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Remove Wallpaper in Tricky Situations

Remove Wallpaper

Removing old wallpaper is an essential part of surface preparation for a new paint or wallpaper job. If you're lucky, the old wallpaper you encounter will be the strippable type that peels off the walls easily. But you're not always lucky. In older houses, wallpaper can be stubborn. Use water, steam or one of several commercial mixtures to loosen the adhesive and peel away the paper. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

Preparing the Wallpaper for Removal

Before using any method to dissolve the glue holding the paper in place, you must score the paper. Vinyl or other non-porous paper will not absorb any removal product, so you must make tiny cuts in the paper to let the product soak in. Even porous paper will remove easier when it is scored.

Specialty scoring tools are available to make the process faster. Though it might be tempting to use a knife or saw, those tools are more likely to damage the wall underneath the paper. Score all over the paper to be removed, paying attention to the corners and edges of the wall.

Removing the Wallpaper

When the paper is scored, you have several choices of removal aids:


Water, or water mixed with common household products such as mild detergent, will loosen the glue on some papers. Try plain water first, and if that doesn't work, switch to 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water, or a 50-50 mixture of water and liquid fabric softener.

  • Apply the liquid with a paint roller brush, a sponge or a garden sprayer, letting it soak in thoroughly before carefully peeling away the paper.
  • To increase the amount of liquid that permeates the wallpaper, soak newspapers in the liquid, then press them against the wall. When you peel them away later, the paper should start to come off with them.

Chemical Wallpaper Removers

Chemical wallpaper removers function the same way as the water mixtures above, but are stronger. Mix and use according to manufacturer's directions and apply using one of the same tools.

  • Be sure to protect your hands with sturdy rubber gloves when working with chemicals.
  • Some chemical removers are liquid, and others come in a colored gel form to help you see where you have applied the material and what areas still need treating.
  • Do a small section of the wall at a time, because the remover must not dry on the wall before you peel the paper away. When all traces of paper and glue have been removed, put on rubber gloves and wash the residue off the walls with hot soapy water or TSP. Let the walls dry completely before moving on.
Whether you use a water mixture or a chemical, don't rush it. Give it enough time to work properly and you won't have to do as much scraping.

Wallpaper Steamer

A wallpaper steamer will loosen stubborn glue, allowing you to peel the paper away. The steamer includes a flat face-plate that you press to the wall, allowing steam to permeate the scored marks and melt away the adhesive.

  • Steaming takes time, so work patiently. You may have to go over some sections twice to get all the glue and old paper removed. Don't move the steamer around the walls too quickly. Instead, steam each small section of wall thoroughly and peel the paper away before moving on to the next area.
  • Be careful when using a steamer near electrical switches and outlets or around delicate trim and woodworking details.
  • The surface of the wall will be soft when it is steamed, so take care not to gouge it when you peel and scrape the old paper away.
Wallpaper that has been painted over in the past will not absorb steam or chemical removers well - even if you score it first. For those situations, you'll have to scrape the paper away by hand.
It's important not to use too much pressure when scraping, because a heavy hand can damage the wall underneath the paper. Start in a corner and work your way into open areas when you have the hang of it.

Get the Right Amount of Paint