One of the main reasons why wallpaper fell out of favor for such a long time is because it was so difficult to remove. Older types of wallpaper typically had an adhesive that would seep into the wall, making it extremely hard to get rid of later on and trying to remove it could potentially damage the wall. Rather than remove the old wallpaper, many homeowners would either simply put more wallpaper over the old or try painting over it. As a result, many homeowners have bought homes and were horrified to find they’d have to remove not one, but several layers of wallpaper to get to the original wall.
Wallpaper removal is a chore that is so frustrating to many homeowners that they’d much rather pay a professional to take care of it rather than deal with it themselves. If you have some wallpaper you’d like to get rid of, don’t worry. Removing that wallpaper may not be so hard after all and you might not even need to use harsh chemicals.
To get an idea of what you’re dealing with, try removing a little bit of the wallpaper in an area that’s not too noticeable, preferably in a corner or along a seam. If the wallpaper comes off fairly easily and you can see the original wall underneath, you’re in luck. This means you only have one layer of wallpaper to worry about and that the walls were either primed before the wallpaper was applied or you have a type of wallpaper that was designed to be easy to remove. While some types of wallpaper will easily come off in one large sheet, other types only have facing that comes off easily and leaves backing behind. If backing is still clinging to your walls, remove as much of the facing as possible.
If the wallpaper isn’t coming off so easily, you have multiple layers to work with, or you have wallpaper backing to remove, don’t lose hope. Steam or hot water can be very helpful in making that wallpaper a thing of the past. Before you begin, turn off the electricity running into the room, cover the floor in plastic, cover light switches and outlets, and remove things like curtains, blinds, or anything else that could be damaged by moisture. If you’re trying to remove washable, waterproof wallpaper or wallpaper that has a glossy finish, you may want to use a scoring tool on the wallpaper first to make it easier for the steam/water to do its job.
Steaming machines used to remove wallpaper can often be rented from hardware and home improvement stores. If you’d rather spray your walls with hot water, make sure you use a compression sprayer, not a regular hand-held spray bottle or a damp cloth. A compression sprayer will be able to do its job much more effectively. Once your walls have been sprayed down or steamed, let them set for about 15 minutes before you start trying to remove the paper with a wide putty knife, being careful to not damage the wall. Keep repeating these steps until all of your wallpaper has been removed.
If you’re dealing with wallpaper that’s been applied to a wall with wooden paneling, do not use water or steam to remove wallpaper. Instead, use a gel chemical stripper that won’t damage your walls the way water would. A gel chemical stripper may also be helpful if you have a few very stubborn spots left that won’t come off with steam or hot water.
Once all of your wallpaper has been removed, spray your walls down one last time to get rid of any remaining residue and see what kind of shape your walls are in. If there are a few dings or gouges that may have been caused by removing the wallpaper, give your walls a day to dry completely, then go through and patch them up and sand them down when they’ve dried. That way, your walls will be in good shape for when you’re ready to start painting or apply new wallpaper.