The BEST way to remove wallpaper

The BEST way to remove wallpaper

When we first got this house I had no idea how much time I’d actually be spending taking down wallpaper.  I started in my kitchen and tried several methods:  steam,  wetting with a sponge, and then I discovered “the one”.  In the early removal stages I damaged my walls.  Some of the sheetrock even got pulled off (ick) which will have to be repaired later.  When I discovered this method I was elated and I haven’t damaged a single wall since! Find someone to remvoe wallpaper near you to assist you through this process.

Supplies, affiliate links used:

Fabric Softener – use name brand.  I have found off-brands are too diluted and aren’t as effective.

All-purpose sprayer – At minimum a 1 gallon sized sprayer will be best.

Use about a 1:4 ration of the fabric softener to water respectively.  I used Downy, but I’m sure any brand will do.  For best results use warm water.  The garden sprayer is the BEST part of it all!  Many people use spray bottles, but after 5 minutes your fingers will be killing you.  I got the Hudson garden sprayer at Lowe’s for about $15.  Worth every cent and more. I don’t recommend using an old sprayer that you may have sitting around if you’ve ever had any weed killer or other chemicals in it. Need the best information on Native Vegetation For Deer for your property, read more on this website.

Once you’ve got your Downy/water mixture prepared it’s time to get started.

Try pealing off the top layer of wallpaper.  If it comes off in one big strip then keep going!  It’s not likely that it will happen, but thicker wallpapers will work that way sometimes. If it comes off in little pieces STOP immediately!  It’s time to grab the garden sprayer!

Spray the walls with a light spray.  The solution will stick to the walls and sometimes drip down a bit. 

I would highly encourage putting a drop cloth or towels on the floor.  I covered the window as well so my contact paper stencils don’t get messed up.

Now here’s the tricky part……WAIT.  Okay, that doesn’t sound so tricky, but for some reason I think I’m the most impatient person.  I don’t ever want to wait, I just want to pick at it.  It took me a while, but I learned to wait.  The pictures tell it all—

See the ripped parts on the left?  That’s the result of spraying, waiting about 3 minutes then trying to peal the wallpaper away.  See that blank wall on the right?  That’s the beautiful result of waiting 15 minutes and spraying  a couples layers of solution on it.  It came off in entire strips just like it was applied!

Seriously, it is such a HUGE difference waiting before peeling.  Times vary on each wall, but you can just test it by pulling a corner…if comes easily then keep going.  If it starts to rip then stop, spray again, wait again, then try to peel again.

I’m so thankful I eventually found a fail-proof way to remove the wallpaper.

I’m also learning that I just don’t like the previous home owners too much.

See where the wallpaper was removed?  Yeah, see the subtle stripes there?  That’s more wallpaper.  In some parts it was ripped in attempt to remove it, then they gave up and just primed over it and added more wallpaper.  I hired painters and decorators dublin to paint over the hidden layer of wallpaper.  I’m worried that there might be some texture to the walls where the ripped wallpaper is.  I might have to pull out some putty and do a little spackling.

I still have half of the bathroom to do.  I’ve been a bit burnt out lately with house stuff.  I’ve got to learn to pace myself, but I tend to be gung-ho or no go.   Where’s the middle ground?  I’ll find it someday:)

41 responses to “The BEST way to remove wallpaper”

  1. GUNG HO!

    Proud of you girl!!! Love watching your dedication and your willingness to share what you have learned with others!!

  2. Seriously??!! Downy!? Wow, I am going to try that – it has to be cheaper than the stuff at LOWE’S. Did you score it first with a paper tiger? Or just spray it on with no holes in the paper? Thanks so much for the tips!!

    • Seriously!! And no need to score the paper either. It often times will actually damage the walls. Just spray, let it soak and repeat if needed until it pulls off easily. :-)Good luck!

  3. Thank you, Emily! I didn’t do the fabric softener last night bec. I thought the smell might be overwhelming but I’m going to give it a try today before I give and buy the steamer.

    • I diluted mine 2 parts water to one part softener, but you could probably do a little more water and still be okay. Your house will smell great!

  4. Great advice! I had never heard of the fabric softener trick before, but have used DIF with pretty good results. Scoring did some damage, as another Laura already noted. Can’t wait to see the results!

    • I scored the first wall I tried to remove wallpaper from and completely ruined the wall:( And not to mention, if you score the wall, then you can only pull off the paper in little strips as opposed to whole sheets!

