the best way to remove wallpaper

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. 🙂

how to remove wallpaper

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But removing wallpaper that’s outdated or old or doesn’t fit the design of your room…..let’s be honest…..it’s tough.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…..

Painted-Gray-Armoire

….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.

removing wallpaper

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.

Upstairs_Bathroom[1]

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.

best wall to remove wallpaper diy

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?

*sigh*

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. 🙂

thistlewood kitchen

2.  Don’t spend a lot of money on expensive equipment

The most important thing you need to remove wallpaper is elbow grease.

And time.

And patience.

I read the posts online and bought a $150 steamer.

It was fine.

Even sufficient.

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.

the best way to remove wallpaper ideas

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.

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).

Chair_and_Desk_Thistlewood

(total aside:  this is the same wall in the library as the above picture)

4.  What to use to actually remove the wallpaper

This depends.

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.

  removing wallpaper from a bathroom

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.

farmhouse bathroom

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.

Never.

Ever.

I mean….after all….

….I practically have a wallpaper Phd. 🙂

Comments

  1. Image for Shelia Shelia

    Thanks for the wallpaper removal tute! Your walls, as well as your home, look so beautiful. We've just bought a house in upstate New York (to be by our grandchildren) and it is filled with 1980s wallpaper! I'm taking lots of vitamins so I'll be up to the challenge! You're so cute! My son was a big fan of Journey! :) Be a sweetie, Shelia :)

  2. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    Oh you poor thing -- bless your heart you had all those rooms to do but by golly it certainly turned out beautiful. We had to remove strawberry wallpaper, duck wallpaper, gingham wallpaper and big cottage rose wallpaper. At least there were two rooms that didn't have wallpaper. And you certainly deserve your PhD. Would you ever wallpaper again? I think your paint and frog tape looks beautiful and it is so much easier to paint over a wall than to remove paper. I won't ever wallpaper a wall again. Frankly I think you deserve some kind of medal for all the work. Have a wonderful day.

  3. Image for Lisa at celebrate creativity Lisa at celebrate creativity

    You've definitely earned that Phd, Karianne. You did an amazing job transforming these rooms. I realy love how that white brick looks now. Everything is so bright and fresh. Have the original owners of your home ever seen and/or commented on any of your makeovers? Hope you have a great week, Lisa

  4. Image for jane jane

    The fabric softener and hot water in a spray bottle worked best for me with a plastic scraper! The worst paper I had to remove was the kind of wallpaper you tear pieces of and put on! The previous owner had used that paper on top of 2 other layers of paper!! It's a good thing I like to remove wallpaper!! Your home is GORGEOUS and so worth all the hours getting it to where it is now!!

  5. Image for PC PC

    You are right - I think the wallpaper at my mother's home is cemented from years ago. I have been avoiding the task for a while. Maybe a supply of iced tea, several Chesney albums, and some time will do it. You have inspired me with the pictures.

  6. Image for Norma Jean Norma Jean

    What you have done to your home is nothing short of amazing! And to think you did all of that while taking care of four kids! I'm sure that I would have sat down in the midst of it all and bawled my head off. I'm amazed at your tenacity and vision. You and Denny have created a beautiful home. A true silk purse from what appears to have been a sow's ear. Did you have a clear vision of where you were going with this, or did it just happen one step at a time?

  7. Image for Beverly Beverly

    And, look at the gorgeous pay off of all of that wallpaper removal labor. You did wonderful, KariAnne. Our hardest wallpaper removal adventure was the paper in our kitchen and breakfast room when we moved in this house. They apparently used very good glue - and they didn't size the walls prior to hanging the paper. It came off in strips about one inch wide and six inches long. But, here it is 24 years later, and I am still rejoicing that it is gone.

  8. Image for Polly Polly

    What about removing contact paper used as wallpaper?? Thats what the previous owners had used in the kitchen, one wall in the living room and the bathroom including the ceiling!!! YUCK is all i CAN say, it came off after hours and hours of removal adventures. Now it's all painted and beautiful:) I kept a small spot (hidden) to remind myself of that gorgeous contact paper!!

  9. Image for Eileen Eileen

    This brings back so many memories for me. When we bought our house, EVERY room had wallpaper that had to be removed. We had no idea what we were in for. I remember the excitement that I felt when one long strip came off rather than a small one. We didn't rent any special equipment for the process, just wet, score and scrap. Rather than vinegar and water, we used a solution of Downey fabric softener diluted with water and the house smelled really good.

  10. Image for Rebecca in OK Rebecca in OK

    Can I just say?.........You Rock. When we were looking at houses, I said a big fat NO to beautiful homes that had a ton a wallpaper, simply because I hate taking that stuff down. After seeing what you've done in your gorgeous home, I am impressed!

  11. Image for Nelson's Mama Nelson's Mama

    I've removed paper in three houses - don't have my Phd., but my go to product is DIF GEL. I buy it in five gallon jugs and roll in on like paint (it's like the old hair product Dippity Doo). It is a little hard to find, though. :)

  12. Image for GinaE GinaE

    Good post and one I'm saving, since I'm going to tackle just this problem in my 2 baths and kitchen. I was wondering about scoring, and now after your advice, I won't bother. My wall paper is on faux paneling. Any ideas if that will make it different to get off? I already have the Journey music, and vinegar, so I guess I'm set.

