Removing old wallpaper can be a tedious and time-consuming task, but it doesn’t have to be with the right preparation and techniques. Here is a step-by-step guide to removing wallpaper efficiently in just 4 key steps:

Gather the Proper Tools and Materials

Before starting any wallpaper removal project, it’s important to have the proper tools and materials on hand. This will make the entire process much easier. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Wallpaper steamer – This softens the adhesive behind the paper so it’s easier to remove. Choose an electric steamer for large projects.
  • Scraper or putty knife – Use a taping knife with a 4-6 inch blade to scrape off wallpaper.
  • Chemical wallpaper stripper – Used for stubborn areas where steam alone doesn’t work.
  • Hot water – Have a bucket of very hot water and clean rags on hand. This will be useful for soaking paper.
  • Protective gear – Wear old clothes, gloves and safety goggles to protect yourself.
  • Ladder – Use a sturdy ladder to reach all areas of the wall safely.
  • Drop cloths – Cover the floor with plastic sheets to catch fallen paper debris.
  • Primer – A fast drying primer designed for walls will be needed after you strip the paper.
  • Sandpaper – Lightly sand the walls after removing paper to smooth them.
  • Spackle or joint compound – To patch holes and imperfections on the walls after old paper is gone.

Gathering supplies in advance means you can start stripping wallpaper quickly without having to stop and search for tools. Have everything ready the day before beginning work.

Prepare the Work Area

Once you have all the necessary tools, take time to prepare the room or work area. Here are some tips for prep work:

  • Clear the room out as much as possible – Remove furniture so you can access the entire wall area.
  • Cover floors and furniture – Use plastic drop cloths to protect floors, plus towels or blankets over any furniture.
  • Ventilate the room – Open windows and use fans or dehumidifiers to keep air circulating.
  • Remove wall plates – Take off light switch covers, outlet covers and vent covers carefully.
  • Patch holes and flaws – Use spackle to fill any holes, cracks or imperfections before stripping paper.
  • Clean the walls – Wipe walls down with a sponge and cleaner like TSP to remove dirt and grease.

Thorough prep work makes the wallpaper removal much cleaner and easier. It also protects your floors, furniture and belongings from damage.

Step 1 – Soak the Wallpaper

Once the room is prepped, it’s time to tackle the wallpaper itself. Start by lightly soaking the paper using either your steamer or hot water:

Use a Steamer

  • Fill the steamer reservoir with water and turn it on. Wait for it to fully heat up and start steaming.
  • Holding the nozzle 6-12 inches from the wall, apply steam continuously over the papered area. Move the nozzle slowly to soak paper evenly.
  • Concentrate on seams and edges first where paper is loosened easily by steam.
  • Resoak sections that lift up or bubble – aim steam under loose edges to penetrate adhesive underneath.
  • Avoid oversoaking which can damage the drywall underneath. Take your time and lift paper once adhesive softens.

Apply Hot Water

  • Boil several pots of water and dip clean rags into the very hot liquid. Make sure it’s hot but not scalding.
  • Press the hot rags against papered walls, holding for 20-30 seconds. Move rags around to moisten seams.
  • Re-dip rags in hot water once they cool. Continuing applying hot, moist rags over areas.
  • Focus on loosening edges, corners and seams by pressing rags firmly under them.

Soaking with steamer or hot water is key to softening the adhesive for easy removal in step 2. Spend plenty of time saturating the entire surface before scraping.

Step 2 – Gently Scrape Off the Wallpaper

After thoroughly soaking the paper, start gently scraping it off using your putty knife or scraper tool:

  • Hold tool at approx. 30 degree angle and scrape in direction of seams first. Apply light pressure.
  • Once seams open up, you can start scraping off larger sections moving the tool in all directions.
  • Scrape off paper in small sections of 2ft x 2ft at a time to control mess on floor.
  • Apply more steam or hot water to any stubborn areas before scraping again.
  • Take your time and don’t gouge into the drywall. Stop if scraping becomes too difficult.
  • Remove pieces carefully as you work to avoid tearing the paper. Ball up and dispose debris.
  • Wipe off excess adhesive residue using hot water rags as you go over areas.

Go slowly to avoid damaging walls as you scrape. Take breaks often to give your arms a rest. It may take a few scraping sessions to fully strip walls.

Step 3 – Apply Chemical Stripper for Stubborn Areas

For any areas where wallpaper won’t budge, apply a chemical stripper:

  • Choose a stripper like Dif or Chomp and read directions carefully before using.
  • Spread a thick layer of the gel stripper directly onto the paper using a paintbrush or roller.
  • Let the chemical sit for 15-30 minutes until adhesive dissolves. Reapply as needed.
  • Once paper bubbles up, use scraper to gently lift it off in pieces. Take care when using chemicals.
  • Wear gloves, mask and eye protection when handling stripper. Ventilate room very well and take breaks.