  5. with downy? wow… i hate (!) taking down wallpaper… but the next time i have to do it (which will be very soon – dining room! 🙂 ) i will keep this idea in mint. thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  6. Been looking for a way to remove some wallpaper in one of our closets. We have a steam cleaner I was going to use (had success with it in our old house, but it was just a thin strip around the perimeter of the bathroom), but I’m definitely trying this first!

      • If its truly 4x concentrated! You could try it and always add more if it’s not working. I noticed when I bought a cheap brand I definitely had to use more of it and less water… It’s just trial and error:-/

  7. Working on removing wallpaper that has been painted with several layers of wallpaper underneath; would you peal at much of the painted off 1st so the softener can penetrate?

    • You have to score it, but with vinyl I strip the vinyl layer off which leaves me with just the backing and paste. I have used just hot water and a paint roller a new one of course. I use a plastic putty knife to scrape the backing and paste off. Working from top to bottom and then wash the walls down to remove any paste residue so the wall is clean to paint/repair holes. I’m going to add some fabric softener to the water.

  8. Sounds easy enough , going to try it. Now does this remove the backing, & the paste at the some time? Or do I need to repeat the same step over again for each?

  9. I AM DOING WALL PAPER THAT HAS BEEN ON FORE 25 YEARS.Been using the DIF and its not coming off without scrapping every square inch. I have waited 15 minutes than sprayed againg and waited 15 minutes again. ready to give up but I will try the softener. thanks for the tip.

  10. I feel your pain! BUT, after trying 2 ways (steamer, (only does very small sections-takes forever and then DIF (did not work as well). BEST way: HOT, HOT, HOT water solution with some fabric softener. Truly, I even put small batches of the solution in the microwave. Sprayed it on, waited 10-15 minutes and the first layer came off in large strips. It left the paste layer, (as the paper was old, embossed, heavy) but I did the same thing. HOT water solution, spray HEAVILY, wait 15 mins. sprayed it again with the hot solution, and it came off in huge sheets if you start a small area with the putty knife, and peel it carefully. I bought a $15 electric sander which was super easy to sand the areas where the scorer left marks.

  11. I am remodeling a kitchen a LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of using fabric softener to remove the wall paper. My question is this. Will I have to wash the walls before new paint is applied? My fear is when the contractors come in and paint that the paint won’t adhere because of any residue from the softener.

    • I’d suggest a light wiping down of the walls with a sponge after removal, but not because of the softener. You just want to make sure all the glue is up. 🙂

  12. I wonder if this would work on borders that have not been primed prior to application. Any thoughts?

  13. I prefer to stick with my own method: Reading articles like these, and choosing to ignore the advice they offer in favor of chiseling at small sections of wallpaper for hours at a time with a razor scraper while I curse and swear incessantly.

  14. Thank goodness for your post!!! I am starting a masters program for family nurse practitioner on Wednesday. I decided to turn one of our smaller rooms into an office/study so I could have a dedicated place to go and study. I had been scraping border off of the walls for 2 hours with little progress. I was about to give up. I started searching for easier ways & found your advice. It’s still not the easiest thing in the world but I’ve managed to clear one whole wall in no time!!! Thank you soooo much!!!

  15. I want to take down the wallpaper in my bathroom down because it has some mildew from taking showers! I need the easiest way possible to remove it because I am nearly 71 years old in April and am only able to do so much at a time! I would appreciate someone’s advice and I appreciate and thank you in advance!

  16. Thank you! This worked so well. We had tied two other paper strippers, but your method was the best by far. Our house smells downy fresh and we’re off to buy paint.

  17. yikes – I did this without thinking! The problem with using fabric softener is most of them have a heavy perfume scent and now I am trying to figure out how to remove the odor left behind after I applied fabric softener that stinks! Any ideas? And please emphasize to your readers not to use a softener that stinks of chemicals like I did!

  18. Thank you so much for posting this! I bought a 92 year old house that had 7-9 layers of paint and wallpaper on all the walls in every room. I bought the Free Downy fabric softener as I’m sensitive to the strong smell and with a hot water in a spray bottle soaked the area I needed to work on, let it soak in and then put the steamer on it and it would slide off in most cases. Took me five weeks to get all the rooms done but it was so worth it. I have plaster walls and scrubbed the glue off with TSP solution and then washed it off with warm water, spackled the need spots, and then primed and then painted. Its not for the faint of heart but it can be done and you will appreciate it in the end!

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