Fixer-Upper Fridays: Removing Wallpaper

I’m proud to say that my house is now wallpaper-free (well, except for some closets – yes, even the closets were covered with wallpaper!)! If you are house shopping and fall in love with a house that is covered in wallpaper, don’t let it scare you away. Removing wallpaper is a huge pain, but there are some tricks that can make the job easier. When you remove wallpaper from 11 rooms, you kind of become an expert at it. I may not be an expert at farming, but I am an expert at removing wallpaper. Here’s how…

What you’ll need:

Wallpaper steamer (optional, but makes things WAY easier)




Fabric Softener


Garbage Bags

Duct Tape

Protect your floors    You’re protecting your floor from the water and from the wallpaper. When you scrape off the wallpaper, it will still have some glue on the back of it. If the wallpaper then dries to your floor, it will need to be scraped off. I learned this the hard way – I did not cover the floor in my boys’ bedroom so when I was done, I had small pieces of paper stuck to the floor. Not only did I have to scrape wallpaper off the walls, but I then had to spend a couple hours scraping the floor. What a pain! Cut garbage bags down 2 sides so it opens to form a rectangle. Lay bags on the floor against floor trim. I then secure it with duct tape, although after a while the duct tape will lose its adhesiveness due to the steam and water. You can use painting tarps or old sheets for covering too. I prefer to use garbage bags because then I can let the paper fall to the floor and then just gather the trash bags and throw them away.

Score the wallpaper    The first step is to score the wallpaper. You can buy a wallpaper scorer, but honestly I think these are a waste of money. They break very easily and you can use a scraper to score just as well. I use the corner of the scraper to cut tic-tac-toe-like patterns all over the paper. Be careful – if you press too hard with the scraper then you will cut into the drywall/plaster. Press just hard enough to cut the paper.


Soak the wallpaper    In a bucket make a solution of water and fabric softener. You’ll use 3 parts water and 1 part fabric softener. I tried every solution in the book, including the store-bought wallpaper remover chemicals. Fabric softener in water was the best, hands down. An added bonus – your house will smell so lovely. 🙂 Using a sponge, soak the walls with the solution (I also tried using a paint roller but it didn’t work as well. It just didn’t get the wall wet enough. A sponge is best). Allow the solution to soak for 15 minutes.


Steam and Scrape    I bought a wallpaper steamer for $50 at Lowes and it was SO worth the investment. If you have a lot of paper to remove then I highly recommend either borrowing or buying a steamer. The brand I have is Wagner and it worked very well. Plug the steamer in while your walls are soaking because it will take about 15-20 minutes for the steamer to get hot enough. Once the steamer starts making popping sounds, you’re ready to roll. Hold the steamer against the wall for 5 seconds or so and then test the paper to see if it will easily scrape off. If it doesn’t, then you may need to hold the steam to the wall for longer or soak the wall with the fabric softener solution again. Move the steamer up the wall as you scrape the paper off. In some of my rooms, the wallpaper just fell off the walls. In other rooms I was not so lucky and had to do tons of scraping.


Wash the Walls    This was the messiest part. Once the wallpaper was removed, there was still a ton of glue that remained on the walls. Drywall mud or paint will not adhere to the glue, so you must wash as much of the glue off as you can. For most of my walls, I had to go back through with the steamer and steam/scrape the glue off (a pain in the butt!). For some of my walls, a simple scrubdown with the sponge was good enough.

And here is a pretty dramatic Before & After of my dining room…


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