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How to Protect Wallpaper

Updated April 12, 2017

Wallpaper developed a poor reputation after its use in the 1970s, but these days it is making a comeback. Thanks to companies like Design Your Wall Inc. and other designer wallpaper sellers, wallpaper is becoming a preferred option to painting as a way to add style to any room in a house. Protecting that wallpaper so it will last is something every homeowner wishes to do.

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  1. Lay a plastic covering all over the floor in the room where you are going to protect the wallpaper. Tape to the baseboards of the walls if necessary to keep from slipping. This will protect your floor or carpet from stains.

  2. Use painters tape to protect edges of the ceiling or wall that are not covered in wallpaper. Apply the tape to the corners of the wall around the paper so excess varnish is not splattered against walls without wallpaper.

  3. Apply two coats of polyvinyl varnish on the wallpaper using a paintbrush or paint roller. Because the varnish will dry clear and roll patterns will not be visible, using a paint roller will save you considerable time. Use thin coats to avoid globs of varnish rolling down the wall. Polyvinyl varnish can be purchased at any home improvement store, but you should always make sure to buy an interior varnish. Exterior varnishes are for protecting outdoor structures, such as decks.

  4. Make sure varnish is fully dry before removing floor covering and painters tape.

  5. Tip

    Many wallpapers come with protection already over the designs. Ask your vendor if your wallpaper is protected before going through the hassle of painting varnish over it.


    Some varnishes in liquid form may give off fumes. Make sure to open all windows in the painting area for proper ventilation. Stop if you feel light-headed. Varnish will protect the wallpaper from liquid messes and small water damage, but it is not designed to shield wallpaper from major damage, such as the impact of thrown objects.

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Things You'll Need

  • Polyvinyl varnish
  • Paintbrush or paint roller
  • Painters tape
  • Plastic floor covering

About the Author

Bailey Richert is a 2010 graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a dual bachelor's degree in environmental engineering and hydrogeology, as well as a master's degree in systems engineering. After several years in the environmental consulting industry, she is now attending MIT for graduate school. An accomplished traveler, she has visited 23 countries and published her first book about international travel in 2014.

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