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How to remove wallpaper border from a plaster wall

Updated February 22, 2017

Removing a wallpaper border takes some elbow grease and extra care if applied to plaster walls, which can be prone to cracking, peeling or denting. How easily the paper comes from the wall depends on the adhesive used, the weight of the paper and how long the wallpaper border has been on the wall. There are several methods that weaken the adhesive, making the wallpaper border easier to peel or scrape off the wall.

Hold a hair dryer on the high heat setting about 8 to 10 inches from the wallpaper. The heat from the hair dryer will warm and soften the adhesive. Concentrate the heat on one section on the bottom of the border until you can peel the paper from the wall.

Use a plastic scraper or razor blade to get under the paper easier and break the bond.

Start at the bottom and work your way up when using a steamer. Steaming uses moist heat to warm and soften the adhesive. As with the hair dryer, it is best to work in small sections when using a steamer.

Peel gently or use a scraper or razor blade to separate the paper from the wall. Plaster walls are vulnerable to chips and scrapes when wet, so use care not to damage the wall when using the scraper.

Allow plaster walls at least 24 hours to dry before painting.

You can use a commercially sold wallpaper stripper or make one from common household items. Mix one cap of liquid fabric softener with four cups water in a spray bottle.

Spray formula directly on the wallpaper border.

Wait a few minutes for the formula to soak through the wallpaper to the adhesive before peeling or scraping paper off the wall.

If the paper is not coming off the wall, you can soak the wallpaper border more thoroughly with the solution using a sponge or use straight fabric softener to further weaken the adhesive.

Allow the plaster wall 24 to 48 hours to fully dry before painting.

Another homemade wallpaper stripper is made by mixing three parts vinegar with one part water.

Apply with a spray bottle or with a sponge, soaking the paper and allowing time for it to soften the adhesive.

Use vinegar as a last option because it has a strong smell. Wipe down walls with a damp sponge to remove the vinegar from the wall.

Allow plaster walls 24 to 48 hours to dry.

Tip

If adhesive is left on the wall after removing the wallpaper, use a rag dipped in the same solution you used to remove the wallpaper and gently rub. If heat was used to remove the wallpaper border, apply more heat to the area and wipe with a damp cloth. Before attempting to remove wallpaper, clear furniture away from the wall and lay down a dust sheet, especially if using a wallpaper stripper formula.

Warning

Using a metal scraper to remove wallpaper can damage the wall. A plastic scraper or pliable metal scraper like a razor blade are preferred.

Things You'll Need

  • Hair dryer
  • Steamer
  • Plastic scraper or razor blade
  • Bucket
  • Water
  • sponges or rags
  • liquid fabric softener
  • spray bottle
  • vinegar
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About the Author

Alice Drinkworth has been a writer and journalist since 1995. She has written for community newspapers, college magazines and Salon.com. Drinkworth earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and won a media award for her in-depth coverage of local politics. She is also a certified master gardener.