How to remove wallpaper border

How to remove wallpaper border
Tomas Hustoles

Wallpapering the walls of a room can be a good idea to give it a personal and sophisticated touch. However, the passage of time or changes in the preferences of the homeowners can lead to replacing the old wallpaper with a new one or with a few coats of paint.

Removing wallpaper borders from walls is not a quick or easy job, and it can take a whole weekend to get the surfaces smooth and clean again.

Prepare the environment safely

Before you start removing the coating, remember to take some safety measures, as the process can involve a lot of moisture. Therefore, turn off the electrical current in the room in question, precisely so that unexpected accidents do not happen. After all, we want to solve a problem, not leave room for another to appear, right?

After turning off the electricity, do a brief check on electrical points with a circuit tester (a tool easily found in building materials houses) to ensure that electrical current is not flowing into the outlets. In addition, it is also interesting to cover the switches with newspaper or masking tape so that water does not penetrate the place.

In case you do the process at night, a tip is to have a lamp that does not need electricity, as is the case of those that are powered by batteries; or use an extension cord to bring some light into the room you’re working in.

Test before removing the wallpaper border

If you don’t know what kind of paper you’re going to be dealing with, it can be very helpful to do a test run before starting the process. This way, removal will be easier and the technique chosen will be more efficient. Below, we list some characteristics so that you can identify the material used:

  • with the help of a spatula, pull one end of the paper. If you notice that it is smoothly sticking out of the wall, it is either a removable wallpaper or a non-woven wallpaper, which can be dry-peeled;
  • when you pull a corner of the paper and only one layer peels off easily, or even in parts, you are dealing with a detachable or traditional wallpaper, which will need more attention in its removal;
  • there is also waterproof or vinyl wallpaper, which has a protective layer on top. In this case, it is possible to remove this extra layer without much effort, however, the underside will need more care and effort.

After discovering your wallpaper model, how do you remove it and ensure a more effective removal?

Remove a Wallpaper border

It is the careful preparation of the wall that determines the quality of the final result. All objects and Wallpaper borders must be removed from the walls in advance, fasteners removed, furniture removed from the room, or moved away from the walls. 

To remove the old wallpaper border, soften the adhesive composition. To do this, moisten the old wallpaper with plenty of water using a sponge, roller, or spray gun. The soaked canvas is pulled off with a spatula or scraper. Next, you can remove the wallpaper border with your hands – you just need to pull the edge and tear off the strip from the wall. To increase the effectiveness of peeling, I recommend adding a little detergent to the water.

The situation is more complicated with vinyl and non-woven coatings. Water itself will not pass through an impermeable film. Before removing wallpaper of this type, you should walk over the entire surface with a needle-type roller. It will create a perforation – through small holes, water can penetrate under the wallpaper and soften the glue. With very strong adhesion, it is recommended to treat the wall surface with hot steam before perforating.

Use water and fabric softener for a faster process

The most used technique to remove the wallpaper border involves just three items: water, sprayer or paint roller, and spatula. Some people prefer to mix a little fabric softener together with the water so that the paper softens completely, but this is up to you, as the use of the product is optional.

The first thing you should do is spray or wet the paint roller and pass it on the wall as a whole until you notice that the paper is very damp. It is worth mentioning that the wetter the paper is, the easier it will be to remove it. Otherwise, small pieces may stick together and your work will be redoubled.

After the entire length of the wall is wet, wait for the water to penetrate for some time — between 10 and 15 minutes — into the material. Then, just push the spatula carefully under the paper, without scraping it, so that the wall remains in perfect condition.

This process can even be done on waterproof wallpaper if the protective film on the top can be removed. So, after removing it, wet the bottom layer and gradually remove it.

Use steam for more complicated coatings

Steaming is also very suitable for removing the wallpaper border, especially in more complicated cases, such as surfaces with more than one coating glued on top of each other. The steam, when it comes into contact with the glue, detaches the coating from the surface and allows it to come off easily when pulled. 

If you choose this technique, it is recommended to start the work by applying the steamer in small parts, and removing the paper with a spatula while the process is carried out in other areas. The longer you let the steam work, the easier it will be to remove the paper.

The process can also be done with a hairdryer, for example. As the jet of hot air cooperates with the removal of the glue, the wallpaper will gradually loosen as you proceed. However, it is worth noting that it is very important to be careful and experienced when using this technique.

Remove the last traces of paper and adhesive using stripper

If after this work it is found that the walls still have some residue of wallpaper and glue, the cleaning can be completed by spraying with a stripping gel and then letting it rest for the time indicated by the manufacturer.

The gel-covered surface is then scraped until all stubborn paste has completely disappeared and then rinsed with water until the wall is soft and smooth to the touch.

Clean the surface and the room at the end

In addition, it is also interesting to clean the place where you are working – since the wallpaper glue can contain toxic residues that are harmful to health – and keep it ventilated for air circulation. Better safe than sorry, right?

Removing the wallpaper really requires patience and care so that the surface doesn’t spoil. So keep calm and do the work with delicacy. Some points can be considered to facilitate this process, such as using the specific glue when applying the coating and choosing the type of paper that best fits your lifestyle.