By Andy Meredith
Wallpaper removal is one of those things that you think should be easy. It doesn’t take any skill to rip old paper off a wall, right? When I think of all of the time and energy I’ve spent trying to tear down wallpaper that had been clinging to walls for 50 to 100 years, I can’t help but cringe. I’m a pretty strong guy, and I have a lot of experience working on renovations and construction, but for the longest time, wallpaper was the bane of my existence.
Unfortunately, old wallpaper—while it may be peeling away—has a tendency to really cling to the wall. And when you try to tear it down, it’ll usually crumble in your hand before you can pull a good section away. Then, when you get in there with a scraper, you find yourself hacking up the wall itself, which means you’re going to have to repair it before you paint it.
The whole process is enough to make you crazy, but when you look at what a lot of painters and contractors charge to remove wallpaper, it can give you an aneurism. So you’re left with trying to figure out how to do this seemingly impossible task without tearing down walls or spending years scraping at ancient paper and glue. Fortunately, there are easier ways to get the job done, and I’ve learned a few of them along the way.
Soften It Up to Make the Job Easier
First, mix up a bucket of warm water and liquid dish detergent. Grab a sponge and start applying the solution liberally to the wallpaper you want to remove. Wipe the wallpaper down with your soapy water a few times until it’s thoroughly saturated. Wait about five minutes before you take your scraper and start to pull and scrape the wallpaper away. You don’t want the wallpaper to dry out, so you may want to reapply your solution a few times as you work, especially if it gets harder to scrape the wallpaper away.
Use an Old Fork to Penetrate Water-Resistant Paper
Some wallpaper is made to be washable, which is great when it’s new but terrible when you want to remove it. Fortunately, you just need an old fork to make it penetrable to your soapy solution. Just drag the fork across the wallpaper a few times in the places where you want to apply your soapy solution. This will let the soap and water seep through the wallpaper to start softening the paste underneath.
If the wallpaper paste isn’t responding to your soap and water solution, you may want to add a cap’s worth of liquid fabric softener to a quart of hot water and apply that. If that doesn’t work, you might have to go with some harsher chemicals, but these two solutions almost always work for me.
If you have a wall that’s covered with a few layers of wallpaper, I recommend renting a wallpaper steamer. This stripping tool applies hot steam that forces the wallpaper to let go. It’s the best solution I’ve found for houses where people have piled layer over layer of wallpaper.
Using these tips, I’ve had a much easier time stripping wallpaper. See how they work for you on your next renovation and you’ll never dread removing wallpaper again.