How to Remove Wallpaper

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on September 9, 2020

Wallpaper is definitely having a moment. But old wallpaper? Not so much. If you’ve moved into a property with ugly retro wallpaper, don’t worry: it’s removable. With a little bit of time and elbow grease, you’ll be left with a blank canvas. Whether you choose a new wallpaper or simply a coat of paint is up to you. 

Before you get started on removing wallpaper, make sure you have the proper tools. To make wallpaper removal a snap, you’ll need a rigid putty knife, a screwdriver, a wallpaper scoring tool (we like this one), a wallpaper sprayer, hot water, and vinegar. Of course, you’ll want to think about safety and cleanliness, too — grab some safety glasses, a painter’s tarp, painter’s tape, and a lined garbage can while you’re at it! 

Before you even think about peeling off wallpaper, you’ll want to prepare your space to prevent any sort of damage. That means putting some of those materials to good use: put the painter’s tarp down on the floor and secure with painter’s tape. If your room has any light switches or electrical outlets, use the painters tape to cover and protect those as well, and then be sure to turn off power to any outlets at the breaker box.

Start removing wallpaper by prying up a piece and seeing what you’re working with. If you’re lucky, it’ll tear off in a sheet, but if it doesn’t come off easily, don’t worry: most wallpaper removal jobs require hot water to break down the adhesive. That’s where your scorer comes in. This handy tool helps pierce the outer layer, allowing water to better penetrate and soften the 12`wallpaper. Using light pressure, run the scoring tool all over the wall. Don’t press too hard, though! You want to perforate the paper — not damage the sheetrock or plaster underneath.

Now, you’ll mix up your hot water solution: to your wallpaper sprayer, add a ratio of 2/3 hot water to 1/3 vinegar. Double-check that all floors and outlets are secure, and put on your safety goggles to avoid getting any of the solution in your eyes. Carefully spray down the walls in sections of about four feet at a time. Wait about 3 minutes for the vinegar solution to sink in, then go in with your scraper to begin peeling off the wallpaper. Toss any soggy sheets in the garbage can; smaller pieces will fall onto the tarp, which you can remove later on.

While your wallpaper should come off easily with hot water, don’t be discouraged if some adhesive remains. All you’ll do is repeat the process: spray any remaining adhesive with the hot water solution in four-foot sections, wait about 3 minutes, and then go at it with your scraper!

Now that your room is wallpaper free, the only question is — how will you decorate it? The answer awaits with our design style quiz

Words by Sara Watson