Wallpaper Removal

You’ve just purchased your new home and have envisioned that outdated wallpaper being replaced with a beautiful new paint color. Maybe your once adored wallpaper no longer suits your fancy and it’s time for an updated fresh look. Either way, you need a change and you are determined to do it yourself.

If you’re like countless others you quickly learn that wallpaper removal is NOT for the faint at heart. This is usually realized shortly after the removal process begins. It isn’t a pretty job and it is quite messy…but oh, just imagine the finished product! When we bid a job, we factor in the three steps of removal which are front sheet, backing and glue residue. There are some helpful tips and do’s and don’ts that could really prove to be beneficial in your efforts to create a professional looking new paint job.

Proper Prep Work

It is vitally important that you are successful in the prep work. Wallpaper removal is messy and it is labor intensive. There are some tools necessary to complete the task and all can be found at your local paint or hardware store. You will need a pump-up garden sprayer, a step ladder, plastic drop cloths and a wallpaper scraper or spackle knife. We use DIF Wallpaper Removal solution as our go-to product for use in the sprayer. A steamer may be purchased for about $65 or rented if you have the extra money to spend. We here at Men In White Painting always use a steamer because the heat loosens the glue and usually releases the paper resulting in less damage to the wall underneath.

Drop cloths

With your plastic drop cloths, you should cover all surfaces in the room, just as you would if you were painting. Thicker plastic is better so it resists tearing. Move all furniture away from the walls and then cover it all. Cover exposed flooring to keep it safe from hot water from the sprayer, soggy paper, and glue. You might want to tape it down against the baseboards to keep water from damaging the floor. Once the wall paper is down you can simply roll up the drops and discard them.


The type of scraper you use depends on the type of wall you have. For a plaster wall, the wallpaper scraper and razor blade tool is best because plaster is tougher than drywall. You want to use the spackle knife on drywall because it isn’t as sharp, and drywall is more delicate than plaster. If you want to use the wallpaper scraper on drywall, make sure you fully saturate the wallpaper with DIF or hot water and vinegar so that it comes off easier and without damaging the drywall.


You will need a wallpaper removal liquid in a pump-up garden sprayer. There are many types of spray solutions, we love the DIF brand. Liquid removers are good for removing most modern wallpapers, (5-20 years) while gel removers are very powerful and are good for old wallpaper. (20-50 years) Steaming has been used a long time for wallpaper removal, but keep in mind that it is messy. Lots of steam equals lots of water running down the walls, be sure your plastic and tape are secure beneath your work area.


We do NOT recommend a wallpaper scorer, which is a hand tool that has little rotating discs that perforate the wallpaper. These scores actual decrease the wallpaper strength, which you need in order to pull it off. Usually a scorer makes the paper come off in little pieces and adds to the mess. It also leaves track marks in the drywall underneath that never go away and can still be seen after painting.


Now that you’ve prepped the room and are committed to seeing the project through completion let’s move on to the removal process. Almost all wallpapers have three parts. There is a face paper, a backing, and the glue residue itself. (Some commercial papers don’t have a backing.) Follow the steps and work in small areas, one at a time.


Many face papers come off in large strips dry but may require saturation with hot water or steamer. Try pulling from the ceiling down to the floor, or vice versa. Some papers pull better from the floor to the ceiling.


Once the face paper is removed, grab your scraper and get ready for the most difficult part of the process. Saturate the paper backing with your pump-up garden sprayer. It is important to keep the paper very wet during this process. Be careful not to scrape too hard or you could damage the drywall thus creating an even bigger issue. Sometimes letting the solution sit for 5 minutes before scraping will save you tons of elbow grease. Keep the surface wet constantly, only scraping and saturating a 4’x4’ area at a time. Be careful around outlets or other electrical areas with a wet surface and metal hand tool in your hand, accidents can be shocking!! The steamer can be a huge help removing the backing as well.


Once all the face paper and backing have been removed, you will want to rinse any glue residue remaining with another complete wash down using your pump-up sprayer and removal solution and clean rags or a green kitchen scrub. Make sure the walls are totally free of any of the glue or your paint will not adhere to the area properly.
Plug in some box fans and turn on the ceiling fan to help it dry faster. As soon as it is thoroughly dry, you can paint. It is highly recommended that you apply a layer of primer to seal it before applying your paint of choice. Don’t let your hard work go to waste by skipping the primer. Many customers have been disappointed with blotchy colors or uneven surfaces by skipping the primer step.


In a perfect world, your removal process was a complete success and you’re ready to paint. Well, we do not live in a perfect world and it is likely you ran into some trouble which has left some damage to your walls. It should be noted that in as many as half of the wallpaper removal jobs we are hired to complete the backing does not come off with ease and there are damages. Most small gouges or scratches can be fixed with simple spackle. Sand smooth, and you are ready to prime and paint!
In the event of widespread damage, we must skim coat the entire wall which is applying a thin layer of drywall mud evenly to the wall. This is usually not something a do-it-yourselfer should likely tackle unless you have prior experience.


If this entire removal process scares you or if you just don’t want the hassle, we are always here to do the job for you. We guarantee that no matter how difficult the job you will get the result you envisioned.
Most professional companies offer free estimates. Wallpaper is unique in that it is often impossible to know how it will come off or what lurks beneath. We prefer to work on a time and material basis which means you pay per hour in addition to any materials costs incurred. This actually works out in the customer’s favor many times. If we give a bid on a project we have to make sure that our time is covered, and so we generally estimate high on wallpaper jobs. By paying T & M, you only pay for the time it actually took.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *