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Tips for Easy Wallpaper Removal

How to Remove Wallpaper

If you didn't catch my last blog post - then the breaking news of the blog the week, is that we've finally started our living room renovation. Yep, almost four years in - and it's begun. Luckily this room is in fairly good shape so doesn't require too much work - it's just quite dated; as in, it hasn't been revamped since the 60s. Eurgh!

I've spent the last couple of weeks stripping wallpaper, repairing the old ceiling and patching up the wonky and damaged walls. We're already beginning to see a fair bit of progress in this room and if you're following me on Instagram, you'll have seen all of this already. I was asked a fair few questions about how I remove wallpaper and how I'd be repairing the old walls. I'll be explaining the later soon, but I thought I would write a post specifically about removing wallpaper first.

Removing wallpaper is such a simple straightforward process that I didn't really think it was something worth writing about. But that being said, if you've never done it before - then it's something you may not know much about. After all, everyone has to start somewhere. So I thought why the hell not write about it! I've removed wallpaper from around 10 different rooms throughout two houses and my techniques are ever-evolving to perfect the quickest and best way to remove wallpaper. If my knowledge can help anyone out there, then why not! So, these are just my personal tips for removing wallpaper the easiest way I know how. If you'd like to add any further advice you have to share, then please do leave them in the comments below!

Tips for removing wallpaper

Removing the Top Layer
There are so many different types of wallpaper out there - from textured ones to more vinyl-feeling ones and even the dreaded wood chip ones (I've never removed this though - so I have no tips on that front, sorry!) and all wallpapers are different in how they come off the wall. Some come off so easily, you can just pull them straight off, others take a bit more work. The type of wall or plaster they're attached to also makes a big difference and the more wallpaper you remove, the more you'll notice this.

Usually wallpaper has two layers to it - the top layer and an underneath layer (you may even find multiple layers different types of wallpaper - in which case, unlucky you!!). The top layer is usually much easier to remove and once you've got a corner unlifted, you can usually pull this off in large sizeable chunks with your fingers. The underneath layer is the bit that's glued onto the wall - the harder one to remove.

how to remove wallpaper the easy way

Using a Wallpaper Steamer
I didn't invest in a wallpaper steamer until about two years ago when I stripped the dining room and kitchen. Until then, I had used either a combination of hot water and a sponge, or a steam mop (yes really!). Both of which did work and you can most definitely remove wallpaper without the aid of a steamer; but a wallpaper steamer is THE quickest and easiest way to remove wallpaper. Our steamer cost just £25 from Screwfix (here) and I definitely wish I had purchased one sooner.

The way a wallpaper steamer works is to heat the glue behind the wallpaper enough so that it softens and can literally be wiped off the wall. The downside to steaming, is that it does cost a fair bit to run (think kettle constantly on the boil!!) and it can leave the room quite wet and with a lot of condensation. Having a window open is definitely recommended and taking a fair few breaks to let the steam disperse helps quite a lot as well. As I said, you can soak the wall with hot water instead, but I definitely find using a steamer much easier and much quicker - and it's definitely my personal recommendation for wallpaper removal.

I generally hold the steamer to the wall for around 15-20 seconds before stripping the wallpaper off. If the paper looks wet, then you know it's ready to go. It's important not to hold the steamer onto the wall for too long as it could cause damage to the plaster beneath. It's a bit of trial and error thing to know exactly how long to leave the steamer up for - as I say, all wallpapers are different - but once you get going, you'll know.

how to use a wallpaper steamer

Buy A Quality Stripping Knife
Having a decent stripping knife will make your life SO much easier. Imagine trying to strip wallpaper with a spoon - you'd be there all day flaking off bit by bit. Having the right tool for the job, really does go a long way.

The first thing to look for in a wallpaper stripping knife, is that it's nice and wide. This will cover more area at once and cut your time in half! The second thing you want to look for, is one with replacement blades so that you can ensure your stripping knife can always stay sharp. A blunt knife will miss bits of wallpaper and take much more effort in pressing it to the wall to get underneath the paper. This is the one I have, and I definitely recommend it, although it's best when it's blunted just a little (otherwise you have to be careful not to scrape up the wall!). It has a long handle for harder to reach areas and it's also soft to grip, which stops you getting hand blisters. You'll know what I mean if you've spent days on end painting with a roller!! Ouch.

how to strip wallpaper with a steamer

Master the Art of Using Two Hands
If you're on a mission to strip wallpaper in a speedy time - then you'll need to master the art of using both hands. I use my left hand to hold up the steamer until the wallpaper is wet enough to remove and then relocate the steamer to another position whilst removing that wallpaper with the stripper in my right hand. It keeps the process constantly going and your left hand will always be one step ahead ready for your right hand. Does that make any sense?

It means you never have to put your tools down and once you've got a good system going - you can just keep going until you need to re-fill the water tank of the steamer. It's the most efficient way to work as quickly as possible when it comes to stripping wallpaper. Or at least, it is in my opinion. ;)

the quickest way to remove wallpaper
which stripper for removing wallpaper?

Removing Residue
Once you've gone over the walls once and removed all the wallpaper, you'll inevitably find the wall will have a sticky feel to it (if it's still wet!) or it may otherwise have solid chunks dried to the wall. This is because in the steps above, we've been removing the wallpaper and not specifically the residue, which a lot of always ends up getting left behind. I've tried a few different techniques to remove the residue, but the quickest and best in my opinion is to use the steamer again.

I go back over the walls with the steamer, holding it this time against the bare plaster and then I use the stripping knife to scrape away that residue. You'll see it gather up in a really sloppy gooey slimy chunk (nice!) and you can lift it straight off the wall and wipe it onto a towel (or floor if you're lazy like me!). I do this over the whole wall and it removes the gunk in no time at all.

I have also tried scrubbing hot water and fairy liquid onto the wall, which also works but takes much longer. But if you don't have a steamer, this is definitely another option though!

how to remove wallpaper adhesive easily

Sanding the Walls Smooth
The very last thing I do is to quickly run some sandpaper over the whole wall. There's a good chance you may have missed the odd bit and there's still a slightly rough texture to the wall in areas. Having a smooth wall is especially important if you're plastering back over the wall and the last thing you want is anything being dragged through fresh plaster - your plasterer WILL NOT thank you for that. Likewise, you don't really want to be painting over chunks and having to scrape them off later either. A quick sand and feeling the walls with your hands will identify any bits that aren't perfectly smooth. It shouldn't take too long as you'll find it's really just the odd bit that needs attention.

removing wallpaper in living room

And that's it! I hope that helps anyone who's new to wallpaper stripping, or if you're just looking for some new/different techniques to try. As always - I'm no professional, this is just the best way I've personally found to strip wallpaper. If you have any advice to share or alternative ideas, then please do! I'm always open to new techniques :) Here's a few shots of the living room under work and how it's looking now it's fully stripped of wallpaper. 
home renovation blog removing wallpaper
wallpaper removal on chimney breast
removing wallpaper easily
Renovation of living room
removing wallpaper renovation blog

Pretty right? I'll be sharing how we're patching the walls (and ceiling) in my next blog post, so stay tuned for that ;) Until then, happy wallpaper removing!

1 comment

  1. I find removing wallpaper therapeutic! My home no longer has any though!