How to remove wallpaper: overview

Removing wallpaper can be a daunting task, particularly if it's your first attempt. However, with the right approach and tools, it can transform into a manageable, even rewarding, project. This guide aims to equip homeowners with the knowledge to tackle wallpaper removal confidently, ensuring a smooth transition to a fresh wall surface ready for a new look.

The process begins with preparation. It's essential to protect your floors and furniture from potential messes by laying down dust sheets or plastic coverings. Next, ascertain the type of wallpaper and adhesive used, as this will dictate your removal strategy. Broadly speaking, wallpapers can be classified into strippable, peelable, and traditional types, each requiring a slightly different approach.

For strippable wallpapers, the task might be as straightforward as peeling the paper off from a corner by hand. If the wallpaper proves resistant, or if you're dealing with peelable or traditional wallpapers, more effort will be required. A common method involves scoring the wallpaper with a tool to allow a stripping solution or hot water to penetrate and soften the adhesive. Homemade solutions, such as a mixture of warm water and fabric softener or a vinegar solution, can be effective and eco-friendly alternatives to commercial removers.

Applying the solution using a sponge or spray bottle, let it soak in for several minutes to loosen the adhesive. Following this, you can start peeling the wallpaper away with the aid of a putty knife or scraper, working carefully to avoid damaging the wall beneath. Stubborn areas may need a second application of the solution or the use of a steamer for additional softening.

Patience and perseverance are key throughout the process. Although it may be time-consuming, the end result—a clean, bare wall ready for painting or new wallpaper—can significantly refresh and transform your space. Remember, thorough preparation and the correct tools not only make the task easier but also protect the integrity of your walls, ensuring a smoother decorating process moving forward.

What is the easiest way to remove old wallpaper?


The easiest method to remove old wallpaper largely depends on the type of wallpaper and the condition of the walls. However, a universally effective and minimally invasive technique involves the use of a wallpaper steamer combined with a gentle scraping tool. This method is especially suitable for removing old, stubborn wallpaper without causing significant damage to the wall surfaces.

A wallpaper steamer softens the adhesive beneath the wallpaper through directed steam, making it easy to peel or scrape off. To start, you'll need to prepare your room by removing furniture or covering items with dust sheets to protect against moisture and debris. It's also wise to score the wallpaper lightly with a scoring tool. This process creates tiny perforations that allow the steam to penetrate more effectively, especially useful for wallpapers with a water-resistant outer layer.

When using a steamer, work in small sections, holding the steam plate against the wall for about 20-30 seconds per area. After steaming, use a broad knife or scraper to gently lift the wallpaper from the wall. It's important to work patiently and avoid forcing the paper off, as this can damage the plaster underneath.

For those looking for a more DIY approach without specialised equipment, a solution of hot water mixed with a few drops of dish soap or a cup of vinegar can be an effective alternative. Apply the mixture generously with a sponge or spray bottle, allow it to soak in, and then scrape the paper away. Although this method may require more elbow grease and reapplication of the solution, it's a simple and eco-friendly option.

Regardless of the method chosen, the key to easy wallpaper removal lies in preparation, patience, and gentle handling. Rushing the process or skipping steps can lead to wall damage, making your redecoration project more challenging than it needs to be.

What do professionals remove wallpaper with?

Professional decorators have a wealth of tools and techniques at their disposal for wallpaper removal, ensuring efficiency and minimising damage to underlying surfaces. Their choice of method often depends on the wallpaper type, the adhesive used, and the condition of the wall. However, professionals typically leverage a combination of advanced equipment, commercial-grade solutions, and refined techniques to tackle even the most stubborn wallpaper.

One of the primary tools in a professional's arsenal is a commercial steamer. Unlike consumer-grade steamers, these are more powerful, offering quicker and more uniform steam distribution. This allows for faster softening of the adhesive, making the wallpaper easier to remove in larger sections. Professionals may also use professional-grade scoring tools that are designed to penetrate wallpaper without damaging the wall, enhancing the effectiveness of the steaming process.

