How to Make and Use Homemade Wallpaper Remover

Wallpaper being removed by hand with scraper

The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Overview
  • Working Time: 2 - 4 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $20

Removing wallpaper is the dream of many homeowners who want painted walls or who just want a different look. Without the right tools and techniques, though, wallpaper removal can be a major project that leads to frustration.

Liquid wallpaper removers do a great job at loosening old paper. But chemical-based wallpaper removers, with their odor, cost, and toxicity, may not be desirable for many users. A great alternative is to make your own homemade wallpaper remover with simple, non-toxic ingredients.

Vinegar's acetic acid helps to break up wallpaper adhesive. Combined with scoring the paper and a variety of gentle scrapers, this method can safely and reliably remove wallpaper in your home.

Pros
  • Safe

  • Low-cost

  • Simple ingredients

  • More effective than using water only

Cons
  • Soaks into drywall

  • Vinegar odor

  • Slow-acting

  • Must keep warm

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Spray bottle for misting
  • Sponge
  • Plastic putty knife
  • Wallpaper scoring tool
  • Clean bucket
  • Mixing cup
  • 5-in-1 tool
  • Plastic sheeting

Materials

  • White vinegar
  • Warm water

Instructions

  1. Score Wallpaper

    Scoring the wallpaper is a necessary step in removing wallpaper. Score marks allow the wallpaper remover to penetrate into and behind the wallpaper. The tool's scoring wheels perforate the wallpaper just deep enough to allow the remover to penetrate, but not so deep as to damage the wall. You can even use the device on painted wallpaper.

    Place the scoring tool flat on the wall but do not press hard on it. Move the tool in circles. Most scoring tools' wheels can turn in any direction, much like swivel wheels on a chair. Perforate the wall thoroughly. Aim to have perforation holes no more than 1-inch apart.

    Score the Wallpaper
    The Spruce / Olivia Inman
  2. Mix Ingredients

    Measure 2 cups of white vinegar into a clean container. Draw warm water from the tap. Measure out 2 cups of warm water and add this to the container. Mix with a spoon.

    Carefully pour the mixture into the misting bottle and replace the top on the misting bottle.

    Warning

    Vinegar is used in foods, so it is safe to ingest in minimal amounts. Vinegar can be caustic, so avoid getting vinegar in your eyes. Many users can find vinegar fumes to be noxious, so keep the room well-ventilated when working with the remover.

    Mix Wallpaper Remover Ingredients
    The Spruce / Olivia Inman
  3. Mist Wallpaper With Remover

    Prepare by laying plastic sheeting on the floor in front of the wall. Lightly mist the wallpaper. Do not overspray to adjacent walls. When an area of wallpaper is saturated, it will begin to drip down the wall.

    Use the sponge to distribute the mixture and work it into the wallpaper.

    Work in small areas instead of trying to remove all of the wallpaper on a wall or room at a time. If you try to work on overly large areas, the wallpaper remover will dry before you can begin removing the wallpaper.

    Follow with the plastic scraper. Lift away wallpaper that is beginning to fall on its own. For troublesome areas, use the 5-in-1 tool to scrape.

    Afterward, air out the room by opening the windows, if possible, or turning on fans, as this method soaks water into the drywall.

    Mist the Wallpaper
    The Spruce / Olivia Inman
  4. Steam Wallpaper (Optional)

    For wallpaper that is difficult to remove or for large expanses of wallpaper, consider using a wallpaper steamer. A wallpaper steamer steps up your game by applying moisture to the wall along with a constant, well-calibrated source of heat.

    Wallpaper steamers have a steam plate that is attached to the electric steamer unit by a hose. Scoring is a necessary first step. After turning on the unit and letting it reach its set temperature, you press the steam plate to the wall for 10 to 15 seconds.

    The steam penetrates the wallpaper and breaks up the adhesive. You must quickly follow up by scraping away the wallpaper. In some cases, the wallpaper steamer is so effective, it's just a matter of peeling the wallpaper off of the wall by hand.

    Steam the Wallpaper
    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Tips For Using Homemade Wallpaper Remover

  • If the wallpaper doesn't come off easily, you may not have sufficiently scored the wallpaper. Score the paper again.
  • Experiment with other types of scrapers, such as old credit cards or putty knives.
  • Make sure that the water stays warm. To warm it up again, return it to the plastic container, microwave it briefly, then pour it back into the misting bottle.
  • Use your sponge not just to distribute the mixture on the wall but to mop up drips before they reach the floor.