How to remove wallpaper

How to remove wallpaper

Stripping wallpaper is a tough, messy job. Using the right materials (chemicals and tools) and the best process can make it much more tolerable.


Having the right materials is important in stripping wallpaper quickly and effectively. The right materials can literally slash hours of hard work from a job. The products described below are usually displayed together at your local hardware store, making them easy to find and relatively inexpensive. Here is a quick list of what you need:

  1. Chemical stripper
  2. Wallpaper scoring tool
  3. Wallpaper scraper and plenty of extra blades
  4. Drop cloth
  5. Household cleaner
  6. Sponges and rags and/or spray bottles

First of all, you need a good chemical stripper to apply to the wall before and during stripping. There are gel and liquid forms of these chemicals; both varieties seem to work well. Follow product directions to determine how much chemical you will need for a particular job.

A few tools make stripping wallpaper much quicker and easier. To prepare surfaces for stripping, get a scoring tool. Scoring tools, usually round and small enough to be gripped in one hand, make tiny rips in the wallpaper, preparing it for chemical application. A specialized wallpaper scraper and plenty of spare blades are a must once you actually start scraping. Blades will dull quickly, so having plenty of spares saves time and sore muscles over the course of a job.

Stripping wallpaper can be messy. It is best to have a drop cloth down before starting the process. After scraping the wallpaper, a bucket of ordinary household cleaner and some sponges or rags are needed to clean off additional paste left on the surface. If you decide to get the gel form of the chemical stripper, sponges and rags are a good way to apply it. If you decide to get the liquid form of the stripper, a spray bottle is a good way to apply the product.

The Process

Like obtaining the correct materials, using those materials within the best process cuts hours from the job. Here is a brief summary of the steps for stripping wallpaper. A more detailed description follows.

  1. Clean and cover the area.
  2. Score the entire surface.
  3. Apply the chemical stripper. (Follow manufacturer’s instructions.)
  4. Wait for the stripper to act.
  5. Scrape off the wallpaper.
  6. Clean off excess paste from surfaces.
  7. Recondition surfaces (optional).

First, prepare the work area by removing all furniture and other obstructions and by putting down a drop cloth. Taking these precautions beforehand will eliminate time-consuming cleaning later on.

Second, use the scoring tool to prepare the surface for chemical application. Hold the tool in the palm of the hand and move it in a circular motion across the entire surface.

Third, apply the chemical stripper. If using the gel form of stripper (see materials section), use the product right out of the container, and apply it directly to the surface with a sponge or cloth. If using the liquid form of stripper, mix the product according to its instructions and apply it with a spray bottle and/or a sponge or cloth. Always read and follow the instructions of the particular product you are using.

Fourth, wait for the stripper to act. For really tough jobs, it is a good idea to wait one day and apply chemicals again before moving to the fifth step. The gel form of chemical stripper will dry out after about a half hour but can be “re-activated” by moistening with a spray bottle or sponge before scraping.

Fifth, scrape off the wallpaper. Use the wallpaper scraper at about a 45-degree angle. Try to pull the wallpaper in as big of sheets as possible. It is nice to have a spray bottle of chemical solution handy to apply to stubborn spots. Make sure to scrape all layers of paper and backing; sometimes the backing can look very similar to the wall’s bare surface.

Sixth, clean off the remaining substances from the surface. Use a warm solution of household cleaner to remove residual wallpaper paste. Be sure to have your wallpaper scraper handy to get additional pieces remaining on the surface.

Seventh, recondition the surfaces for painting (optional). If you want to paint the surfaces, chances are that they will need some repair. Fill in the holes and chips with some drywall and a putty knife, wait for it to dry, and sand it smooth. Repeat application on larger areas.

Congratulations, you have successfully completed your job! Enjoy your beautiful new surfaces, and be sure to save all of your extra materials for next time.