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How to Perfectly Remove Wallpaper for a Fresh Start

Bathroom with green wallpaper

White Sands

Wallpaper can be a great way to update any room in your house, but sometimes, you just need a clean start. Whether you want to remove wallpaper to prep your walls for a coat of paint or you simply want to lay a new, modern wallpaper down instead, you'll first need to remove any existing wallpaper on your walls.

Despite rumors to the contrary, it's actually not that difficult to remove wallpaper. While this project is definitely a bit labor-intensive, even a novice can strip wallpaper. If you can't stand looking at that hideous wallpaper that's been up since you've moved in, it's time to grab your tools and start fresh.

Read on for a step-by-step guide to removing wallpaper, no matter how long it's been up.

Materials for Wallpaper Removal:

  • Putty knife
  • Scoring tool
  • Old towels or drop cloths
  • Liquid wallpaper remover or vinegar
  • Hot water
  • Spray bottle
  • Optional: a steamer

First, Protect Your Floors

Powder room with wallpaper

LeClair Decor

Before you start tackling the removal, make sure to lay down old towels or drop cloths to protect your baseboards and floors. If you have outlets where your wallpaper is hung, use painter's tape to cover them. It's okay to leave the plate on.

Remove the First Layer

Most wallpaper has two layers: the printed layer that you can see and the adhesive layer under it. Using a putty knife, strip off the first layer of wallpaper.

Find a loose edge and pry it up, pulling as much as you can off in one swoop. It may take a bit, but you want to remove any visible pattern before moving on to the next step.

Score the Under-Layer

Nursery with wallpaper

Ashley Montgomery Design

Once you've removed the top layer of the wallpaper, it's important to tackle the under-layer before you paint the wall. Using a scoring knife, gently score the adhesive backing. This allows the removal solution to penetrate into the paper so you can lift it up more effectively.

Do not use too much pressure, or you will risk cutting into the drywall below. A light score is all you need to loosen the paper.

Spray a Removal Solution

Here's where the fun begins. You have a few options when it comes to wallpaper removal sprays. You can purchase a liquid wallpaper removal from a hardware store, or you can mix one up your own. Either way, you will need to wet the backing thoroughly to loosen the adhesive.

If you want to make your own, mix one part vinegar with two parts hot water. Fill a spray bottle and wet the entirety of the wall. Let it sit for a few minutes to really penetrate.

Piranha 32-oz Liquid Wallpaper Remover
Piranha Piranha 32-oz Liquid Wallpaper Remover $7.00

Continue Scraping

Office with white walls

LeClair Decor

Right about now is when you may regret hanging that beautiful wallpaper, but focus on how nice those crisp white walls will look when you are done.

Using your putty knife, begin to scrape off the backing. You may need to re-wet the paper as you go, but continue scraping while the surface is wet. As it dries, soak it again and wait a few more minutes before you scrape further.

Consider a Steamer

After you've attacked the paper with a putty knife and the liquid removal, it may be necessary to apply heat to get the remaining residue off. If you find that there are spots you simply can't remove, use a steamer filled with water to apply heat to the stubborn areas. This can help to loosen the adhesive and make it easier for you to pry it off with a scraper tool.

Prime the Walls

Wallpaper in a bathroom

LeClair Decor

Once you've removed all the bits and pieces of the leftover wallpaper, it's time to prep the walls for your next steps. If you removed wallpaper in order to paint, you will want to prime the walls. You may need to use some spackle to fill in any holes or dings you made while removing the wallpaper.

You can use either oil or latex-based primer, but oil will help paint better stick to walls if you have any leftover residue left behind.

Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

If removing the wallpaper sounds daunting, you may be considering whether you can just paint right over it. While it technically can be done, most pros don't recommend it.

If your wallpaper has any detail or texture in it, painting over it will leave you with an unsightly finish. Plus, any air bubbles in the wallpaper could lead to peeling later on, which could end up ruining your paint job.