Tips and Techniques for Removing Wallpaper

When my husband and I first moved into our home, the downstairs wallpaper was the first to go. It had pictures of antique fishing lures and might have been cute in a lake home or cabin but it didn’t fit our personal style. We spent hours steaming away the paper and scraping the walls. It was a labor intensive process, and upon looking back, I’m sure there could have been an easier way.

As I embarked on another wallpaper removal project, I thought this time I would consult an expert. Thank goodness for Jon at the Hirshfield’s Southdale location because he saved me a great deal of aggravation this time. The first thing to do is loosen a lower corner, pull outward slowly, and see what happens, recommended Jon. A lot of times the paper is peel-able, but not necessarily strippable. The backing may remain on the wall, and if that’s the case, it needs to come off. If that doesn’t work, the next step is to score the paper and soak it. Jon recommends using a disk to score the paper liberally, but warns against using too much pressure. You want the scoring tool to just break through the surface of the wallpaper to reach the enzymes in the paste on the back side, which will break down during the next step. Now it’s time to soak the wallpaper. Jon recommends using DIF, which is a liquid wallpaper stripper. You can buy a spray bottle, mix the DIF liquid, according to directions, using very hot tap water, and spray it over the wallpaper that’s being removed. Let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes, reapplying if it begins to dry out. If you should run out of DIF, try using an 80% hot water and 20% vinegar mixture. DIF does work considerable better. This should loosen the paper enough to remove it with a broad knife or wallpaper scraper.

Any remaining paste can be removed with a stiff, not flexible, scraper. Once all the wallpaper is removed, let the walls air dry. Rinse the walls one final time with clean hot water. Sand them a little bit if needed, and you should be set for your next home project: decorating those walls so they reflect you, your style, and your home.

Thanks to Jon, this is a home improvement project I no longer dread!

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3 Responses
  1. Amy

    These are good hints. I was told that I needed to use an oil-based primer after stripping the walls if I wanted to go over with paint instead of more wallpaper. Is that the best advice?

  2. Marsha

    I called the Southdale store and the experts weighed in on your question.

    If you have a lot of paste left on the wall use an odorless oil base primer. If you can get off the majority of adhesive, you do not need to use a primer. If the walls are in good shape , go ahead and paint.

    With that said, check for any discoloration on the wall after the paper is removed.
    If discoloration is present you need to check if it is mildew. Don’t know if it is mildew? Take a Q-Tip dipped in bleach and apply it to the spot(s). If it changes color instantly, it is mildew. Wash entire wall with 50/50 equal parts bleach and water, and rinse thoroughly.
    Use an odorless oil base primer for any wall discoloration.

    Good luck!

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