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How to remove self-adhesive wallpaper

Updated April 17, 2017

There are many ways to bring new life to a room. One of the most economical yet powerful ways to change the spirit of a room is to change the walls. Of course, if the room you are renovating currently has wallpaper, your first step is to remove it. Self-adhesive wallpaper is the most common type used today and fortunately there are several methods to make removal a quick and easy process.

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  1. Remove everything from the walls, including any curtains and mounting devices.

  2. Pull all furniture away from the walls and cover anything not easily movable with a tarp or dust sheet.

  3. Shut off the power to any outlets connected to the walls you will be working on and remove all of the wall plates. Although it is not required, it is also recommended to tape over the outlets to prevent any water, removal solution or other materials from getting into them.

  4. Insert a putty knife carefully under the corner of a section of wallpaper until you have peeled enough up to hold.

  5. Grip the corner of the wallpaper and carefully peel it back at a 10 to 15 degree angle. Do not pull the wallpaper straight out. If you do so, you will risk doing potentially serious damage to the surface behind it. This is especially true if the underlying surface is drywall. Sometimes, only the decorative surface layer is stripped and the backing and adhesive must still be removed.

  6. Remove the backing and adhesive. The details of this process are outlined in the next section.

  7. If you plan on simply replacing the old wallpaper with a new one, as long as the backing is still secure and in good condition, you can place the new wallpaper on top of the old backing.

  8. Mix warm water with the recommended amount of wallpaper removal solution in a spray bottle. The specific amount of solution can be found on the solution container.

  9. Spray a section of wall down with the solution and allow it to soak in for at least a minute. A good rule of thumb is to never spray down more than you can remove in 15 minutes. If the solution is left to soak in for much longer than that, it can soak into the wall and cause damage that would have to be repaired before you can continue with the project. This is especially true if you have already dry-stripped the wallpaper and are using these steps to remove the backing and adhesive.

  10. Scrape off the wet wallpaper or backing and adhesive with the razor scraper. If you find that your wallpaper is non-porous and the solution is not penetrating it, you may need to perforate the wallpaper. This can be done using a rough grit sandpaper or a perforating tool. Perforating tools can be found in the paint and wallpaper sections at most hardware stores. If you find that this method is not proving to be effective, you may have to upgrade to the wallpaper steamer.

  11. Fill the steamer reservoir with water and allow it to heat up. It is a good idea to have a baking pan or baking tray around to rest the steamer head on when it is not in use.

  12. Place the steamer against the wallpaper, starting at the top of the wall, and hold it in one location until the wallpaper softens. Use extra care when steaming wallpaper off of drywall. Drywall is more susceptible to water damage and gouging than plaster walls.

  13. Remove the steamer and scrape the softened wallpaper off . Repeat the steaming and scraping process until you have removed all of the wallpaper.

  14. Tip

    If you are looking for an easy alternative to wallpaper removal solution, mix vinegar or fabric softener with water.


    Always use caution when working with hot water or steam.

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Things You'll Need

  • Dust sheet or tarp
  • Painter's tape
  • Putty knife
  • Spray bottle
  • Wallpaper removal solution
  • Rough grit sandpaper or perforating tool
  • Wallpaper razor scraper
  • Wallpaper steamer
  • Baking pan or baking tray

About the Author

Ryan Maxwell began his professional freelance writing career in 2009. He is a former U.S. Army military police officer, as well as a published poet and photographer. While attending Finlandia University, Maxwell majored in criminal justice with a minor in English studies. Ryan is also very skilled in computer maintenance, upgrade and repair with almost 20 years of experience.

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