Removing Shelf Liner From Cabinets

removing shelf liner

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

Shelf liners serve both protective and decorative purposes, but eventually, even the highest-quality ones can crack or appear dirty. If that's the case in your home, then the next time you go to clean out your kitchen cabinets, plan to remove the old liner, clean the cabinets, and apply new shelf liner paper. However, that afternoon project may be easier said than done if your old shelf liner won't budge or is fragile and tearing up in pieces.

If your existing liner isn't backed with adhesive, you can likely just remove the liner and clean the shelf thoroughly with a mild detergent and water mixture. Allow the shelf to dry completely before replacing the liner. However, if your old liner is glued on, you're going to need to put in a little bit of elbow grease. After emptying everything out of the cabinets that you plan to replace the liner in, gather a few tools to help with the old liner removal.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Hair dryer
  • Putty knife


  • Spray bottle filled with warm water
  • Adhesive remover
  • Cloth or paper towels
  • Mild detergent


items for removing shelf liner

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  1. Heat the Liner

    Starting at one corner of the liner, heat the surface with a hairdryer that's set to a high heat setting for about a minute. The hot air should loosen the adhesive and make the shelf liner easier to work with.

    using a hair dryer at one corner of the shelf

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  2. Begin Liner Removal

    Use a putty knife to carefully pry up a corner of the shelf liner. Continue to pull it back slowly until you get to a point where it's stuck to the shelf and won't pull any further without tearing or damage.

    using a putty knife to peel back shelf paper

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  3. Spray Stuck Liner

    Spray the adhesive side of the liner with warm water in a spray bottle, focusing on the place where the adhesive no longer lets the liner peel back.

    spraying the adhesive side of the shelf liner

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  4. Continue to Peel Liner

    Wait a bit for the water to seep under the liner, then continue pulling back the liner until it sticks again. Repeat the process as many times as necessary to remove the entire piece of shelf liner. If you get to a spot that doesn't respond to the water, heat it up with the hairdryer and try again.

    peeling back the adhesive to see if it sticks

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  5. Remove Remaining Pieces

    Using a putty knife, scrape any remaining bits of the liner from the shelf, wetting them or applying heat as necessary.

    using the putty knife to scrape off any leftover bits of shelf liner

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  6. Eliminate Sticky Spots

    Soak a cloth or paper towel with commercial adhesive remover and scrub the shelf anywhere a sticky residue remains. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove the adhesive remover.

    using a cloth to wipe adhesive remover over the shelf surface

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  7. Prep Shelf Surface

    If you're planning on applying a new shelf liner, clean the shelf surface with a mixture of mild detergent and water so that the new liner will stick properly. Wait for the shelf to dry completely before applying on the new shelf liner.

    wiping down the shelf surface before applying new shelf liner

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo