Learn the fast way to remove wallpaper with this simple and easy method! Plus, a great tip for speedy cleanup!
This past week I’ve been hanging out with my dad in rural Wisconsin, where the days are cold and the internet is scarce. As a result, I’ve been watching a fair amount of HGTV.
And all the house hunting couples on HGTV, in addition to being faker than particleboard furniture, have a clearly defined list of (somewhat ridiculous and extravagant) things they want in their home. A playroom, a pool, a view, 6 bedrooms, 2 master suites…. the list goes on.
This was not me when I was searching for a home. My mindset was more along the lines of “Is it under $150,000, and structurally sound? Cool, sold.” But what really made me pick my house out of all the other old, cheap, structurally sound houses was this one single room.
Look at the (multiple sets of) french doors! And the sun! So much sun, all the time! I was in love.
I decided immediately that this would ultimately be my office, because clearly I’d want to be in this room all the time, and therefore would get plenty of work done.. I’ll let you know how that turns out.
But before I could make this into the productivity haven of my dreams, I needed to get rid of the wallpaper. Because not only was it unattractive on its own, it was also peeling off pretty much everywhere, which, as you might be aware, is not okay.
Now, it was dead obvious to me that I needed to remove my wallpaper. It was torn in places, peeling like crazy, and in obviously poor condition. It needed to go.
But your wallpaper might be in better condition… and in that case, you might be able to get away with painting or wallpapering over it!
Wouldn’t that be nice? Grab my FREE When to Remove Wallpaper cheat sheet so you know exactly when you can skip this whole project!
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What Didn’t Work
I started by scoring my walls with this snazzy paper tiger thing that other internet people raved about, then sprayed with a laundry detergent/water mixture. Before I tell you all about how this was stupid and got me nowhere, lets talk a little about the composition of wallpaper.
Wallpaper, at least, the stuff on my walls, has two main layers: A thick waterproof decorative layer that is what you see on your wall, and a paper layer that contains the adhesive that sticks the wallpaper to the wall.
Your goal, as the wallpaper remover, is to unstick the paper adhesive layer from the wall to pull off the wallpaper. The paper adhesive layer will peel off easily if you can get your adhesive solvent (the laundry detergent/hot water mixture, in my case) to that layer.
However, the waterproof layer makes it awfully difficult to get any sort of solvent to the paper adhesive layer. That’s where the paper tiger comes in. It pokes little holes in the top decorative layer so that your solvent can get through to the lower layer.
In the above picture, the paper adhesive layer is the light brown stuff you see on the wall. The waterproof layer is the blue layer that is still on or peeling off the wall. You can see in the picture how my solvent went through the decorative layer at all the places where I scored with the paper tiger.
And guess what: right at those wet places, the adhesive layer was super easy to pull off. Everywhere else, where the paper adhesive layer was still dry? Impossible.
Because the paper tiger couldn’t be everywhere, it didn’t make taking down the wallpaper super easy. In some situations, which I’ll cover later in this post, it might be helpful and make the job easier, but this is not a tool that will solve all your wallpaper woes. Additionally, it damaged the drywall behind the wallpaper:
See all those holes in a line? That’s from the paper tiger.
I’m not too concerned about the damage – it will be behind a bookshelf in this room. However, it did nothing to raise my opinion of the Paper Tiger…
How I Removed the Wallpaper
- Spray Bottle (to hold solvent)
- Fabric Softener (to make solvent)
- Water (to make solvent)
- Ladder (to reach the high spots)
- Plastic Sheeting (to make cleanup easy)
Step 0: Prep
I started by laying plastic sheeting on the floor (for an awesome trick I’ll show you at the end!), and preparing my water/fabric softener mixture in a spray bottle.
The internet was contradictory about how much the mixture should be of each, so I didn’t bother measuring, and aimed for 50-75% water and the rest fabric softener.
Step 1: Peel Off Top Layer
There is absolutely no need to poke holes in the top layer if you can simply pull it off, which is what I ended up doing.
On most pieces, it was peeling off already somewhere, so I typically started there, but on pieces where there was no peeling, the corner of the piece typically lifted off pretty easily. Each piece typically came off in a giant sheet if I went slowly.
The top layer came off super easily!
Step 2: Saturate the Paper Adhesive Layer with Solvent
I then took my spray bottle and saturated the remaining layer with solvent.
The two pieces on the right have been sprayed with solvent, while the three pieces on the left have only had the top layer removed.
Step 3: Wait One Minute
The solvent needs a couple seconds to work, so I typically waited 30 seconds to a minute before returning to the piece to peel off the lower layer. During this time, I usually went and pulled off the top layer to the next piece.
Step 4: Pull Off Paper Adhesive Layer
Once the solvent has had time to work, the paper adhesive layer comes off easily. It was a little harder to keep as one big strip than the decorative layer, but still doable if I went slowly.
On any paper bits that remained, I carefully rubbed with the pad of my finger to remove the remaining paper, as I noticed my nails could gorge the wet drywall.
The lower layer can also be removed in a big strip if fully saturated!
Step 5: Repeat Throughout Room
Using this method, it took me a little under 4 hours to remove all the wallpaper in the room!
Now, admittedly, it was a small room, with many windows, but I still think this was faster and more efficient than using the Paper Tiger throughout.
However, you might need to use the Paper Tiger or some other type of scoring device (maybe one that doesn’t hurt the drywall?) if your wallpaper is in better condition than mine, and the top layer doesn’t peel off.
And if that’s the case, you might want to check and make sure that you can’t skip this project. Because in that situation, this project is about to get a whole lot less fun.
Step 6: Cleanup!
I told you at the beginning that I put that plastic sheeting on the floor for a reason. It was for this moment:
World’s easiest cleanup. I folded up the plastic, and tossed the whole thing straight into the trash. The five minutes of taping down the plastic before starting was sooo worth it.
At the end, my room looked like this:
It was so much easier than the internet implied it would be!
I’ve since painted and added some furniture, but the room isn’t totally done yet! In the meantime, check out the desk I transformed for this room- it was only $11 at my local Habitat Restore, and looks gorgeous!
Finally, if you found this useful, go ahead and save it to Pinterest so you can find it again later!