Depending on how you view it, wallpaper is either a blessing or a curse. Wallpaper can work magic when you need to cover up troublesome surfaces. And wallpaper is far more than just a fix-it material. Thousands of gorgeous wallpapers offer patterns and crisp colors that cannot be duplicated with paint.
But wallpaper is not so welcome when it’s time to remove it. Traditional wallpaper is hard to remove from the wall, requiring special liquid remover or wallpaper steamer tools. If you’re able to get the paper off, you may be left with yet one more obstacle: wallpaper glue.
Painting over wallpaper glue is possible, but the success of the project may be limited. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives that allow you to add a new layer of paint or other types of coatings.
What Wallpaper Glue Is
Wallpaper glue or paste, often called wallcovering adhesive, is a general-purpose adhesive product used for hanging all types of wallcoverings. Typically, these include lightweight non-pasted wallpaper, pre-pasted wallpaper, and vinyl wallpaper.
Wallpaper glue has pronounced tack, yet it also has an initial degree of slip for easy positioning. Due to the size and unwieldy nature of wallpaper, it may be necessary to adjust the wallpaper once it is on the wall. Wallpaper glue allows for slight adjustments.
Most wallpaper glue is water-soluble. Starches or kaolin (a type of clay) are the base ingredient for wallpaper glue.
Painting Over Wallpaper Glue
Generally, painting directly over wallpaper glue is not recommended.
Most interior wall paints are water-based; most wallpaper glues are water-based, as well. So, when you mix the paint with the glue, you reactivate the glue. This can create a clumpy or wavy texture.
Also, by mixing glue into the paint, you compromise the paint’s strength and its ability to fully stick to the wall. Later on, the paint may prematurely crack and start to chip off.
That said, painting over wallpaper glue is an option, as long as you accept those limitations. To increase the chances of success:
- Use an oil-based primer to separate the two water-soluble coatings.
- Paint multiple thin coats instead of one thick coat.
- Let the paint fully cure, then add another layer of paint, as white spots from the glue may be visible through the first new layer of paint.
How to Remove Wallpaper Glue
To remove wallpaper glue from a wall, first try to lightly wash the glue off. If this does not work, sand it off.
In a clean one-gallon bucket, mix hot water, 1 cup of vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of dish soap. Stir lightly to avoid frothing up the mixture into suds.
Apply Solution to Wall
Wearing gloves, submerge a sponge in the solution, then wring it out. Apply the sponge to the wall. Work in small areas and only lightly rub the wall. Do not try to soak the wall with the water.
Scrape Glue Off
After a couple of passes with the sponge, follow up with a putty knife or a drywall knife. Work quickly to avoid the glue drying up on you again. Keep the knife at a low angle to avoid gouging the surface.
Let Wall Dry
If rubbing or scraping off the glue does not work, next try to sand it off. First, let the wall thoroughly dry. Depending on the temperature and airflow in the room, it may take a full day or even two for the walls to completely dry.
Sand With Fine-Grit Sandpaper
Place #220 grit sandpaper on an electric oscillating sander. Sand the wall but avoid pressing hard on the sander. Follow each pass with your free hand to check for smoothness.
Alternatives to Removing or Painting Over Wallpaper Glue
If painting over the wallpaper glue or removing it still do not work—or if you just prefer an alternative—try one of the following:
- Skim Coat: A skim coat is a thin layer of drywall joint compound. This is applied with a drywall knife or paint roller, followed by light sanding. Skim coats can produce highly smooth walls. After the skim coat dries, the wall can be painted in a conventional manner with interior acrylic-latex paint. Be sure to first use a primer on the new surface before painting.
- Paneling: Wood paneling, whether real wood, veneer wood, or artificial, can completely cover up the wallpaper glue. Paneling can completely turn around the look of your room and give it a dramatically new appearance.
- Wallpaper: New wallpaper can cover up either old wallpaper or wallpaper glue. If you find a wallpaper brand and pattern that you love, this can be a great way to quickly cover up the old glue.