How To Remove 20 Year-old Wallpaper Border

How To Remove 20 Year-old Wallpaper Border

How To Remove 20 Year-old Wallpaper Border

Introduction: Changing from the Old to the New

Living spaces can very much reflect the passage of time and tastes. When the style of two decades ago no longer brings joy or freshness to your home, it becomes a clarion call for some redo. Among the first things that catch sight for a revamp is often the wallpaper border, especially if it has been up for something like 20 years.

A whole era reflected on your walls

Wallpapers and their borders have a way of silently documenting styles and trends of the years they were put up. The border of a wallpaper often serve to accentuate the character of the room, giving a finishing touch to the story that the space tells. With time, however, this story can become out-dated, creating a strong need for a rewrite.

Decoding the need for change

Whether the wallpaper border has faded, started peeling, or you just find that the pattern isn’t to your current taste, there comes a time when change is inevitable. The satisfaction of transforming a room, creating a fresh new atmosphere, and making a place feel like home again, can be immense.

Where do you start?

The process of change begins with one crucial step: safe removal of the old wallpaper border. The age of the wallpaper may present a few challenges in its removal. Older wallpapers like a 20-year-old beauty might not just peel away with ease and could require a dose of patient handling.

Fear not, we’ve got you covered

Even if the process may seem daunting at first, fear not. Removing an old wallpaper border is a manageable task, provided you have the right information, tools and perhaps a little patience on your side.

What this article offers

This article aims to guide you through the process of removing a dated wallpaper border, ensuring a clean and maintained wall ready for a new wallpaper, paint, or whatever your creativity desires.

The exciting journey of transformation

As we embark on this transformative journey together, you'll learn each meticulous step required to strip your walls of their tales of yore and ready them to tell a new exciting story.

Understanding the Difficulty of Removing 20 Year-Old Wallpaper Border

The process of removing a 20-year-old wallpaper border can often be difficult and taxing. The challenge often arises owing to the age of the wallpaper border itself and the types of adhesive used during the product's installation years ago.

Deteriorating Material

Over time, the wallpaper border can become extremely brittle due to factors like exposure to sunlight, humidity levels, and even the quality of air. This deterioration can make the removal process quite challenging, as the brittle nature of the paper might mean it tears easily, leaving scraps behind on the wall.

Strong Adhesives

Another significant challenge associated with removing old wallpaper borders stems from the adhesive used during installation. Two decades ago, adhesives were often stronger and more durable than many modern versions. These old glues have a tendency to adhere strongly to the wall surface, making the removal of the border a physically laborious process.

Likely Wall Damage

As a result of these potent adhesives used, wall damage is a common issue when removing an old wallpaper border. It's vital to be prepared for potential repair work on the wall surface aftermath of the removal. Patching and repainting might be required to restore the wall to an ideal state.

Techniques for Removing Old Wallpaper Borders

Even though removing aged wallpaper borders may be challenging, there are several proven techniques that can help simplify the task.

Scoring the Border

One of the most effective techniques involves scoring the border. This method requires the use of a wallcovering scoring tool, which creates tiny punctures in the wallpaper. The holes make it easier for a stripping solution to penetrate and soften the adhesive.

Applying Wallpaper Stripper

After scoring, applying a wallpaper stripper will further soften the glue. There are a variety of wallpaper strippers available on the market that can ease this process.

Steam Removal

Steam is also an effective method for wallpaper border removal. This technique uses hot steam to soften the adhesive, making it easier to scrape off.

While these processes will aid in the removal, patience is key. Removing a 20-year old wallpaper border is not a task that can necessarily be rushed, and investing time in the project will likely lead to more successful, less damaging results.

Tools Needed For Wallpaper Border Removal

If you've decided to remove an old wallpaper border, it's essential to gather the right tools before you begin. Here, we have listed and provided a detailed description of all the tools you'll need for this home improvement project.

Scoring Tool

The first tool you'll need in your wallpaper border removal arsenal is a scoring tool. This is a small handheld device fitted with small, sharp wheels that puncture tiny holes into the wallpaper. It's an effective tool for perforating the surface, which will allow your wallpaper solution to soak in.

Wallpaper Remover Solution

This is a specially formulated solution designed to loosen the adhesive that keeps the wallpaper glued to the wall. Typically, the solution is mixed with hot water according to the instructions given by the manufacturer.

Wallpaper Steamer

If the wallpaper border is particularly difficult to remove, a wallpaper steamer can be the right tool for the job. This tool applies heat and moisture which helps to soften stubborn adhesive. Note that caution must be exercised with this tool as it can cause burns when mishandled.

Spray Bottle

A spray bottle is handy for applying the wallpaper remover solution. Spray the solution evenly across the border ensuring that it gets into the perforations created by the scoring tool.

