Whether you’re updating the old décor of a house you just purchased or rethinking your choice of bright floral wallpaper for your dining room, removing wallpaper can be a messy and time-consuming project. Learn these basics and you’ll be on your way to bare walls in no time.

Before You Start

  • You may be tempted to paint or paper over the current wallpaper, but doing so can result in a bumpy, uneven (and even peeling) wall surface.
  • Know what’s underneath the wallpaper. Drywall is more likely to gouge than plaster. It’s also more susceptible to water damage, so avoid over wetting it.
  • Dry-strippable wall coverings, which often have smooth, plastic-like textures, can be removed by hand. Non-strippable wall covering is trickier to remove.
  • Find out what kind of wallpaper you’re dealing with by peeling away a piece with a utility knife, starting at a top corner. Grasping the tip of the wallpaper, try to pull it down while keeping it as close to the wall as possible.
  • If it’s strippable, it should peel away from the wall when you apply steady pressure.
  • If it doesn’t peel off, or if only the decorative surface layer peels off, you’ll need to use a different approach (see below).

Techniques

  • If the paper is strippable, slowly peel back each strip at a 10- to 15- degree angle. If you pull the paper straight out, you risk damaging the wall surface.
  • If the wallpaper doesn’t come off with this method, you have a few options. First, try warm water and a wallpaper removal solvent. Saturate the wall with the solvent (a paint roller works especially well) and scrape the paper off with a wallpaper scraper.
  • If drywall is underneath, make sure to scrape off the paper within 15 minutes to avoid damaging the surface.
  • Tough jobs may require you to rent an electrical steamer, which consists of a heated water tank with a long hose attached to a perforated steamer plate. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for detailed directions.

Safety Measures

  • Protect yourself from chemical vapors by wearing a painter’s mask.
  • Cover the floor with a canvas drop cloth or towels.