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One of those age old questions and one many people fear. How to remove wallpaper without having to hire or invest in a pricier piece of kit like a steam stripper.
Luckily a lot of more modern wallpaper designs (especially paste the wall) are a strippable wallpaper substrate which makes them much simpler to remove. You tend to be able to peel them off in sheets leaving a lovely blank canvas of a wall to start again!
If you’re unsure but still have the labels then you’re looking for this icon which represents a strippable design.
If you’re not this lucky then buckle in, we’re going to share some of our favourite tips for removing wallpaper to prepare your wall for a fresh start whether that's a brand new wallpaper pattern or replacing it with paint.
First up is the different symbols you’ll come across for stripping wallpaper. We have a very detailed blog you can read here for all wallpaper symbols. We’ll quickly cover the stripping symbols below. We already mentioned strippable wallpaper which usually can be quickly pulled straight from the wall in one strip whilst the wallpaper is dry.
Peeling from the bottom of the wall and pulling up will help to pull both the backing and front of the wallpaper off the wall. If you’ve got this type of wallpaper then you’ve hit the jackpot! Don’t worry though, we have tips and techniques if you actually have one of the following two symbols further down this guide.
Next up is peelable wallpaper. This type of paper only allows the top layer of the wallpaper to come off the wall which means the backing paper is left behind. This can be done when the wallpaper is dry like strippable wallpaper however you’re going to want to remove the backing paper too.
Finally it’s wet removable wallpaper. This type of wallpaper can only be removed with the help of a stripping solution or by soaking the wallpaper and then manually scraped from the wall. A little more effort than the strippable wallpaper (well a lot more effort!) but don’t fear as we have plenty of tips below for how to remove this type of wallpaper!
One key tip we follow before deciding on which of the approaches below is to try and peel back some of the wallpaper. This will tell you whether it's likely going to take something a little more specialist to remove (if it's coming away in tiny little pieces) or if it's going to be a simpler removal (if you’re able to peel back quite a bit of wallpaper at a time even whilst it's dry).
Lets run through your options from more simple to more specialist below.
If you’re finding it quite easy to pull large sections of the wallpaper away from the wall even whilst dry then you may get away with just soaking the wallpaper and then using a standard wallpaper scraper. Our first key tip is to switch off the sockets at your fuse box for the room and also tape over them to avoid any water getting into them.
For this method of wallpaper removal you’ll simply fill a bucket with hot water and a dash of washing up liquid then wipe it over the wall. We find this easy enough to do with a sponge or cloth or if you think it's going to take quite some soaking then you could brush your water solution onto the walls.
Be careful to just do this in sections that you’re going to work in so it doesn’t dry out and need doing again before you get there.
Once you’ve gone over the area to soak it, simply use your wallpaper scraper to get into the seams and edges and start to lift the wallpaper.
This isn’t necessarily a separate approach to the one above but it can enhance it. If you’re finding it’s taking some elbow grease to remove your wallpaper with your standard wallpaper scraper then opting for a long handled scraper will give you greater leverage and reach.
This means you’ll find it a little less back breaking as you work to strip the wallpaper from the walls.
The blade locks into place and you can buy replacement blades to keep the tool sharp! (This tool is a really useful one to have in your tool box, it's actually a multi purpose and can be used for paint stripping on walls and floors and not a big investment!).
If you’re really struggling to peel away the wallpaper at all from the wall then it's likely you’ll need a wallpaper scoring tool like the Zinsser Tiger. The paper tiger is a scoring tool that has little scoring wheels that perforate your wallpaper. You run this over the wall puncturing holes into your wallpaper which will let your soaking solution (hot water and washing up liquid) get behind the wallpaper and help in lifting it.
You should then have more success with your wallpaper scraper or long handled scraper to be able to strip the wallpaper from the walls. You may also use the Zinsser paper tiger if you’ve had a peelable wallpaper where the top layer of vinyl was easy to peel away but left behind the backing of the wallpaper.
