Stripping Wallpaper: How to remove Old Wallpaper

Stripping wallpaper can be a strangely satisfying task, if the wallpaper comes off in long strips. OR, it can be an incredibly irritating and time-intensive job, with bits of years-old wallpaper coming off in tiny strips.

stripping wallpaper
Removing old wallpaper is either one or other: it either glides off or it doesn’t and when it doesn’t you need some handy hints and tips, because no one wants to pull off old wallpaper, lining paper included and chunks of wall plaster coming away as well.

The Best Way to Remove Wallpaper

Step 1 – Know the Wallpaper

Before you start on the task of stripping wallpaper, test a small corner piece to find out if it is dry strippable wallpaper or not.
This is the wallpaper that leaves a lining paper beneath, something that you want. Find a small piece that is loose and lift away with two hands. If it comes away cleanly, this is dry strippable wallpaper and the rest of the room will be easy.
But, if you pull the top layer of wallpaper off and it leaves a mass of nobbly, rough-to-the-touch lining paper then this is not dry strippable – and the lining paper needs to come off too or the finished on your new wallpaper will be far from perfect.
And there is a third kind of paper – the wallpaper than has been glued onto the wall for years and years. It is so well stuck in place that it comes off in the tiniest strips of paper you have ever seen. Not great news if you have the strip wallpaper from the entire room.

Step 2 – The Solutions

For the peelable top layer of wallpaper and the traditional wallpaper, you will need to use moisture to remove them.
But, check you wall first as a dry wall should not be overly-soaked with water or steam. Tap on the wall – does it sound hollow? If it does, it is a dry wall.

  • Bucket, hot water and a sponge – this is probably how you did it when you helped your folks decorate years ago. Someone stood atop a ladder, soaked the wall, allowed the moisture to penetrate the wallpaper and then using a wallpaper scrapper, lift the paper off. It took hours, possibly even days.
  • Our top tip – in your bucket of hot water, add laundry detergent – a good scoop should do it. Other wallpaper removal hacks include using vinegar in hot water too. Once you have created your laundry detergent or vinegar solution, soak the walls and leave for 30 minutes (no longer than 15 minutes for a dry wall). The paper should peel away much easier.

  • Wallpaper removal steamer – using steam is by far the best way to remove wallpaper of this kind. Follow the manufacturer instructions for filling and operating the equipment. Once steam is escaping from the nozzle in a steady stream, start at the top of the wall and hold the steamer on the wallpaper for a few seconds. Hold the nozzle in another spot away from your hands and face, and using your scraper the layers of wallpaper should peel away. You may need to repeat the process several times for stubborn wallpaper. Take care with the steamer around electrical sockets.

Problem wallpapers

Old, textured wallpapers can present a real headache when it comes to stripping wallpaper. Resistant to moisture, they were popular in the 1980s. This is the bad news as they take a lot of elbow grease to scrape off.
But we have tips for removing wallpaper of this kind:

  • As this wallpaper doesn’t absorb water, you will need to slash the wallpaper first so moisture can penetrate but take care not to dig deep into the plaster.
  • It can take days to remove layers and layers of lining paper so unless you really need to get it off, join the ranks of homeowners all over the country, invest in ‘builders PVA’, soak the walls with it and then paste your own lining paper on top to give a smooth surface for your top layer of paper.

The easiest way to remove wallpaper? Engage the services of a professional painter and decorator!