Wallpaper Symbols Explained

A complete guide to demystifing wallpaper symbols

Your wallpaper arrives and it's time to take wallpaper to wall, but the label has got a series of symbols that look like they belong in greek mythology?! Don't panic, our complete guide to wallpaper symbols will help you get to know your wallpaper in no time so you can enjoy your decorating project!

Although a little difficult to understand at first, these wallpaper symbols are definately useful and once understood, will help you get the best results when hanging, removing or cleaning your wallpaper.

If you've still got questions after reading the guide, get in touch with our wonderful team who are always on hand to make your decorating as enjoyable and straight forward as possible.


Wallpaper pasting

wallpaper application

There are only three symbols when talking about wallpaper paste application and luckily most wallpapers in the UK fall under the category of two of these. It is important to take note of the pasting symbols before starting as if you do not follow and apply the paste as instructed you can cause bubbles, creases, poor adhesion or for the design to expand on the wall.... not what we want!  

Paste the Wallpaper

Identified by a pasting brush pointing down onto what looks like a strip of wallpaper on your label. For these wallpapers you will apply the paste directly to the back of the wallpaper and then will leave it to soak for the time identified on the wallpaper label. Once soaked you will then take the wallpaper to the wall to hang it. It is important not to over soak this type of wallpaper as it can make it difficult to cut.

Paste the Wall

Identified by a pasting brush pointing towards a wall symbol. Since its launch, paste the wall wallpaper has proven incredibly popular as it is an easier application method. There is no need to soak the wallpaper paste on the wallpaper, less opportunity for error and quite a speedy application method. Quite simply you brush your paste straight onto the wall and then take your wallpaper to it. 


Pattern Matching

Wallpaper Matching

This is a key symbol to understand as it can help with measuring up how many rolls of wallpaper you will need to purchase. A pattern match simply put is the horizontal alignment between two adjacent strips of wallpaper and without understanding the match you may hang your wallpaper incorrectly. Here's the different types of match...

Free Match

A free match design is identified with an arrow and a 0 on your wallpaper label. It requires no matching of a pattern/no alignment so is the easiest of the pattern matches to hang. Free match wallpapers use the least amount of wallpaper as you don't have any wastage to cut away. 

Straight Match

A straight match design is identified with two arrows pointing directly at each other on your wallpaper label. This simply means that your wallpaper pattern will be the same from left to right on one strip to the next. The label should also indicate the size of the straight match (for example 52cm) so there will be the same interval between the matching pattern. 

Offset Match

An offset match design is identified with two arrows pointing towards each other but at offset levels. This is seen as the most difficult to hang however once you get your head around it it's definitely not something to avoid/shy away from! The design on an offset match wallpaper happens diagonally rather than straight across. The edge of the wallpaper only matches the edge of the second strip when it is dropped by a specific distance. This is usually specified on your label for example 64/32cm. 64cm identifies the pattern repeat and 32cm is the displacement. When hanging this type of wallpaper it's usually easiest to match and cut your strips on the floor/paste table before pasting and hanging. 

Reverse Hang

Reverse alternate lengths are identified by two opposing arrows on the wallpaper label. It is a method often seen with plain or lightly textured wallpapers and quite simply put means you hang each strip in an alternating direction. Basically, hang your first strip one way and then reverse your second as if you were hanging the length upside down. 



Wallpaper Washability

Every wallpaper has a washability grading which indicates the water resistance and washability of the wallpaper. There are various methods of safe cleaning that will be indicated by one of the below symbols on your wallpaper label. These are also indicators of how gentle you need to be when applying the wallpapers. If you end up getting some of the spongeable/washable wallpapers too wet with paste/have paste on the front of the wallpaper during application you need to handle them carefully and clean gently. 


A single wavy line is the identifier for spongeable wallpapers. This is the lowest of the washability ratings and means that in order to clean your wallpaper you can use a damp sponge/cloth to very gently wipe the surface. No cleaning fluids or chemicals can be used only water for cleaning a spongeable wallpaper. 


Two wavy lines one on top of the other is the identifier for a washable wallpaper. It is a more durable finish than spongeable but also requires gentle cleaning and no chemicals or cleaning fluids. If you have too much water in your sponge or cloth then you can cause tears in the wallpaper.

Extra Washable

Three wavy lines on top of the other is the identifier for an extra washable wallpaper. These wallpapers are more resilient to a damper environment and most stains can be removed using soap and a sponge or cloth. You may also be able to remove some greasy stains if action is taken immediately. 


A wavy line on top of a scrubbing brush symbol is the identifier for scrubbable wallpaper. It is one of the tougher wallpaper types (you can get extra scrubbable too which has three wavy lines) and means that you can apply more pressure to remove dirt without the wallpaper becoming damaged. These wallpapers are fantastic for high traffic areas such as hallways as they are easily maintainable. 


Wallpaper Removal 

Wallpaper Removal

For me personally, if I like a design its removal method doesn't stop me from selecting it however it is good to understand the symbols associated with removing the wallpaper for when you're going to come to replace it later down the line! 


Identified with an angled line to represent wallpaper being removed from the wall. These wallpapers can be removed in one strip whilst the wallpaper is dry and both the front and back layers of the wallpaper will be removed from the wall. 


Identified with an angled line to represent wallpaper being removed from the wall but with a thin line showing some wallpaper remaining. With this type of wallpaper only the top layer peels away from the wall leaving the backing paper behind. You can remove peelable wallpapers whilst they are dry.

Wet Removable

Identified with an angled line to represent wallpaper being removed with a small stripper symbol. Wet removable wallpaper can only be removed from the wall with a liquid solution such as a wallpaper stripping agent or by soaking the wallpaper with water. You will then use a scraper to remove the wallpaper.


Light Fastness

Wallpaper Light Fastness

Another symbol I don't really consider much when selecting a wallpaper but that is good to understand is light fastness. It is the degree to which your wallpaper will keep its colour in sunlight. Any wallpaper when exposed to direct sunlight over a few years will naturally lose its colour but the light fastness symbol will give you an indicator of how long your wallpaper will last in areas of higher sun concentration. The symbols move from moderate, to satisfactory, to good and then very good.