  13. Image for Betsy@coastal-colors Betsy@coastal-colors

    Great suggestions! I have been to the school of hard knocks myself on many DIY projects! One that comes to mind is painting over 1930-40's Mahogany furniture! Whew, I learned the hard way to always Shellac that particular finish first! I love your home! You have turned it into a treasure!

  14. Image for Lisa Lisa

    You know what the easiest way is to get wallpaper off? Pay someone else to do it! We had 13 of 16 rooms in our house covered in wallpaper. We had him take off 7 of the 13, we removed one rooms worth (which was that really great kind that just peeled off in sheets) and the rest stayed put until the area was gutted. I can't imagine how long that took you to do. It's tedious and frustrating work but your results are lovely. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Image for Zolane Zolane

    You're a trooper. My hubby and I tried to take a bright, I MEAN BRIGHT!, floral and checked wallpaper off our former kitchen's walls and that glue could have patched the Titanic. After 3 hours of using EVERYTHING we heard recommended, we got a 3 inch x 3 inch piece off. That was enough for me so we decided bead board was the way to go! :) Another great job, KariAnne. I can't believe those are the same rooms!!!

  16. Image for Kathleen Kathleen

    The first thing I learned in Art History was that "the pendulum always swings" ... and what I saw Sat a.m., just as I'm FINALLY preparing to rid our kitchen of the last of our wallpaper truly makes me a believer. "Sarah" on HGTV was using bold wallpaper in a bedroom makeover, and really talking about it! Is this one of the first hints of its return to popularity?! Please, please ... tell me, "No!" KariAnne, I cannot imagine how hard all your "PhD work" must have been, but it was so worth it ~ the rooms are stunning now! The paper in several areas in our house was literally falling off the wall: in others, nothing short of dynamite (as Zolane's) or painting over, will work! At least that's what a painting contractor has told me: "... if it doesn't lift or peel off when you paint it ~ paint it!" I'm wanting to create an "old used wall, mixed w/broken plaster" look in the kitchen, whether or not wallpaper is making its comeback! p.s. Thanks for all the info, everyone!

  17. Image for Sheryll & Critters. Sheryll & Critters.

    WTG KariAnne!!! I actually felt pain reading this post. I do not know how you did it, but 'it' is fantastic now. Would you ever wallpaper? I would not..... don't care how strippable it is supposed to be. Stripworthy? Okay, what ever the word should be.....

  18. Image for Elizabeth Elizabeth

    I love you Kari anne! your before photos's show just how much 'Vision' you really did /do have... Where oh where did that old stove go? Was that an old coffee grinder turned into a clock on top of it???

  19. Image for K K

    Well....wallpaper is coming back. A darling nail salon, painted every wall white and on the wide back wall@18 feet, put in a large aqua and white french print wallpaper, quite vintage looking but modern, it is wonderful and the talk of the town...a mall manicure place, even tried to imitate the look :) My decorator friend who does cottages to castles, told me last year, get ready it's coming. She did a room in blue chalk paint(A.Sloan) and a wonderful white vintage look paper, smashing, with dark wood floors. Some of us - who scraped off old paper in rentals or first homes, papered anew, then scraped again to paint, may never return, tho I am thinking of trying it in the laundry room.

  20. Image for Robin Stephens Robin Stephens

    Call us weird-os, but we painted over our wallpaper. It is a 90's home and was professionally put up by the builder. We painted first w/ oil based primer, then used regular latex paint. We've done this in several rooms with excellent success and it's been several years. After reading your story....I'm so thankful it worked! Whew!!! What patience you must have had..... Lovely !!

  21. Image for Tina Matteson Tina Matteson

    As always, I marvel at how you have transformed that farmhouse into a gorgeous home. Thank you for the tips. Most of the wallpaper in our 1900 farmhouse came off in long strips pretty easily, but there is one bathroom left that I am dreading cause I think it will be like your kitchen that took four days! I plan to work on that soon.

  22. Image for Kris Kris

    Oh, I don't envy you. I had enough ugly wallpaper to deal with in our much smaller house. The previous owners were smokers and I discovered that wallpaper sucks in cigarette smells. Gross. The good news is ... 12 years later our house looks and smells much better! I agree with you, there are some beautiful applications of wallpaper, but after my experience of trying to remove it, I don't think I'll ever have the heart to put it up anywhere. Bleah.

  23. Image for Becky in SC Becky in SC

    You are certainly brave to tackle 11 rooms of wallpaper...but let me tell you, the end results are astonishing! I too, have removed numerous walls of wallpaper. I have tried every remedy under the sun. But it wasn't until I saw a post from Susan over at Between Naps On The Porch, that I finally found a product that actually worked well for me. I am so thankful to Susan for doing a post on her experience with this product. It's concentrated, and the best part is, it's not very expensive. I'm including a link to her post so you or your readers can benefit as well! http://betweennapsontheporch.net/home-office-renovation-update-welcome-to-the-111th-metamorphosis-monday/

  24. Image for best real best real

    Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  25. Image for Diana W. Diana W.

    UGH! I heartily despise removing wallpaper! I have bought two different homes that had wallpaper in every room. Two layers too! I have sworn to NEVAH, EVAH buy a house that has even one wall of wall paper....which means I'll end up in one that has three layers in every room! Great job, love the house!

  26. Image for Lori B Lori B

    I love your description of wallpaper removal. You're right, it is a chore! I would love to hear how you finished the walls afterward. Did you float the walls with drywall compound or just paint right on the flat wall?

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