The wallpaper on the market today is very different than what you would have found in stores a few decades ago. While there have been a range of improvements over the years, the one that stands out the most is that modern wallpaper is significantly easier to remove than its predecessors.
And we’re not just talking about the peel-and-stick variety: More traditional types of wallpaper have been designed so that the task of taking them down isn’t one people tend to avoid at all costs.
But what if you need to get rid of older wallpaper—the kind that gave wallpaper removal a bad name to begin with? Sure, you can hire a professional to do it, or rent dedicated wallpaper-removal equipment, but not everyone has the budget for that. In that case, here’s the easiest way to remove old wallpaper.
How to remove old wallpaper
To be clear: Removing old wallpaper is going to take time and effort no matter how you do it, but some methods (like this one) make the job easier than others. Let’s get started.
Prep the room
Start by moving as much of the furniture and other items out of the room as possible, then covering the rest—as well as the floors—with drop cloths. Remove any switch plates or wall outlet plates from the wall, then cover the remaining switches and outlets with tape to prevent moisture from getting in. Some people turn the electricity off in the room as an extra precaution.
Score the wallpaper
Wallpaper paste is water soluble, so in order to make it easier for water to penetrate the wallpaper, it helps to score it (i.e. make a lot of shallow, tiny holes) first.
There are dedicated wallpaper scoring tools, which are available at most hardware stores for under $10. They were designed to get the job done quickly, but if you don’t want another tool sitting around your house, you can use a fork (that you no longer want to eat off of) or a pastry wheel instead.
Be gentle, especially if your walls are made of drywall, rather than plaster, as it’s more easily damaged.
Saturate the wallpaper
Mix concentrated liquid wallpaper removal solution with hot water, and apply it to your walls using a pump sprayer (like the kind you’d use in a garden). The goal is to get both the wallpaper and its backing saturated enough that the water and solution soak into the glue.
If you’d prefer not to use chemicals inside your home, you can simply spray your walls with hot water instead. It’ll take a little longer to dissolve the glue, but it’ll get the job done.
Let it soak in
Wait around 15-30 minutes to give the water a chance to penetrate the wallpaper, backing, and glue. You’ll know it’s ready when you’re able to scrape pieces off with your fingernail.
At this point, the wallpaper should strip off relatively easily using a scraper or dull putty knife. Make your way around the room, scraping the walls from top to bottom until the wallpaper is removed.
Clean the walls
Finally, wipe down your walls to remove any remaining glue. If there’s not much left behind, a solution of warm water and liquid dish soap should do the trick. If not, TSP or more of the wallpaper removal solution should finish the job.