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How to Easily Remove Wallpaper

Today I’m going to share a little trick I discovered for how to easily remove wallpaper.  All wallpapers are different so this might not work but give it a try!

We were so lucky that the townhouse didn’t have much wallpaper.  One half bath was papered, which we had intended to leave until other renovations were done.  At some point in the middle of other renovations, though, I couldn’t take it anymore and that’s why any photos of me removing the wallpaper capture the gusto with which I ripped it off.

Check out how that formerly blue wallpapered bathroom turned out!

Our basement has wood paneling that, in some spots, was painstakingly filled, primed and then wallpapered.  Ugh, wallpaper again.  Why would you wallpaper paneling?  The wallpaper had become frayed in areas and had majorly stalled progress in the basement as I tried to figure out what to do.  Just ripping everything out and dry-walling was probably the best idea, but that would have just led to us replacing everything: carpet, ceiling, doors, etc.  And we just don’t have the money for a full reno.  If we did, the kitchen would get an overhaul first.

In an effort to do a quick spit and polish, I planned to paint over the wallpaper.  Remember how they often did that on Trading Spaces?   I removed loose bits but, even with first filling, sanding and priming rough areas, the paint (I tested it to the left) didn’t cover the texture of seams.

So I bought paint with a subtle texture in the hopes of disguising the wallpaper texture and seams, but the minute I rolled it on, the wallpaper started getting soggy and drooping.  Enter crazy-eyed Tanya and her last minute wallpaper ripping decisions.  I used my same trick from when I removed the powder room wallpaper, so I thought I’d share.  Now, this may not work for all wallpapered walls, but it doesn’t hurt to try!

Supplies:

How to Easily Remove Wallpaper:

I peeled off the durable top layer (with the design).  Old wallpaper will probably already be peeling or curling – look around the ceiling, floor, or seams for a place to start grabbing and pulling.  Once the porous bottom layer was exposed, I sprayed it with warm water and, with the tiniest bit of coaxing (the scraper tool helped), it came off like butter.

How to Easily Remove WallpaperHow to Easily Remove WallpaperHow to Easily Remove WallpaperHow to Easily Remove Wallpaper

Last time around, I had splurged ($10 lol) on a wallpaper scoring device and the special headache-inducing spray – neither of which worked and both of which still required a ton of work.  In the end, this method was easier, faster, and less expensive for both wallpaper removal projects.

Once you peel that protective layer back, the water can really easily penetrate to the back and loosen the paste.  It’s really a similar principle to those scoring tools, actually, but faster, easier and cheaper!  I have removed wallpaper twice this way and I hope it works for you too.

Now I have a patchy ugly wall, but at least I removed the wallpaper.  I’m thinking paint and a gallery wall full of art will disguise this perfectly!

Do you have any wallpaper removal tips, tricks or horror stories?  Share them in the comments below!

P.S. take a look at the finished basement reveal by clicking here!

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25 Comments

  1. Amy
    August 23, 2012 / 2:56 pm

    I definitely agree that the scorer-thingy is a waste of money!! Most wallpaper wants to come off just as much as you want it to! LOLGreat progress ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. sandpaperandglue
    August 23, 2012 / 2:59 pm

    When we first moved in our kitchen and sun room had double wall paper: red & green plaid on the bottom, cats & baskets on the top. I absolutely can not wrap my mind around why anyone would want that… due to some of my own crazy-eyed ripping it lasted less then 24 hours, I just could not wake up in a house with rooms that ugly more then once.Here she is then and now: http://sandpaperandglue.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/one-year-later-the-kitchen/

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 23, 2012 / 6:00 pm

      That wallpaper was unreal! What fabulous before and afters – you've made major improvements! Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. m @ random musings
    August 23, 2012 / 3:03 pm

    I am completely.on.board with the anti-walpaper sentiment. I think the peel in two layers trick only works on cheaper (read:diy) wallpaper. My mom's bath (imagine putting up wallpaper with a shower!!) did not peel off in two layers, but I know the paper was super-heavy-duty-sold-to-the-trades-and-applied-by-pro-stuff. The scoring tool was super helpful then. In my current place it was more like your experience. Can't wait to see the final results!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 23, 2012 / 6:01 pm

      That's a good point, I completely believe that professional wallpaper is oodles more durable.

