How to Get Rid of Textured Spackle


It was the newest thing in the late 1960s, quickly growing in popularity and expanding into many different styles in the '70s and '80s; knockdowns and swirls, popcorn, splashed or splattered texture, even combed -- all patterns to add a little something extra to a ceiling's appearance. As all things do, those old designs have faded from style and subtle painting techniques are the modern look. To update your ceiling, simply remove old texture and start fresh.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Masking tape
  • Large trash can (optional)
  • Utility knife
  • Pump sprayer or large plastic spray bottle
  • Ladder
  • Putty knife or suitable tool
  • Belt sander or other sander
  • Scrape a small amount of the ceiling texture into a baggie. Seal it completely and submit to an asbestos testing service. Homes built prior to 1980 sometimes used asbestos in texturing compounds. It's impossible to determine if your texture is spackle -- an actual brand name of joint compound -- joint compound or even a specialty texturing material, much less if it contains asbestos. However asbestos is carcinogenic and removal should only be undertaken by a professional.

  • Remove any curtains, shades, blinds or similar coverings. Take pictures and wall hangings down and take everything, along with the furniture, out of the room. If this isn't possible, pile it in the middle of the room in a manner that allows you to work around it.

  • Turn off the electricity to the room and disassemble light fixtures or ceiling fans. Removing your textured spackle or other texturing during daylight is best. If you still don't have enough light, run an extension cord and portable lamp from another room to help.

  • Lay a large sheet of plastic -- polyethylene sheeting -- over the entire floor, including over any furniture remaining in the room. Allow for enough extra to run up the walls a couple of feet as well. If the plastic isn't large enough, use more than one sheet, overlapping seams a foot or two for good coverage.

  • Hang additional sections of plastic along the walls, taping it as close to the ceiling as possible and overlapping sections a foot or two similarly. Cut a slit, vertically, over the door to allow you to enter and leave the room. The spackle or texture is extremely dusty if you dry sand, but if you remove it with water it softens into wet, messy globs that cling to floors and walls. Preventing the problem is easier than cleaning it up.

  • Fill a pump sprayer with warm, clean water. If you don't have one, consider using a large household spray bottle. The garden sprayer has a little more pressure, which will help encourage the spackle to loosen from the ceiling, but either method will work.

  • Spray the entire ceiling with water to begin loosening the texture. Avoid spraying excessively -- a light but thorough coat that drips slightly is sufficient. Wait for 10 to 20 minutes before proceeding.

  • Re-wet a small section -- perhaps 5 or 6 feet high and wide, or as much as you can work in 10 or 15 minutes -- and begin scraping with a putty knife, the straight edge of a trowel, or any tool that feels comfortable to you. Consider using a hard plastic spatula or pancake turner if you desire. Angle the blade as flat with the surface as possible to avoid gouging the drywall surface underneath.

  • Work in light, successive strokes over the same area to dig through deep layers gently and gradually. Flick the debris off, onto the plastic floor or a large trash can positioned under your work area. Don't get too upset about the mess -- the plastic will keep it contained until cleanup.

  • Move to new sections as necessary, taking the garbage can with you if applicable. Wet each section anew and scrape similarly. Repeat until the ceiling is complete. Allow the ceiling to dry, removing your shoes if you exit the room to avoid tracking the mess into the rest of the house.

  • Sand over the entire ceiling once it's dry. Use a belt sander, other electrical sander, or sand by hand as desired. Avoid gouging the ceiling; your aim is to ensure that any clinging specks of spackle or texture are removed, leaving the ceiling surface smooth.

  • Pull the plastic sheeting off the walls. Gather it, and the floor plastic, carefully, wadding or rolling it up to ensure all the mess is contained in the sheeting. Throw the plastic away and rinse your tools off with warm, soapy water to complete the textured spackle removal.

Tips & Warnings

  • Repair you ceiling as necessary before refinishing it. Sand smooth and spread a thin coat of spackle. Smooth the patch by sanding, then apply an additional layer of spackle. Repeat, spreading it out wider and wider each time to feather the application, followed by sanding again, until smooth.
  • Prime the ceiling and repaint as desired.
  • Some paints can prevent the texture from absorbing water, which aids in this method of removal. If the spackle doesn't seem to grow soggy, resort to knocking the texture as smooth as possible with your tool, then sanding the bulk away.
  • Wear goggles, face masks and similar protective wear during removal. Avoid breathing the dust.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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