Putty Knife

A putty knife can be used to peel the old wallpaper border away from the wall. They come in various widths and it may be useful to have a few different sizes on hand.

Sanding Paper

Sanding paper is necessary for smoothing out the wall after border removal. Start with a coarse sandpaper and gradually switch to finer grades for a smooth finish. Always sand in circular motions to avoid leaving marks on your wall.

Patch Kit

After the wallpaper border has been removed, there may be some minor damage to the drywall. A patch kit can help fix those spots. This usually contains patching compound and a putty knife.

Sealing Primer

Finally, you'll also need a sealing primer to prepare your wall for new decoration. This will ensure a smooth, even base for your new wallpaper or paint.

Prepping Your Room For the Task Ahead

Before you dive into the process of removing your 20-year-old wallpaper border, it's essential to prep your room to both facilitate the removal process and protect your interiors.

Eliminating Unnecessary Items

Start by removing all the furniture, wall hangings, and electrical fixtures from the room. Consider taking precautions, such as taking photos before disconnecting any complex electronic appliances or numbering the wires, to help reassemble them accurately afterwards.

Cover Up What You Can't Move

If there are large fixtures that you can't move, be sure to cover them with plastic sheets or tarps to protect against damage. In addition, you should cover your floors with drop cloths to catch falling wallpaper pieces and protect your floors from potential water or chemical spillage.

Prepping the Walls

To prepare the walls, first, turn off the electricity in the room. Then, inspect the wallpaper border that you are about to remove. Loose or peeling parts should be taken off at this stage. Then, mark the areas which are tough to peel off, as those might require more attention.

For Drywall

For drywall, be cautious as too much moisture can damage it. A good practice is to test a small spot first. If the wallpaper border comes off easily, this means you can proceed with the entire wall. However, if it doesn't, you might want to consider using a wallpaper removal solution.

For Plaster Walls

Plaster walls can generally stand up to a bit more moisture as compared to drywall. However, it’s still a good idea to test a small area first before proceeding to the rest of the wall.

Equip Yourself

Ensure you have all the necessary tools such as scrapers, a scoring tool, and a sponge. Remember, safety should be your priority, so don't forget to don your gloves, goggles, and a mask, especially if you're dealing with older wallpaper that might have dust or mildew build-up.

Taking It Slow

Remember, wallpaper removal, especially one that's been up for 20 years, is not a sprint but a marathon. Allocate ample time and don't rush the process. Hasty removal can damage your walls, leading to unnecessary repair work.

Detailed Step-by-Step Procedure to Remove Wallpaper Borders

Removing a wallpaper border that has been on your wall for decades can be a daunting task. However, it's not as challenging as it may seem. Here is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to assist you in this process.

Material Preparation

Before you get started, you will need several materials. These include a sponge, bucket, hot water, fabric softener, plastic scraper, protective gloves, goggles, and a dust sheet. It's wiser to put on your protective gears from the onset to protect yourself from any accidental eye or skin irritations.

Setting Up

Start the process by covering your floor and furniture with a dust sheet to prevent any damage. This process can get messy.

Testing a Section

Peel back a corner of the wallpaper border and pull slowly. If it comes off easily, you may not need to use a lot of water or a wallpaper removal solution.

Applying a Wallpaper Removal Solution

If the wallpaper doesn't come off easily, mix a solution of hot water and fabric softener in a bucket, then use a sponge to apply it generously on the wallpaper border.

Scraping Off the Wallpaper Border

Give the solution some time to soak. After 15 minutes, test a small area with your scraper. If the wallpaper scrapes off easily, continue to the rest of the wall. If it doesn't, apply more solution and give it more time to soak.

Cleaning up

Once you have scraped off the wallpaper border, it's time for cleanup. Dispose of the scraped-off wallpaper properly. Then, clean the wall with water and a sponge to ensure you remove any residue. After cleaning, let the walls dry completely.

Final Steps

Once all that's done, your walls should be pristine and ready for any new decorations. Remember to spot check to ensure there are no remaining adhesive residues. If there is some, apply more of the solution and scrape it off.

Handling Tough Spots and Stubborn Adhesives

Anyone who has tried to remove old wallpaper border knows that it is not always a straightforward task. A lot depends on the quality of the adhesive that was used and the length of time the wallpaper has been in place. The following suggestions can help in dealing with stubborn areas.

Identifying the Problem Areas

The first step is to identify where the stubborn spots are located. These will usually be areas where the glue is thickest or where the wallpaper has been subjected to humid or wet conditions, which can cause it to stick more firmly to the wall. Interior corners and areas around windows and doors can also be problematic.

Employing the Right Tools

There is a range of tools available that can make the removal of wallpaper border more manageable. These include wallpaper strippers, scrapers, and a scoring tool. A scoring tool is particularly handy for those tough spots, as it allows the wallpaper stripper to penetrate deeper into the wallpaper and soften the adhesive.