In addition to steamers, professionals often use enzymatic wallpaper removers. These solutions contain enzymes that specifically target the adhesives used in wallpapers, breaking them down more effectively than DIY mixtures. Applied with a sprayer for even coverage, these removers can significantly reduce the effort required to strip wallpaper, especially when dealing with multiple layers or very old, resistant adhesives.

For particularly challenging projects, professionals might employ a combination of techniques, starting with steaming or an enzymatic solution, followed by careful mechanical removal using professional-grade scrapers. These tools are designed to be sharp enough to efficiently remove wallpaper but with edges that minimise the risk of gouging or damaging the wall.

Moreover, professionals have the experience to assess the best approach for each specific situation, including the most effective products and methods to use for different types of wallpaper and wall conditions. This expertise, combined with high-quality tools, allows professionals to remove wallpaper more quickly and cleanly than the average DIY enthusiast, ensuring a smooth and ready-to-decorate surface in the end.

Is it easy to remove wallpaper yourself?

Removing wallpaper by yourself can be a straightforward task with the right preparation, tools, and approach, though it's not without its challenges. The ease of the process largely depends on the type of wallpaper, the method of application, and the condition of the wall beneath. Some homeowners find the task simple and satisfying, while others encounter more difficulties, particularly with older wallpapers or those applied directly to unprimed walls.

The first step in a DIY wallpaper removal project is to assess the type of wallpaper and adhesive used. Strippable wallpapers, for instance, are designed to be easily removed by pulling them off in large sheets. If you're lucky enough to have this type of wallpaper, the process can be as simple as lifting a corner and peeling. However, more often than not, wallpaper removal requires additional steps.

Moreover, the use of a steamer is another popular DIY method, particularly for more stubborn wallpapers. While steamers can significantly ease the process, they also add an element of cost and require careful handling to avoid burns or excessive moisture damage to the walls.

In essence, while removing wallpaper yourself is certainly feasible and can even be cost-effective, it's important to approach the task with realistic expectations. The key to success lies in thorough preparation, the right tools, and, most importantly, patience. Be prepared for a bit of effort and some trial and error, especially if you're new to DIY projects. With a methodical approach, removing wallpaper can be a manageable, albeit time-consuming, task.

Does fabric softener and vinegar remove wallpaper?

For wallpapers that don’t easily strip away, a common DIY approach involves softening the adhesive with a solution (like hot water mixed with vinegar or fabric softener) and then gently scraping the paper off the wall. This method, while effective, requires patience and a careful hand to avoid damaging the underlying wall. The application of the solution, waiting time for it to penetrate, and the physical removal itself can be time-consuming and messy.

Can you remove wallpaper without ruining the wall?

Removing wallpaper without damaging the underlying wall is a common concern among homeowners looking to refresh their space. With careful technique and the right tools, it's entirely possible to strip wallpaper while preserving the integrity of the wall beneath. Two of the most effective methods are the chemical and steamer methods, each offering its own set of advantages and considerations.

Both methods, when executed with care, offer a safe and effective way to remove wallpaper without ruining the wall. The choice between chemical or steamer methods depends on personal preference, the specific wallpaper, and wall conditions.

Chemical method

The chemical method involves applying a solution that dissolves or loosens the wallpaper adhesive, allowing the paper to be removed more easily. Commercial wallpaper removers are available, but many DIY enthusiasts prefer homemade solutions such as a mix of warm water and fabric softener or vinegar as referenced above.

To use this method, score the wallpaper first to allow the solution to penetrate effectively. Then, apply the solution generously using a sponge or spray bottle. Let it soak for several minutes to allow the adhesive to soften. Once the wallpaper starts to bubble or loosen, gently scrape it off with a putty knife or scraper. This method requires patience and a gentle touch to avoid gouging the plaster beneath.

The key advantage of the chemical method is its accessibility and low cost. However, it can be messier and may require multiple applications for tough adhesives or thicker wallpapers.

