Ask anyone what their most dreaded household project is, and many of them will answer “removing wallpaper!” This messy project does take some time to accomplish. However, it is an easy way to update, add value and change the look of your room without spending a ton of money.
Things you need:
- Spray bottle
- Old towel
- Step ladder – high enough to be able to reach the top of the wallpapered area
- White vinegar
- Scoring tool (optional)
- Wide putty knife or wallpaper scraper
- Elbow grease
- Drywall compound (if needed for wall repair)
- Drywall sanding sponge (if needed for wall repair)
- Tarps or old sheets for floor protection
First, remove all decorative items and artwork from the wallpapered walls.
Next, if you are using a scoring tool, lightly score the surface of the wallpaper. This will allow the solution you spray on the surface of the paper to penetrate to the glue layer.
Fill your spray bottle with a solution of HOT tap water and white vinegar. I generally use a ratio of 1/4 cup vinegar to 1 quart of hot water. Spray the surface of the wallpaper to thoroughly saturate the paper. Use your old towel to mop up any water solution that ends up on your woodwork, cabinetry or other surfaces; if you let your woodwork remain wet, it may swell or crack.
I have also used DIF, which is a wallpaper-removal gel, but to be honest, I’ve found hot water and vinegar to be just as effective – and less expensive!
Wait. Wait at least 5 minutes before you begin to pull the wallpaper from the wall. If the wallpaper is vinyl-coated, you may need to pull the front, decorative layer off first. Then, spray the backing paper again with the vinegar/water solution and wait again before beginning the scraping process.
Using the putty knife or wallpaper scraper, scrape the wallpaper from the wall. Be careful not to gouge the drywall, or you will need to repair it later! Use patience during this process; pulling wallpaper from the wall too quickly may pull the front paper from the sheetrock. Again, this will require repair before the wall can be painted. Spray the wallpaper and backing again as needed to allow for easier release from the wall.
Once all the wallpaper has been removed, use a damp sponge (I use a water and cleanser solution, such as Spic N Span, mixed in a large bucket) to wash the remaining glue from the surface of the wall.
If you have repairs to make on the wall, you will need to make those now. Use the drywall compound and wide putty knife to fill any holes in the drywall. Let it dry thoroughly, then sand smooth using a drywall sanding block. Take your time here, as any bumps or divots will be noticeable once the area is painted. Wipe the dust from the wall with a slightly damp sponge, being careful not to get the drywall compound too wet. After the wall is clean and dry, you are ready to prime and paint!
Tips to remember:
- Priming the wall after wallpaper removal is a good idea; it will seal in any remaining glue, and provide a smooth base for your paint.
- You may need to reheat your water/vinegar solution throughout your removal process; you can either do this in a microwave (remove top from bottle first) or simply replace the cold solution with fresh, hot water and vinegar. The hot water helps the glue to release more easily.
- To save time, it may be useful to spray one small area, then spray an area in a different part of the room. Go back to the first area and begin pulling the wallpaper there. By the time you are done in the first area, the second area will be ready to pull. Moving back and forth in this manner will reduce any down time while the water/vinegar solution works its magic.
- Clean as you go! Have a large trash bag on hand to collect your wallpaper scraps in.
- If you are working on a carpeted area, it will be important to cover the floor with tarps or old sheets. This will keep the solution from soaking into the carpet, and will keep glue from working itself into your floor!
- If you use a wallpaper scoring tool, be sure not to press too hard when using it! If you do, you will make holes in the paper surface of the drywall, meaning more repairs before you can paint. I made this mistake once; it is a mistake I won’t repeat – trust me!
- Use your children. My kids LOVED helping me remove wallpaper from my stairway; in fact, I had to MAKE them stop so they would go to bed! You may as well use their energy and exuberance to your advantage!