How to remove wallpaper from a ceiling

Updated February 21, 2017

Older homes sometimes have layers and layers of wallpaper, even on the ceiling. Today's style of decorating leans toward clean, crisp painted ceilings and walls, which means that wallpaper has to go. It's a somewhat messy job, but don't despair. The finished project is well worth the effort. There are several ways to make the process less painful.

Try an edge of the wallpaper to see if the outer layer will peel off -- some vinyls will, leaving the paper backing on the wall. Older types of wallpaper will not peel off. Gently score the wallpaper with a scoring tool such as the Paper Tiger. Do not get too aggressive, as this tool can damage the plaster underneath the wallpaper.

Mix 237 ml (1 cup) of fabric softener and very warm water in a garden sprayer. Pump up the sprayer and spray the ceiling in sections. Allow the mixture to set on the ceiling for 20 minutes.

Use the scraper to scrape the wallpaper off. If the paper still does not release, spray it again and allow to sit for 10 minutes. If there are several layers of wallpaper, repeat the spraying and scraping steps until you get to the drywall underneath.

Wash each section of the ceiling with a mixture of vinegar and warm water to remove glue residue, before it dries and hardens again. If the glue has been allowed to dry, wet it down with the fabric-softener mixture, then wash it with the vinegar and water mixture.

Allow the ceiling to dry completely. Check carefully to be sure all the glue has been removed. Any glue left behind on the ceiling will show through the paint when it is applied, causing dark spots.


When the ceiling is completely clean, complete any necessary repairs before painting.


Turn off power to the room before spraying the ceiling. Remove as much furniture as possible and cover any remaining pieces with dust sheets.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper Tiger
  • Ladder
  • Garden sprayer
  • Fabric softener
  • Wide putty knife or scraper
  • Vinegar
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About the Author

Myra Smith has retired from the business world after successfully working as a manager in the accounting field over twenty years. Smith received her education in Texas (high school) and Missouri (University of Missouri) business courses offered by employer. Smith has now embarked on an exciting second career as a writer for Demand Studios. Smith writes articles in the Home and Garden section.