How to Remove Even the Most Difficult Wallpaper

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Did you inherit a layer of dingy old wallpaper from your home's previous owners? Or perhaps you finally outgrew the pattern that you yourself hung in the 80s. Whatever the case may be, you can easily rectify the situation with just a weekend's worth of work. Here you'll learn the step-by-step process and find a list of supplies for removing wallpaper, and then find out how to best paint over the finished, clean walls.

Image Credit: Carrie Waller

Things You'll Need

  • Putty knife

  • Sponge

  • Bucket

  • Fabric softener

  • Trash bags

  • Chemical wallpaper stripper spray

  • Drywall spackle

  • Sandpaper (rough 120-grit and fine 240-grit)

  • Microfiber towel

  • Vacuum cleaner

  • Painter's tape

  • Interior latex paint

  • Paint brush and/or paint roller

  • Paint tray

Step 1: Peel Back the First Layer of Wallpaper

Find the edge of one strip of the wallpaper and slip your fingernail or the blade of a putty knife under the paper. Gently peel it back at a 45-degree angle until the paper starts to come off in sheets. If the wallpaper was laid correctly in the first place, the sheets should be fairly large in size and easy to peel off. If, however, the wallpaper was poorly installed, the sheets may be smaller. Continue to work around the room, peeling off sheets of the old wallpaper. When finished, clean up the peeled wallpaper strips and discard in a trash bag.

Image Credit: Carrie Waller


If the wallpaper is stubborn, try scoring the top of the paper with a handheld wallpaper perforator tool before attempting to peel it back. A steamer may be used for particularly difficult paper removal. Simply steam one section at a time and peel the heated paper back from the wall.

Step 2: Soak the Bottom Layer of Paper

Fill a bucket with two parts warm water and one part fabric softener, and dip a sponge into the mixture. Squeeze excess water from sponge so that it's damp. Working in small sections, soak the bottom layer of paper with the liquid mixture. Allow it to soak for about a minute.

Image Credit: Carrie Waller

Step 3: Scrape or Peel Off the Bottom Layer of Paper

Quickly go back over the soaked paper with a putty knife to scrape it all off. Work your way around the room until all of the wallpaper and under paper have been removed. Clean up and discard the paper in a trash bag.

Image Credit: Carrie Waller

Step 4: Spray the Remaining Glue Down with a Chemical Stripper

Spray down any remaining wallpaper adhesive still left on the wall with a chemical stripper specially formulated for wallpaper glue removal. Follow the instructions on you particular bottle, but generally, you'll want to spray the walls down in small sections, and allow it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Go back with a putty knife and scrape off any remaining adhesive. When finished, wipe down the walls with a clean sponge and a fresh bucket of warm water.

Image Credit: Carrie Waller

Step 5: Spackle the Holes in the Cleaned Wall

Use a clean putty knife to fill in any holes or rough patches left by the wallpaper removal process with drywall spackle. Allow the spackle to dry for 30 minutes, and sand it flat with rough 120-grit sandpaper. Then go back and respackle the holes with more spackle, allow it to dry for 30 minutes, and sand with a fine 240-grit sandpaper until smooth. Wipe the walls down with a clean microfiber towel and vacuum up any dust and debris.

Image Credit: Carrie Waller

Step 6: Paint the Room with a Fresh Coat of Paint

Tape off the ceiling and any non-painted surfaces. Pour interior latex paint into a clean paint tray, and use a brush to cut in the edges of a small section of the room. Use a paint roller to finish the area. Continue around the room, cutting in areas small enough that you can roll the remainder before the edges dry.

Allow the paint to dry for one hour and repeat with additional coats of paint until the color is even. Allow the final coat to dry overnight. Remove any tape.

Image Credit: Carrie Waller

Step 7: Put the Room Back Together

Once the paint has fully cured and the space is cleaned of dust and debris, replace the furniture and accessories.

Image Credit: Carrie Waller