  4. Vintage Market Place
    August 23, 2012 / 3:12 pm

    horrible wallpaper, ugh.When my childhood home was ripped away from me in a messy divorce, we moved into a 1930s 4 room home. All covered in peachy 1980s floral wallpaper.I still cringe when thinking back, by the way it wasn't 1980 when moving in closer to 1990.Anyhoo, my mom finally tried painting it and the bubbles and weird plaster behind it stuck out like a sore thumb. I am not sure what my mom did after I moved out but it looks decent in her living room now but she has just had to recover and recover with wallpapers in all the other rooms because the walls are so old that the wallpaper being removed might cause way more issues that she can't afford to fix.Amy

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 23, 2012 / 6:05 pm

      So many wallpapered walls hide damage – that's the scary thing! I'm so sad you lost your childhood home. It sounds like that was very painful. But I'm happy to hear your mom's living room looks good now. Hopefully one day she is able to make her space perfect.

  5. How2home
    August 23, 2012 / 3:16 pm

    omogoodness…i did not know taking off wallpaper will be this hard! What will you be doing with the basement…love to know more!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 23, 2012 / 6:03 pm

      I learned from another reader comment that professionally installed wallpaper is trickier to remove. Mine came down pretty easily, all things considered!

  6. Designwali
    August 23, 2012 / 3:39 pm

    oh i only have horror stories. tried it solo on my kid's wall and it was a nightmare. ended up calling a professional who used his magic potion and it all came off…plus he fixed my drywall damage!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 23, 2012 / 6:02 pm

      Sometimes it is so worth it to call in the pros! If I ever bought a house completely wallpapered, I don't know if I'd have the stomach to tackle it.

  7. Ashley
    August 23, 2012 / 5:31 pm

    Every single room in our house has at least 2 layers of wallpaper. Well, the bathroom doesn't anymore!I'm pretty sure the wall paper is what's holding the walls in place, though…so we're not too keen on removing it and have been opting for the TEAR IT ALL DOWN approach.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 23, 2012 / 6:02 pm

      Ah yes, load bearing wallpaper. One of Hubby's rental places had very heavy, very textured load bearing wallpaper that was keeping the plaster walls together, lol.

  8. Martina
    August 23, 2012 / 6:56 pm

    Ugh old wallpaper and panelling, the two arch nemeses of modern style! Well okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but they can still be a pain. I think if you work some neutral "don't pay attention to the man behind the curtain" magic it won't be terribly obvious that it's panelling, a gallery wall would definitely draw the eye away from that fact! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 23, 2012 / 11:39 pm

      Haha! Can you imagine the long sigh I let out when I first realized there was paneling under the wallpaper? Talk about a one-two punch!

  9. Steven @ Professional organizing services NYC
    August 24, 2012 / 12:46 pm

    I love your creativity of painting the home, just love it seems to look so pretty.

  10. erica | wicked bride
    August 25, 2012 / 3:15 am

    I had a very similar moment when I walked into our guest bathroom, saw the cheap paper peeling, and couldn't take it anymore. Hubs came home to quite a surprise that day, ha! Unfortunately, there was a layer of primed wallpaper underneath, so I had my mother wallpaper some bathroom-friendly stuff over it. It'll do for now until I take the walls down, which at this point I think would be easier than trying to get the layers off ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 28, 2012 / 4:30 am

      Oh gosh, a wallpaper onion. What if there is not end to the layers and you keep peeling and peeling and find yourself in the next room? Is that an irrational fear? I love that you had your mom do it! I made my mom help remove a wallpaper border from another room, lol.

  11. Christine
    August 26, 2012 / 3:52 pm

    Just got the September 2012 issue of style at home and your email and stenciled mirror project is featured on page 24! I recognized it right away since I follow you here so it was exciting to see!!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 28, 2012 / 4:31 am

      Re-reading my email to Style at Home, I sound like such a goon!

  12. John @ Our Home from Scratch
    August 27, 2012 / 2:22 pm

    So much work. Exhibit A on why I'll never wall paper a room. It looks like you've made solid progress.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      August 28, 2012 / 4:28 am

      I have to admit, I also am not so excited about wallpaper trends having taken wallpaper down before. Although, I do hear that contemporary papers are not such a nightmare.

  13. Amelia @ House Pretty
    August 29, 2012 / 11:47 pm

    Can't wait to see what you do with it! Luckily we don't have any wallpaper to remove in our house, but I helped my mom remove wallpaper in her house and it was hell. We were cursing the old homeowners and their love of wallpaper borders haha. Wish we had your tips then!

  14. Mrs. Neal
    March 2, 2021 / 11:00 pm

    I am so happy I found this article! My sonsโ€™ bedroom had wallpaper and the kids had a great time ripping it down, however the glue portion of the paper was still there. Fast forward to me finding your article (3 months later), it took myself and my son about 45 minutes with the warm water and scrapers. I am so grateful and just as excited as he is to paint his room. Thank you for sharing your tip!

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