Chemical strippers are very effective but can be harsh and take longer. Limit use only to small stubborn sections.

Step 4 – Wash Off Adhesive Residue

Once all the wallpaper is scraped off, there will still be a sticky paste-like residue left on walls:

  • Mix a solution of hot water and dish soap or TSP substitute in a bucket. Soak clean rags.
  • Wring rags out well and wash wall sections to remove residue. Change rinse water often.
  • Alternatively use a sponge mop dampened with hot, soapy water to wash residue. Rinse mop frequently.
  • Don’t leave any adhesive behind or it will affect paint adhesion later. Keep rinsing rags until walls are clean.
  • Use a grout sponge and more hot water to tackle thick clumps of adhesive residue.
  • Allow walls time to fully dry once cleaned before moving on to prime and paint.

Proper clean up and removal of all adhesive residue is one of the most important steps for success. Take time to do it right.

Tips for Removing Wallpaper Successfully

Follow these handy tips and tricks to ensure your wallpaper removal project goes smoothly:

  • Always start stripping in an inconspicuous corner or closet area first. Get the hang of techniques before moving to visible wall space.
  • For textured or heavily embossed papers, use a scoring tool to rough up the surface first before steaming and scraping.
  • When dealing with multiple layers of paper, remove each layer separately using the same process.
  • If the water or steamer don’t penetrate well at first, try making small holes in paper using an awl for better absorption.
  • Wear old shoes or booties with good traction to avoid slipping on wet floors and ladders. Work carefully.
  • Play music in the room to make the tedious work more enjoyable and help time pass quickly.
  • Open windows and use fans liberally to keep humidity levels down as you work. High humidity can hinder drying.
  • Take your time. Rushing the process usually leads to tearing drywall or leaving adhesive behind. Slow and steady does it.
  • If needed, rent or borrow tools to make the job easier. Wallpaper steamer rentals are inexpensive from home improvement stores.

With some determination and the right techniques, you can completely strip wallpaper and leave walls pristine. Use these steps and tips for the best results.

FAQs About Removing Wallpaper

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about removing wallpaper:

How long does it take to remove wallpaper?

On average it takes 20-30 minutes per wall to soak, scrape off paper, and clean adhesive residue. Work time depends on wall size, layers of paper, and how stubborn it is to remove. Budget several hours to over a day for an entire room.

What’s the easiest way to remove wallpaper?

Using a steamer is easiest because it softens adhesive fast. Scrape gently once softened and repeat soaking as needed. Avoid scoring or perforating paper which takes longer.

What removes old wallpaper adhesive?

Hot water mixed with dish soap, TSP or vinegar works very well to remove adhesive residue after scraping off paper. Avoid chemical strippers for residue since they can damage drywall.

Can I paint over wallpaper?

It’s not advisable to paint directly over wallpaper. Layers of paper need to be removed for paint to properly adhere. The texture of paper will also show through the new paint if not stripped first.

What stripping tool works best?

A 4 to 6 inch taping knife or drywall scraper with a sharp edge works very well. Plastic scraper tools with adjustable blade widths are ideal for big projects.

How do I avoid damaging drywall when removing wallpaper?

Always soak paper thoroughly before scraping to soften adhesive. Scrape gently at a low angle using light pressure. Re-soak and take your time rather than gouging or tearing paper forcibly.

What type of primer should I use after removing wallpaper?

Use an interior latex wall primer designed for newly stripped walls such as Zinsser’s Shieldz. The fast drying primer will lock in any residual adhesive.

Can I wallpaper over existing wallpaper?

It’s best to take the time to remove existing paper first since layers weaken adhesion. But if walls are properly prepared, you can wallpaper over 1 existing flat layer in good condition.

Removing Wallpaper Summary

Removing old, outdated wallpaper takes some work but restores walls to a like-new condition for fresh paint or new wallpaper. By following these essential steps, you can take on this project yourself and achieve beautiful results:

  1. Gather the right tools – steamer, scraper, chemicals, ladder etc.
  2. Prep the work area thoroughly before starting.
  3. Soak paper thoroughly with steamer or hot water to activate adhesive.
  4. Gently scrape off paper in sections once softened and moistened.
  5. Use chemical stripper only for very stubborn areas that won’t budge.
  6. Wash all adhesive residue off fully with hot, soapy water.
  7. Prime walls and finish with paint or new wallpaper you love!

Remove wallpaper systematically from start to finish and avoid rushing or skipping any steps. With the proper prep work, tools and techniques, you can take on this project and transform the look of any room.