How to Remove Wallpaper 3 Ways

Dark blue and white illustrated tree wallpaper removed with paint scraper

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 - 3 hrs
  • Yield: 100 square feet
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $25 to $100

Removing wallpaper from your walls might be one of those projects you've considered for a long time, except for one thing: rumors of its difficulty. Whether you or someone else originally installed the wallpaper, that paper may indeed be a chore to remove. But that's only if you approach this project without a plan. When you have the right tools and materials, you'll be able to do a faster, cleaner, and easier job of removing your wallpaper.

Before You Begin

With all of these methods, you’re soaking the wallpaper which will fall to the floor. To protect your floors and baseboards, lay down towels around your room or cardboard to catch the wet paper as it’s removed from the walls. 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Wallpaper Steam Removal Method

  • Wallpaper steamer
  • Putty knife
  • Clean sponge
  • Wallpaper scoring tool

Water and Vinegar Method

  • Spray bottle
  • Putty knife

Wallpaper Liquid Stripper Method

  • Putty knife
  • Wallpaper scoring tool
  • Clean sponge

Materials

Wallpaper Steam Removal Method

  • Sheet plastic
  • Tape

Water and Vinegar Method

  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Sheet plastic
  • Tape

Wallpaper Liquid Stripper Method

  • Wallpaper stripper in spray bottle
  • Sheet plastic
  • Tape

Instructions

Materials and tools to remove wallpaper form walls

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Method 1: Wallpaper Steam Removal

  1. Prepare the Steamer

    Fill the steamer reservoir full of water, up to the waterline mark. Do not overfill the steamer.

    Attach the handle and hose to the large steamer plate. Plug in the machine and turn it on.

    Wait for the machine to build up steam. Most machines will have indicator lights that tell you when the machine is ready. This can take five or 10 minutes.

    Water poured into steamer reservoir

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  2. Steam the Wallpaper

    Lay the plate on a section of wallpaper and press the trigger for 15 to 20 seconds. Immediately remove the plate.

    Steamer gliding across blue and white tree-designed wallpaper

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

    Tip

    Be patient. If the paper isn't coming off, hold the steamer over the area a little longer. With your scraper, gently peel away at each section. If you rush the process you can potentially damage the walls with the scrapper, which I ended up doing a few times. 

  3. Remove the Wallpaper

    Immediately begin peeling up that section of the wallpaper with the putty knife.

    If this isn't working well, score the wallpaper with the wallpaper scoring tool. Steam that section again and try peeling it up.

    Continue with the process until the wallpaper is gone.

    Red wallpaper scoring tool peeling blue and white wallpaper

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

    Warning

    Never refill a wallpaper steaming tool while it is hot. This can lead to eruption or spilling of hot water, which can lead to burns. Wait until the tool is completely cool before refilling it.

  4. Clean Up the Adhesive

    After the paper has been removed, go back and re-steam so that you can scrape up any residual adhesive. Once it's all gone, use a new, damp sponge to wipe down the wall.

    Steamer passing over cleaned wall to remove wallpaper adhesive

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Method 2: Water and Vinegar

  1. Mix the Vinegar and Water

    Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle, and get ready to soak the walls.

  2. Saturate the Wallpaper

    Spray an area, generously, and watch the paper start to soak off and separate from the walls. 

Method 3: Wallpaper Liquid Stripper

  1. Apply the Wallpaper Stripper

    Tape sheet plastic around all areas of the wallpaper that will not be removed.

    Turn the wallpaper stripper bottle to the ON position but not to a spray-mist. Spray the product, following with the sponge to distribute it over an area about 2 feet by 2 feet.

    Wait about five minutes for the product to penetrate the paper. In the meantime, watch for any drips and clean them up.

    Wallpaper stripper sprayed on blue and white wallpaper and soaked with sponge

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  2. Begin the Removal

    Gently push the putty knife under the paper and lift the paper away. Do not scrape or gouge the wall with the knife. The wallpaper should easily lift off. If not, score the wallpaper with the scoring tool. Make about ten holes every square inch.

    Putty knife scraping blue and white wallpaper away from wall

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  3. Repeat the Process

    Apply more of the wallpaper stripper and let it rest for five minutes. Repeat the process of lifting the wallpaper off with the putty knife. You might have to do this a few more times to get the wallpaper off cleanly.

    Wallpaper stripper sprayed on partially removed blue and white wallpaper

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  4. Clean Up the Last Bits

    Some wallpaper adhesive may remain on the wall. Use the wallpaper stripper to remove this. Spray it on the wall and spread it with the sponge. Let it rest for a few minutes, then scrape the liquified adhesive off the wall with the putty knife.

    Wipe down the wall with a new, clean sponge dampened with water.

    Wallpaper stripper sprayed on cleaned wall to remove adhesive with sponge

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Tips for Removing Wallpaper

  • Drywall is coated with a paper facing. When this paper is joined with the wallpaper, these two like materials bond especially well. Pulling the two laminated materials apart is hard to do in any clean way. Both are porous, thin, and tear easily.
  • When the wall has previously been painted with semi-gloss or gloss paint, removal is somewhat easier. With this, the drywall paper is less porous, plus the paint helps to hold the drywall paper together.
  • The ingredient that gives wallpaper paste such incredible wet-tack properties is starch. Modified wheat starch has long been used for wallpaper adhesive. Even today, you'll find modified wheat starch as the main solid ingredient in most wallpaper adhesives. If you've ever encountered stubborn wheat starches in another common form—dried pasta residue on a pan, perhaps—you'll know that hot water breaks up those starches so you can wash them away. With wallpaper, the same concept applies. Moisture plus heat, with a short amount of rest time, equals an unbeatable combination for breaking up those starches and removing that wallpaper.
  • Using a steamer is the best method for removing wallpaper in a large room with lots of surface area to remove the wallpaper from.
  • If using the vinegar and water method, saturating the walls as much as possible is important. The more soaked the wallpaper is, the better.
  • Give yourself time, no matter which method you choose. Removing wallpaper can be a long and arduous task.