Before we begin. Before we discuss the best way to remove wallpaper….I’m adding a disclaimer……
…..I’m not a professional wallpaper remover.
Not even close.
I never went to wallpaper college or studied up or took a class on the ins and outs of pasted on paper.
But what I am…..is so much better.
I’m the girl who bought an old farmhouse in the country that had rooms and rooms and rooms of brightly patterned walls….
…..and I removed that wallpaper from every single one.
I think that qualifies me for a wallpaper Phd. 🙂
You know what’s funny? Truth: I actually love wallpaper.
It’s an easy way to add pattern to a room if you don’t really want to paint or stencil or create a pattern on the wall with painter’s tape.
And putting it up is actually not that hard.
But removing wallpaper that’s outdated or old or doesn’t fit the design of your room…..let’s be honest…..it’s tough.
Here’s an example in our master bedroom of some wallpaper that was a little overwhelming.
The picture above is the before…..
….and this is the after painted with SW Rice Grain.
This is the same wall in the picture next to the bathroom. If I stepped back a few more inches you would see the bathroom door on your left.
The gray berber carpet is gone and the plywood floor is painted with squares set on the diagonal.
Here’s another wallpaper before and after. This is the upstairs bathroom with yellow striped floral wallpaper.
And faux wood linoleum.
And a lot of shiny brass.
Here’s the same bathroom with the same wall (taken from different angle) with the wallpaper removed and the walls painted SW Repose Gray.
The faux wood linoleum is history and we installed the tile off-the-shelf from Lowe’s and an inexpensive sink with extra storage from Home Depo.
It took four days to remove all the wallpaper from this room.
Four long….tedious days of scraping and spraying…..
…..and listening to “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey.
And in the process of removing the wallpaper from this and eleven other rooms…..
….here’s what I learned from the school of wallpaper hard knocks.
1. All wallpaper is not created equal
It’s important to understand this because you can read post after post from experts telling you this will work or that will work…..when in reality….your wallpaper may be nothing like theirs.
Wallpapers put on during different decades have different glue. Expensive wallpaper applied by professionals is much more likely to be harder to remove. Inexpensive wallpaper put up in a weekend by a not-so-professional diyer may come down in an hour.
For example, our upstairs blue velvet damask wallpaper came off in an afternoon with very little effort.
But this kitchen wallpaper?
It took days and days because the glue they used worked so well.
So know that each project and each room will be different. Don’t get discouraged or think you aren’t doing something right if it seems much harder than the advice you read online.
Just blame it on the wallpaper. 🙂
2. Don’t spend a lot of money on expensive equipment
The most important thing you need to remove wallpaper is elbow grease.
I read the posts online and bought a $150 steamer.
It was fine.
But in the end it was so hard to lug around and set up and to me it didn’t work any better than a simple scraper and a spray bottle.
3. Understand before you start that there are usually two layers to the wallpaper
With most of our rooms…..the wallpaper had two layers.
At first I would peel off the top layer (which usually came off super easily) and I thought I was done.
Until I realized there was a whole other layer underneath the top shiny paper.
I would peel off the top layer by starting at the corners….then for the next layer I would spray it down and start scraping (see tip #4).
(total aside: I usually never scored it because I peeled off the second layer in long strips. The scoring (for me) made it harder to get off).
(total aside: this is the same wall in the library as the above picture)
4. What to use to actually remove the wallpaper
It’s like asking what kind of paint is best for a room. It totally depends on the wallpaper and the glue.
Here’s what I used to remove the wallpaper in our home.
I found that DIF Wallpaper remover worked really well (here’s a tutorial on how to use it). I usually bought it at WalMart or Lowe’s.
On some rooms I filled a water bottle with equal parts vinegar and water and sprayed that on (here’s a tutorial on how to use it).
Both of these worked really well.
5. Finish a section and don’t stop in the middle
This is so important to remember.
If you leave the wallpaper gunked up on the wall and don’t finish the section…..it dries in place even harder and resembles a substance they might find on a far away planet.
And it’s even harder to get off.
If you spray the wall and start taking a section off….always, always finish it.
6. Make sure you remove all the glue from the wall
After you get all the wallpaper off the wall….wash it down one final time with vinegar or water to make sure all the glue is off the wall.
If you don’t…..and get impatient because you are tired of taking wallpaper down and you start painting…..the paint will crack.
Not that anyone around here is impatient or would ever start painting before the wall was even dry.
I mean….after all….
….I practically have a wallpaper Phd. 🙂