How to Remove Wallpaper

How to Remove Wallpaper

I was recently informed by my wife the Baroness Trumpington that she was listening to a DIY topic on the radio, and was amazed at the amount of people phoning in to ask what’s the best way to remove wallpaper- This prompted me to jump on the Mac and rattle this out.

I’ll start with the most difficult.

Wood chip paper very popular in the 60s and 70s was usually applied over the top of all the existing wall finishes and then painted with Vinyl Silk emulsion.

Everyone then liked shiny walls. Future generations have then painted over this with the latest fashion colour. Now with lots of coats of paint somewhere lingering amongst all those layers, you may. Other pre wood chip wallpapers, Vinyl based paints, Gloss paints & standard emulsion. All these are now providing a totally impervious water resistant barrier.

Removing wallpaper can be a tiring task

Removing wallpaper can be a tiring task

The best way to tackle this is by using a professional wall steamer- You can hire these at easily.

Don’t get too excited yet! There is a down side. If you’re tackling old walls pre 1920 you will also more likely to remove at least some of the plaster, if not all of it.

So make sure the wall plaster is very sound before starting this process.

If you are in doubt use a chemical solution> ill get onto that later.

Having good equipment helps in removing wallpaper

Having good equipment helps in removing wallpaper

First just try working a wallpaper stripper in at the edge and then tearing some of the paper off. Sometimes you’re lucky and it will just pull off in huge pieces and when this happens you will be elated, you may even jump up & down I’ve seen this behaviour many times & it’s really great fun. That’s only 2% of the time.

Usually, -the first applied layer of wallpaper, will undoubtedly have been put up by a sadist – Muttering to himself- id like to see the bastards get this off.

And here you are doing just that.

First you need to score the wallpaper- best way is to use a purpose made gadget designed for this. More scratches the better- spend lots of time doing this enjoy it. Pretend it’s a Politician, Parking Warden, Estate Agent, or Lawyer-it will save time later.

I’ve tried to get these in chronological order at the time of writing.

A standard scrapper

A standard scrapper


Cheap wallpaper steamers will not have a thermostat- IE they don’t cut out at a preset temperature. They rely on a pressure valve letting excess steam out when a preset pressure is reached.

Make sure you get one that has both safety features. Otherwise you have just brought a potential bomb in the house.

Assuming by now you have now scored the walls like a modern day Sweeny Todd. You can start steaming. – place the steam pad against the wall and leave it in place. How long depends on how much stuff old crap you’re trying to remove.

You will get the timing right as the work proceeds. The trick is – as soon as you remove the steam pad use your wallpaper stripper and scrape away while it’s still wet. If you let it dry you will be back to square one.

I’ve heard old tales of people just setting up a 5 gallon tank of water with a burner underneath. Shutting the door and coming back in the morning and all the paper is off. Try this approach and you will most likely come down to find the ceiling on the floor.

The Chemical approach

Companies have developed chemicals for stripping wallpaper. They come in many names; essentially they have a chemical that dissolves wall paper paste.

Again you will have to score the paper before using.

How a wallpaper streamer works.

How a wallpaper streamer works.

Vinyl wall paper

Most modern papers are vinyl faced and the vinyl face is easily removed from the backing.

Don’t score- just work a corner loose and it should just peel away- in a few cases the backing will be left intact and you can just prepare and decorate over the backing. In most cases some of the backing will also come away. If this is the case then you will have to remove the rest. Light scoring and wetting with warm water will do the trick. Then while it’s still wet, use your stripper to scrape away.

Another tip – clean up the paper fallen to the floor while it’s still wet or it will stick to the floor and skirting’s and you will end up steaming it off them.

Now if you have ended up with plaster falling off the walls and are not sure what to do see our related articles.