How To Remove Old Wallpaper
Read our handy guide on how to remove stubborn wallpaper to make your decorating to-do list a little easier.
How hard is wallpaper to remove? Well, the truth is it can be very labour-intensive. Especially if you don't have the right tools or the best tips to hand. We've spent many hours redecorating our own homes, not to mention our photography backdrop which gets updated regularly to photograph our new products. This often involves removing wallpaper and reapplying a new design, so over the years we've got our redecorating know-how down to a tee! If you've been putting off your own redecorating project because of the dreaded wallpaper removal, then this guide is for you. Or perhaps you're a decorating novice looking to get stuck into an overhaul of your home. Either way, read on for our tried and tested guide on how to remove wallpaper.
The Basics - What you will need:
- Dust Sheets
- Masking Tape
- Old clothes or overalls
- Gloves (rubber or vinyl are fine)
- Wallpaper scraper (10 cm wide if possible)
- Orbital scorer
- Dry cloth
- Large sponge
- Dustpan and brush or broom
- Bin liners
- Ready-mixed wallpaper removing solution
- (Wallpaper Steamer - for option 2 only)
It's All in The Prep
Have you heard the saying 'failing to prepare is preparing to fail'? Well, this is certainly true when it comes to removing your old wallpaper. Ensuring that you have perfectly prepped walls means that your new wallpaper will go on smoothly and without unsightly air bubbles or creases. If you're planning to paint, then preparing your walls will make your work last longer and give a higher standard of finish. Clear your walls and what you can in the room, moving the rest into the centre of the room. Cover over any flooring and furniture that you'd like to protect using dust sheets and masking tape.
Next, make sure you're wearing old clothes or get a set of overalls along with some gloves to protect your hands.
Option 1 - Wallpaper Removing Solution
This method is ideal for small areas or if have just a single layer of wallpaper to remove. Ready-made solutions will be available in your local hardware shop or DIY store. You can make up your own solution using water and washing up liquid, but the ready-made versions are more effective. This works by breaking down the adhesive on the wallpaper making it come away from the wall. Cover wall sockets and electrical points and take care of drips when applying the solution to your walls. If you can turn off your electric completely we recommend that you do.
Score your wallpaper with the orbital scorer which will allow the better absorption of the solution. You don't need to press too hard as the aim is to lightly cut the surface of the wallpaper but not damage the plaster underneath. If you have mixed your wallpaper removing solution in a bucket, use the sponge to apply the solution to your walls. Allow this to soak in for a few minutes or as directed on the packet instructions.
When you're ready to start scraping away your old wallpaper, start with small movements to get it started and try to keep the scraper as flat to the wall as possible. This will limit any damage to the wall underneath but be aware of the corners digging into the plaster. Keep the wallpaper damp and reapply the solution repeatedly as needed. Gather up the old wallpaper from the floor while it's still damp as it can stick to surfaces if left to dry out for too long.
You will notice a residue left behind on the wall from the excess adhesive. Run the solution back over and get rid of any last remaining bits of paper. Then use clean water and a sponge to wipe the walls and remove as much of the residue as possible. Lastly, use your dry cloth to wipe the walls and remove any moisture. Once completely dry, you can fill in any holes or damage and then you are ready to redecorate!
Option 2 - Using a Steamer to Remove Wallpaper
Great for removing stubborn wallpaper, using an electric steamer can cover large areas and work on even the most tricky types of wallpaper, such as woodchip. You can hire a steamer locally, or if you have lots of renovation work to do, we'd recommend investing in one as you will use it again and again. The steamer works by penetrating your wallpaper with a hot stream which softens the adhesive on your wallpaper and helps it to come away from the wall. It is more difficult to protect electrical points from steam so we'd recommend that you switch off your electricity if you use this method.
Follow the instructions for the steamer and keep the room well ventilated at all times. Depending on how difficult or stubborn your wallpaper is to remove, try holding the steamer plate over a section for 10 seconds. It may need slightly longer if you have several layers or if you are removing woodchip. However, be careful not to steam for too long as this can damage the plaster underneath which will call for a bigger repair job. Once you have the timing nailed, work in sections to remove your old wallpaper. Work from the bottom of the wall up as the steam will rise and start to soften the section ahead for you. Remember to keep the scraper as flat as possible to avoid damaging the walls.
Keep on top of clearing away the old wallpaper from the floor as it may start to stick to surfaces if it begins to dry. You will notice a slight residue on the walls after you have finished removing all the wallpaper. To get rid of this use a sponge and wallpaper removing solution to wash down the walls. Follow this with clean water and a clean sponge and wipe down with your dry cloth. Use filler to repair any damage to the walls and then you're ready to redecorate.
If you have a particularly old property you may come across several layers of wallpaper from over the years which is all part of the fun! Don't forget to document your project with before, during, and after photos. Looking back at these will give you a great sense of achievement. If you're struggling with ideas for your redecorating project, why not join our Interior Advice Group on Facebook? You can put it to the group and get some fabulous ideas from our supportive community of interior design lovers! Alternatively, grab yourself a copy of Jane and Lucy's best selling Interior Design books 'Extraordinary Interiors: Showstopping Looks for Beautiful Rooms' and 'Extraordinary Interiors in Colour'.