How to Remove Wallpaper Glue

Man's hand using a metal scraper to remove wallpaper and wallpaper glue from wall

-Ivinst-/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Overview
  • Working Time: 3 - 4 hrs
  • Total Time: 3 - 4 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Wallpaper has been used to add a design element to rooms for centuries. It's not unusual to find layer upon layer of wallpaper in an older home, which all leave behind layers of glue underneath. Whether you have vintage papers that were applied with wallpaper paste or today’s easier peel and stick papers, removing the glue is essential for a smooth finish if you plan to paint or repaper the room. 

Fortunately, it takes only a few tools and supplies to do the job — though it does take time and patience. Removing all of the wallpaper glue from the walls of an average-sized bedroom will take four to six hours.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Step ladder
  • 1 Plastic tarp
  • 1 Painter's tape
  • 1 Putty knife or paint scraper
  • 1 Cellulose sponge
  • 2 Microfiber cloths
  • 2 Buckets
  • 1 set Protective gloves

Materials

  • 1 teaspoon Dishwashing liquid
  • 1 Baking soda
  • 1 cup Distilled white vinegar
  • 1 gallon Water
  • 1 Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • 1 pack Cotton swabs

Instructions

How to Remove Wallpaper Glue From Walls

Before you can remove the glue or adhesive left on the walls of a room, you must first remove the top layer of the wallpaper. Once the paper has been removed, you are ready to remove the glue. These techniques can be used on walls finished with paneling, drywall, or plaster.

  1. Clear the Room

    You probably cleared the room of furniture and accessories when you began the wallpaper removal process. If, however, you're working in stages, clearing the room while you do the glue removal will give you more space to move the ladder and work. If you can't remove all of the furniture, move it away from the walls and cover it with protective plastic tarps.

  2. Cover Electrical Outlets

    Cover electrical outlets with painter's tape to prevent the moisture of the cleaning solution from causing an electrical problem. You can also turn off the electricity to the work area.

  3. Protect the Floor

    Since removing the glue involves a wet cleaning solution and scraping, you should protect the carpet or flooring from drips and stains. Cover the floor with plastic tarps that are taped securely in place with painter's tape.

  4. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    In a large bucket, mix a solution of one gallon of hot water, one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid, and one cup of distilled white vinegar. Stir to mix well. Depending on the size of the room, you will need to mix this solution several times so it can be applied to the walls while the water is hot.

    Fill a second bucket with clean warm water that you will use for rinsing the wall after.

    Tip

    Wearing dishwashing gloves will protect your hands from the hot water and catch drips that might run down your arm.

  5. Apply the Cleaning Solution

    Standing on a sturdy stepladder, begin applying the cleaning solution at the top of the wall. Always work from the top down to prevent the need to reclean a section. Dip a cellulose sponge into the solution and wring until it is not dripping but still quite wet. Rub it over a section of the glue-covered wall. Rewet the sponge as needed as you move down the wall.

  6. Wipe the Wet Wall With a Microfiber Cloth

    After two or three minutes, wipe the wet wall with a microfiber cloth that you have dampened with the cleaning solution. The glue will have softened so you may simply wipe it away with the cloth.

  7. Stubborn Glue?

    If the glue isn't budging with the cloth, try saturating it again with the cleaning solution and waiting a few more minutes. If that doesn't work, dip the damp microfiber cloth in a bit of dry baking soda and gently rub the glue-covered area. If it still won't budge, make sure the glue is damp and softened then use a putty knife to scrape it off the walls. Work slowly with gentle pressure to prevent gouge marks on the wall.

  8. Rinse and Dry the Wall

    Once the adhesive is removed. Dip a clean microfiber cloth in the fresh water and wring until only slightly damp. Wipe down the walls to get rid of all of the adhesive. Allow the area to air-dry at least overnight before attempting to paint or repaper the room.

How to Remove Wallpaper Glue From Wallpaper

When hanging wallpaper, excess glue or adhesive may seep through the seams, or you may accidentally get glue drips on the front of the paper. Removing unsightly glue streaks can be quick if handled properly. 

Because there are so many different finishes and wallpaper materials, we recommend testing these cleaning methods on a scrap of wallpaper or in a hidden area first to test for damage to the wallpaper finish.

  1. Use a Damp Microfiber Cloth

    If the glue is still damp, try wiping it off with a microfiber cloth that has been dipped in warm, clean water and wrung until only slightly damp. Start at the top of the glue area and wipe down in gentle strokes. Always use a clean area of the cloth as the glue is transferred from the paper to the cloth.

  2. Use a Plastic Paint Scraper

    If the adhesive has dried and is in a blob, try using a plastic paint scraper to chip away the glue. As you get closer to the wallpaper's surface, soften the glue with a warm, damp microfiber towel so it can then be wiped away.

  3. Try Rubbing Alcohol

    If water doesn't work, dip cotton swabs in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and carefully saturate the glue with alcohol. Do not allow the alcohol to run down the wallpaper because it may cause discoloration. Wait about 10 minutes, then use the paint scraper to chip away at the glue and finish the removal with a damp microfiber cloth.