How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling With Vinegar

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Once praised for their acoustical benefit, today we consider popcorn ceilings an outdated architectural eyesore. Scraping the texture from the ceiling, though physically demanding, is a simple, economical solution that can add beauty and value to an old home in just a few days. Reduce the project time and save energy by using a vinegar solution instead of plain water to safely remove the old popcorn texture from the ceiling.

Warning

  • Do not attempt to remove popcorn ceiling texture in any home built before 1980 since it may contain the cancer-causing material asbestos. Contact an asbestos testing service to remove a sample from the ceiling and professionally test for asbestos. Only after receiving asbestos-free results is it considered safe to remove the popcorn texture from a ceiling yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Scissors or razor blade
  • Painter's tape
  • Ladder
  • Dust mask
  • Protective goggles
  • Garden sprayer
  • Dish soap
  • Vinegar
  • Putty knife
  • Joint compound
  • Hand trowel
  • Sanding block
  • Primer - made for wallboard
  • Texture sprayer
  • Paint sprayer
  • Hand roller
  • Latex paint

Step 1: Prepare the Room

Remove all furniture, accessories and loose rugs from the room you're working on. Close heating and cooling vents and turn off electricity to the room. Remove light fixtures and ceiling fans.

Step 2: Cover the Floor

Cover the floor with thick, plastic sheeting, extending it up each wall 1 or 2 feet and securing it with painter's tape. Cut pieces of plastic sheeting large enough to cover any uncovered electrical outlets and secure them with tape.

Step 3: Cover the Walls

Attach a strip of painter's tape ¼ inch below the ceiling around the perimeter of the room. Secure plastic sheeting to the walls by taping it to the previously laid tape on the wall, as suggested by home improvement expert Bob Vila.

Step 4: Mix the Solution

Fill a garden sprayer with hot water, adding a cup of vinegar and 7 tablespoons of dish soap per gallon of water. Pump the sprayer multiple times to pressurize the liquid for steady spraying.

Warning

  • Wear a dust mask and protective goggles when spraying, scraping or sanding to protect your eyes and lungs from loosened debris.


Step 5: Spray and Scrape

Working in 5-foot-square sections (5 feet by 5 feet), spray the ceiling until it is thoroughly wet, but not dripping. Allow the vinegar solution to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before scraping with a putty knife. For best results, hold the putty knife at a 30-degree angle and scrape gently, taking care not to gouge the ceiling. The knife should glide across the ceiling smoothly. If the ceiling texture is difficult to remove, wet it again and wait 10 additional minutes before scraping a second time.

Step 6: Wipe and Wait

Wipe any remaining loosened debris from the ceiling with a damp cloth. Allow the ceiling to dry for 24 hours.

Step 7: Repair Blemishes

Using long, steady strokes, apply joint compound with a putty knife to cover holes that may appear after you remove the popcorn texture. Wait at least 4 hours before sanding with a sanding sponge.

Step 8: Apply Wallboard Primer

Either by hand or with a paint sprayer for quicker application, cover the ceiling with a primer specifically made for use on wallboard. Allow to dry at least 4 hours before applying new texture or a final coat of paint.

Step 9: Add New Texture

Pour joint compound into a texture sprayer -- available for rent at most home improvement stores -- and adjust the air pressure according to the sprayer manual's specifications. Spray the texture on the ceiling, using long, sweeping strokes similar to those used when spray painting. Spray at a distance of 3 to 4 feet from the ceiling for optimal results, pausing periodically to look for bare spots to cover. Allow the texture to dry for 24 hours.

Tip

  • Save time and money by skipping the new texture and instead apply latex paint over the newly smoothed and primed ceiling.

Step 10: Apply Paint

Use a paint sprayer or a hand roller attached to a roller extender to apply latex paint to the ceiling. Take frequent breaks to inspect the ceiling and ensure even coverage.

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