Steamer method

The steamer method uses hot steam to penetrate through the wallpaper and soften the adhesive, making it easier to peel away. A wallpaper steamer consists of a water reservoir and a heating element that produces steam, which is then directed to the wall via a plate or nozzle.

Start by holding the steamer plate against the wallpaper for a few seconds to allow the steam to soften the adhesive. Move the plate away and gently peel or scrape the wallpaper off. The steamer method is highly effective, even on tough wallpapers, and minimises the need for chemicals.

While steamers can be rented or purchased, they require careful handling to avoid burns from the hot steam or water. Additionally, it's important not to over-apply steam to avoid moisture damage to the wall.

Tools and materials you need to remove wallpaper

Removing wallpaper is a task that requires the right set of tools and materials to ensure the job is done efficiently and without damage to your walls. Having everything you need on hand before you start can save time and make the process smoother. Here's a comprehensive list of tools and materials essential for wallpaper removal:


  • Scoring tool: This tool perforates the wallpaper, allowing removal solutions or steam to penetrate and loosen the adhesive more effectively.
  • Putty knife or scraper: A broad, flat tool used to gently scrape away the wallpaper after the adhesive has been softened. Opt for one with a plastic edge to minimise the risk of gouging the wall.
  • Spray bottle or sponge: For applying liquid solutions evenly across the wallpaper. A spray bottle offers ease of use, while a sponge can be beneficial for soaking larger areas.
  • Steaming machine (optional): A wallpaper steamer can be an invaluable tool for removing tough wallpapers. It uses hot steam to soften wallpaper adhesive, making the paper easier to remove.
  • Bucket: Needed if you're mixing your own solution or require water for steaming.


  • Wallpaper removal solution: You can opt for a commercial remover or make your own with hot water mixed with either vinegar or fabric softener.
  • Protective gear: Gloves to protect your hands from hot steam or chemicals and goggles if you're sensitive to the steam or solutions used.
  • Drop cloths or plastic sheeting: Essential for protecting your floors and furniture from moisture and debris.
  • Cleaning cloth or sponge: For wiping down the walls after the wallpaper has been removed, ensuring any residual adhesive is cleaned off.

Preparation is key when undertaking a wallpaper removal project. Gathering these tools and materials in advance will not only make the process more efficient but also help protect the integrity of your walls, ensuring a smooth surface ready for its next treatment.

Steps for removing wallpaper

Removing wallpaper can seem like a daunting task, but breaking it down into manageable steps can simplify the process. Here's how to effectively remove wallpaper in a few straightforward stages:

  1. Preparation: Begin by clearing the room of furniture or moving items to the centre and covering them with drop cloths. Apply plastic sheeting or old newspapers on the floor for protection.
  2. Scoring: Use a scoring tool to gently perforate the wallpaper. This allows the removal solution or steam to penetrate the adhesive layer more effectively.
  3. Application: Choose your removal method—either a chemical solution or steam. If using a solution, fill a spray bottle or dip a sponge in the mixture and apply generously to the wallpaper. Allow it to soak in for several minutes.
  4. Peeling and scraping: Start at a corner or seam and gently peel the wallpaper away from the wall. Use a putty knife or scraper to remove stubborn sections and adhesive residue.
  5. Cleanup: Once all the wallpaper is removed, wipe down the walls with a damp sponge or cloth to remove any leftover adhesive. Allow the walls to dry completely before applying paint or new wallpaper.

Patience is key during wallpaper removal. Taking your time to carefully follow each step will result in clean, smooth walls ready for a fresh start.


With the right approach and tools, removing wallpaper can be a straightforward DIY task that significantly transforms your space. Following these steps will equip you with the confidence to carefully strip away old wallpaper, paving the way for a new layer of personal style and refreshment in your home.

Of course, you can get almost all the tools you need for your wallpaper removal project - along with helpful guidance and advice - from PaintAccess online or at St Leonards or Matraville. Come in and see our team for everything you need today.