Using the Right Techniques

A steam wallpaper remover can be very effective in loosening old adhesive. This method works by heating the adhesive, thus making it easier to scrape off. For difficult spots, it may be necessary to repeat this process several times.


Remember to be patient. Applying too much force can damage the wall underneath, which will create additional repair work.

Chemical Strippers

For extremely stubborn adhesive, you may need to use a chemical stripper. These products are designed to dissolve the adhesive, making it easier to scrape away.


Chemical strippers can be harmful if they are not used with proper safety precautions. Always make sure you are in a well-ventilated area and that you are wearing protection for your eyes and skin.

Final Cleaning

Once you've removed the wallpaper border and any stubborn adhesive spots, it's always a great idea to clean the wall thoroughly. Use a mild detergent and warm water, then let the wall dry completely before doing any painting or wallpapering.

Tips and Tricks for Possible Hitches During Wallpaper Border Removal

Removing a 20-year-old wallpaper border can be a tricky process, fraught with unanticipated hitches. It's natural to encounter issues along the way, but luckily we have some tips and tricks to make the procedure as seamless as possible.

Preparing the Border

Before you commence removing the wallpaper border, it's essential to prepare it for the removal process. Often, old wallpaper borders are coated with adhesive that has stood the test of time, making them challenging to remove. To loosen the adhesive, score the surface of the wallpaper border using a wallpaper scorer. However, caution should be taken not to pierce the wall beneath.

Fighting Against Stubborn Borders

If you find the wallpaper border is very stubborn and refuses to come off despite scoring, don't lose hope. Here's an effective trick for such situations. Mix hot water with a small amount of white vinegar or dish soap and soak the border in this solution. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and then try scraping off again gently. The heat and vinegar or soap should work together to loosen the adhesive.

Working with Delicate Walls

One cannot overlook the importance of being gentle to the wall beneath the border, especially if it is delicate or fragile. To avoid damaging the wall whilst removing the border, work slowly and apply the smallest amount of pressure possible. Instead of trying to forcefully tear off large sections of the border, it's more effective to remove it in smaller, controllable pieces.

Dealing with Wall Repair

It's possible that you might accidentally damage the wall in the removal process. However, don't panic. Minor wall repairs can be handled easily. All that's required is some joint compound and a small amount of time and patience. After the border removal, apply the joint compound on the damaged portion, let it dry, and then sand it smooth. After that, it's ready to be primed and painted over.

Final Cleanup

Once you have successfully removed the border, remember to clean up the leftover adhesive residue from the wall. Neglecting this will affect the smoothness of your wall and hinder the process of repainting or re-wallpapering. A simple solution of warm water and mild detergent should be sufficient for most cases, but for stubborn adhesive, you might need to employ a specialized adhesive remover.

Cleaning Up After Removal and Preparing the Wall for New Decor

Once all the old wallpaper border has been removed, clean up becomes imperative. A quick first clean up is essential in order to allow the wall to dry. It is good practice to use a large, damp sponge to wipe down the wall. This helps to remove any remaining traces of adhesive or paper fragments.

Dealing with Left-over Adhesive

Traces of adhesive might linger. This sticky residue can pose a challenge for your new decor. To deal with this, mix some warm water with fabric softener in a bucket. Use a sponge to apply the mixture to the wall, and scrub off the adhesive. Remember to protect your flooring and furniture before you start this process as it can get messy.

Drying the Wall

It is essential to ensure that the wall is entirely dry before starting on any new decoration. Leaving the wall to dry out naturally for a few days is the best approach. Alternatively, you can speed up the process by using a dehumidifier or heaters. However, direct heat may cause issues so it is not generally advised.

Inspecting the Wall

Once the wall is dry, take time to inspect it for any damages sustained during the border removal. Small dents and nicks can be filled with the suitable filler material. Sand it down after it has dried, for a smooth finish.

Re-painting or New Wallpaper Application

Before you start painting or hanging new wallpaper, it is advisable to apply an appropriate primer. This will ensure a smooth finish for paint or a solid foundation for wallpaper. A primer will also seal any residual adhesive so that it does not interfere with your new decor. Once the primer has dried, you are ready to start on your new decor project.

Prepping for New Wallpaper

If you are planning on adding wallpaper, make sure to apply a suitable wallpaper size. This product is designed to prep the surface and makes the wallpaper stick better. You can also use a wallpaper liner if your wall has noticeable defects. This helps to create a smooth surface.

Prepping for Paint

If you choose to paint, sanding the wall slightly will help the new paint adhere better. It's also worth considering a paint that contains a primer, saving you time and money. Remember to tape off any areas that you don't want painted like trim or outlets.