a corner with a putty knife. A tougher, plasticky feeling usually indicates vinyl, while a thin, fragile feel could suggest foiled or flocked wallpaper.

Methods of Wallpaper Removal

Once the wallpaper type is identified, choose the appropriate removal method:

Vinyl Wallpaper Removal

Start by peeling off the vinyl top layer. A stripping solution can then be applied to the remaining paper and adhesive. After letting the solution set, scrape off with a scraper tool.

Removal of Foiled or Flocked Wallpaper

Apply a warm water and soap mixture or a wallpaper stripping solution. Let it sit for a few minutes, then gently scrape the paper off the wall. For stubborn pieces, a wallpaper steamer may be used.

Traditional Wallpaper Removal

Use a scoring tool to create small holes in the wallpaper. Then apply a wallpaper stripping solution, allowing it to soak in. Finally, start scraping the paper off the wall. If the wallpaper has been on the wall for many years, a wallpaper steamer could prove helpful.

Safety Precautions

Regardless of the method chosen, it's important to protect floors with drop cloths, wear protective gloves and glasses, and ensure the room is well-ventilated. This makes the wallpaper removal process safer and more efficient.

Remember, the key is patience and persistence. Wallpaper removal can be a time-consuming, messy job, but the end result is worth the effort.

Start with a Patch Test

Before delving into the main task of stripping wallpaper, it is highly recommended to start with a patch test. The purpose of a patch test is essentially to gauge how easy or difficult the wallpaper will be to remove, and it can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Choosing the Correct Patch

To begin with, select a section of the wall that is inconspicuous and not highly visible, such as behind a piece of furniture. This ensures that if any damage occurs as a result of the patch test, it won’t be immediately noticeable. The best choice would be an area of about 3x3 inches, just enough to give you an idea of how well the wallpaper will come off.

Carrying out the Patch Test

Next, use a utility knife to score the selected patch area. This creates small cuts in the wallpaper, allowing the stripping solution to penetrate behind the surface. Apply the wallpaper stripping solution to the scored area, wait for a few minutes, and then try to peel the wallpaper off.

What to Learn from The Patch Test

The ease or difficulty with which the wallpaper comes off will give you an idea of how much time and effort the entire project will involve. If the wallpaper peels off easily, then chances are you'll have a fairly smooth stripping process. On the other hand, if it is difficult to remove, you may need to consider a different approach or use a steamer.

Implications of the Patch Test

If the wallpaper is particularly stubborn, you may decide to hire a professional or allocate more time to complete the project yourself. Conversely, an easy patch test result could lead you to undertake the project in your spare time. Moreover, the patch test can also help you check for any damage or irregularities on the wall under the wallpaper.

Always Start with a Patch Test

Regardless of the type of wallpaper or the method you’re using to strip it, a patch test is always a helpful first step. This simple, yet powerful test can give you a clear picture of the task ahead, allowing you to plan and prepare more effectively.

Proven Techniques for Removing Wallpaper

Stripping wallpaper can initially seem like a daunting task but with the right techniques and tools, it can evolve into a smooth, manageable project. Here are some tried-and-true techniques to help you remove old wallpaper effectively.

Solvent or Steaming

The choice between a solvent (chemical wallpaper stripper) and a steamer depends mostly on the kind of wallpaper and the condition it is in. Light vinyl wallpapers generally need a solvent, while heavy-duty ones, textured paper surfaces or older wallpapers typically require a steamer. Never forget to protect your hands and eyes when handling solvents.

Scoring the Wallpaper

Before using your stripping solution or steamer, you'll want to 'score' the wallpaper. This means creating tiny perforations in the paper to allow the solvent or steam to penetrate more effectively. For this, you can use a specialized wallpaper scorer.

Fabric Softener Mode

Believe it or not, a solution of water and fabric softener can be very effective in loosening wallpaper for removal. Simply mix equal parts water and fabric softener into a spray bottle, and apply the mixture to the wallpaper. Wait a few minutes and then begin to scrape the wallpaper off with a putty knife.

The Peelable or Strippable Wallpaper

Peelable wallpapers are designed to be more straightforward to remove. You should be able to peel the outer layer off, leaving a paper backing on the wall. This backing can then be soaked in water or solvent to be removed easily.