It's important you still remove this so scoring it with the paper tiger will help to get your soaking solution behind the sheets and make it easier to strip.
The paper tiger has been designed so that it won’t rust, corrode or wear out so you can use it for many rooms (looking at you home renovators here with a big task ahead of you!). It has been ergonomically designed for a comfortable grip meaning you’ll find it quick and easy to score a full wall.
Finally the little teeth will not damage your walls beneath the wallpaper so you don’t need to worry about the finish underneath!
If your wallpaper was applied with a stronger adhesive (like a ready mixed paste) or you’re still struggling to lift it then it's likely you’ll need a specialist wallpaper remover solution like Zinsser Dif wallpaper stripper.
This patented product contains a unique formulation of special enzymes which will speed up penetration of the wallpaper and resolubilization of the paste (aka it will soften it so it's not so well glued to your walls and you can then scrape your wallpaper away!). Using this paired with the paper tiger above you have a fantastic team of products to remove even the toughest of wallpapers!
The Dif wallpaper stripper is a concentrated product which you simply add to warm water as per the measured guidelines on the bottle. Apply the solution to the walls with a decorators sponge or brush and allow 15 minutes of soaking time.
You should then be able to use your wallpaper scraper and long handled scraper to remove the sheets of wallpaper. If you’re facing a wall of woodchip wallpaper then you instantly want to jump to this tip and go straight in with the Dif wallpaper stripping solution and the paper tiger scoring tool paired with the long handled scraper!
A final tip for wallpaper removal without having a steam stripper at home (let's face it most of us don’t have one of those lying about!) if you could use your hairdryer for a little bit of heat.
I’m not suggesting you blast your hairdryer at your full wall, however you can use it in smaller areas to target loosening an edge and get started where you’re struggling to lift a corner or seam. Use your hairdryer on its highest setting and hold it over the edge for up to 30 seconds and this should be enough to loosen the paper.
So now you’ve stripped your wallpaper, what do you need to do before redecorating your wall?
It completely depends on what you plan on doing next. Here are your options below…
If you’re planning to switch to paint from wallpaper then it's important that you prep the walls before starting with your emulsion. Once you have finished stripping the wall I would start with sanding the surface.
A hand sander and low grit sanding paper like the Mirka Oxide 120 grit will enable you to lightly sand over the wall and remove any lumpy paste residue that may still be on the walls. Once you’re happy that the surface is smooth then to finally prep for paint I would apply the Zinsser Gardz sealer. This will seal in any paste residue or Dif wallpaper stripper concentrate residue and stop any reaction with your emulsion.
Gardz is a water based sealer that dries to a rock hard water resistant finish to protect the surface and avoid bubbling, blistering and other issues which arise when emulsion reacts with some adhesives or solutions.
You’ve done all of the great steps for a perfect finish, removing the old wallpaper is so important for a good finish next time around so you’re not far from being ready to go. As with the advice above, if you have any lumpy paste residue left on your wall lightly sanding the surface for a smooth finish is really important.
You should then be good to go starting with sizing the wall before application (read our blog how to hang wallpaper for more information on this!) If your walls aren’t feeling as smooth as you think they should be then it could be a good idea to line them.
We absolutely love the wallrock fibreliner which is a paste the wall, durable lining paper that when applied can make your walls feel as good as if they had been re-skimmed. For tips on application read our how to hang wallpaper blog!
There you have it! It can feel really like a mammoth job to face, especially with home renovations facing older woodchip wallpapers, anaglypta and blown vinyls without a wallpaper steam stripper to hand but don’t be put off.
With the right products and know how you really can tackle wallpaper removal so that you can change up your room in no time rather than being stuck with older patterns that you fancy changing!
Once you have this know how and with the fashion of ‘feature walls’ it means you can regularly change up the whole vibe of your room by simply changing up your one wall!