How to Remove Wallpaper (without completely losing your mind)


When we were remodeling our guest bedroom, we had decided to take out the bead board (it was completed by the previous owner and was sloppy work) and replace it with DIY board and batten.  During demo we removed a few pieces and my heart sank… “Wallpaper!  NNNOOOOOOOOOOO!”  Needless to say I HATE removing wallpaper.  I hadn’t found an easy way and I had already struggled through a week of wallpaper removal in the other guest bedroom that I turned into a Dressing Room.  My previous method was to use warm water and a steamer and scrap in small sections.  By the end I wanted to punch the inventor of wallpaper and hunt down the previous owners who used way too much glue (and fixed bad wallpaper by just doing another layer of wallpaper!).

“Not Wallpaper!” Expletives were definitely muttered.

I decided that it was a perfect time to try a new technique for wallpaper removal because I wanted to keep my sanity (and some semblance of a timeline for the project).  I had been reading up on a few options and I tried one out… and it actually worked!

Now, we had been lucky about the type of wallpaper.  It was more of a vinyl paper and the front part pulled off in big sheets, so we really only had to deal with the paper backing and the glue.  If the paper would not have pulled off like this, I would have had to score the top so that the liquid was able to get to the glue.

Materials Needed:

  1. Sprayer of some sort- I have read that people can use spray bottles, but I didn’t want to have to remake a mix so I used a 1 gallon garden sprayer.
  2. Fabric Softener- I have read that the name brands are better because they are more concentrated… I just looked for one that the smell was okay and wouldn’t give me a headache.
  3. Washcloth and bowl- for wiping down the walls
  4. Gloves- I didn’t wear them, but I probably should have.

Method Used:

  • Remove top layer of wallpaper (if this isn’t possible, score the top so that the mixture can get through).

    Sometimes you get really lucky and the whole top layer comes off in one sheet!
  • Mix the Fabric Softener with warm water (I used 1 Capful for the 1 gallon container)
  • Spray in sections and let the mixture sit on the paper (it should start to bubble up)
  • Scrape the paper from the wall with a flat scraper.

  • Follow up the scraped section with a washcloth to get all of the glue, wiping and wringing the cloth as necessary.
  • When you are almost done wiping down that section, spray the next section so that there is less wait time.
  • Do a little dance at the end when you are wallpaper free!

Thoughts for Next Time/Things I learned:

  • It is MUCH faster with two people.  My husband was in charge of spraying and scraping and I was in charge of following behind and cleaning off all of the glue.
  • If you get to the glue right after the wallpaper has been removed, it is still wet from the mixture and comes off easier.
  • For sections of glue that had re-dried or were especially difficult, spray them down again with the mixture and wait a few minutes (I found this out after wiping for about 3 hours… wish I would have know earlier that this would make it easier to wipe up).
  • I have read that you can add the fabric softener to the washcloth water also to really get that glue off.  I didn’t try this, but I thought about it.  If you try this method, I would definitely wear gloves (who knows what kind of chemicals is in that stuff!).  Since you have to change out the water so much, I would have a rising water dish and a dish with the mixture so that you don’t go through a crazy amount of Fabric Softener.

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