Using a Wallpaper Steamer

A wallpaper steamer is a handy device that can let you strip off old wallpaper using hot steam. It's a highly efficient and neat method that decreases the chance of wall damage. However, be certain to use the steamer safely as it generates very hot steam.

The Soak and Strip Technique

The soak and strip method, often referred to as the wet strip method, is excellent for removing multiple layers of wallpaper at once. It involves soaking the wallpaper with a wet sponge before scraping it off the wall.

Waiting Periods and Repetition

Patience is key when stripping wallpaper. It often takes more than one attempt to fully remove everything. Remember to give the wallpaper ample time to soak before attempting to strip it off.

Cleaning and Prep for New Decor

Once the wallpaper is stripped off, the walls need to be cleaned thoroughly from any leftover residue and adhesive. After the cleaning, you can then start prepping your wall for new paint or wallpaper according to your decided décor plan.

Essential Tips to Prevent Damage to Walls

When it comes to stripping wallpaper, there are vital precautions to be taken to avoid damaging your walls. Below, we outline some essential tips and tricks to ensure a smooth and successful wallpaper strip.

Test for Lead Paint

Before you begin, it's crucial to test for the presence of lead paint, especially if you live in an older home. Exposure to lead is a serious health risk. You can easily purchase lead test kits from your local hardware store.

Use the Right Tools

It's critical to have the right tools for the job. You'll need a wallpaper scorer to create tiny holes in the wallpaper, a scraper to peel away the paper, a sponge and bucket for wetting the wallpaper, and wallpaper stripping solution. Utilizing the wrong tools may potentially damage your walls.

Patience is Key

Always remember that patience is crucial in this process. Never try to rush the job as it could lead to unwanted damage. Soak the wallpaper and give the removal solution time to work before you start scraping.

Keep the Surface Wet

Maintaining a wet surface during the process can help prevent damage to your walls. The water helps to soften the adhesive, making the wallpaper easier to peel off.

Minimal Use of Scrapper

Use your scraper sparingly. Applying excessive force or using it too frequently can cause undesired gouges or scratches in the wall's surface. Instead, try to peel as much wallpaper away by hand as possible.

Repair Damaged Walls

If you detect any wall damage such as holes or scratches during the process, repair them immediately before proceeding. Use a joint compound or a similar product to repair the imperfections. Let it dry, sand it smooth, then prime before applying your new wallpaper or paint.

Final Clean-Ups

Once you're done stripping the wallpaper, ensure to clean all residues from the walls. Any remaining adhesive can interfere with the new paint or wallpaper application, potentially ruining the final finish.

Cleaning Up and Preparing Walls for Redecoration

Once you managed to strip off the wallpaper, it is now time to make sure that the wall surface is entirely prepared and ready to receive new wallpaper or paint.

Clearing Away Debris

The first step towards cleaning up is clearing away any remaining wallpaper paste, paper shards, and adhesive residue. This might still be clinging to corners, crevices, or perhaps dried up on the floor. Use a broom, a vacuum cleaner, or a combination of both to make sure your working area is clean and clear of sharp pieces that can cause injury.

Cleaning the Walls

The wall itself will no doubt have residual adhesive left on its surface. If it is not properly removed, it can create bumps and ridges when the new wallpaper is installed or the paint is applied. Use a mixture of warm water and mild soap with a sponge or a soft cloth to gently scrub the walls. Rinse off any remaining soap mix with clear warm water. Do this cleaning process from top to bottom in a gentle circular motion to avoid damage to the plaster. Remember to let it dry completely before moving on.

Addressing Wall Damage

As you clean, you will probably encounter spots on the walls where the plaster may have gotten damaged during the stripping process. Small dings and holes can be easily addressed with a lightweight wall filler or spackle. Use a putty knife to apply it smoothly over the damaged spot and let it dry according to the recommended time on the product's instructions. After it has dried, lightly sand it until it is flush with the wall surface. Do not forget to wipe off the dust with a damp cloth.

Sealing the Walls

Finally, before you move on to redecorate your walls, applying a primer is recommended. This not only seals the plaster but also offers a smoother surface for the new wallpaper or paint. Choose a primer that is suited to the type of decoration you plan to apply. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly before proceeding to redecorate.

With patience and a bit of effort, you can ensure that your walls are clean, smooth, and ready to be transformed with new wallpaper or paint. Remember, the quality of your prep work directly impacts the final result of your redecoration.