How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling Texture How to Remove Popcorn Ceiling Texture

Popular in decades past, a popcorn ceiling texture is no longer considered stylish. In fact, removing it can be one of the most basic things you can do to update your decor. Though simple in concept, taking down a popcorn ceiling can be backbreaking and hazardous labor. Following these steps will minimize the work and reduce your exposure to harmful dust.

Tools and Materials Needed:

multipurpose sprayer (about 2 gallons)

small spray bottle


liquid dish detergent

small plastic storage bag

putty knife

6- or 8-inch drywall finishing knife

rolls of polyethylene plastic sheeting

duct tape


HEPA respirator


rubber gloves

rubber boots


large trash bags

Step 1 - Take a Sample and Get It Tested

Early spray-on popcorn textures contained asbestos. Also, many old popcorn ceilings have been painted and repainted in layers of lead-based paint. For your safety, it's a good idea take a small amount of the texture material and have it tested for asbestos and lead. There are laboratories that test specifically for these chemicals, and you can contact them using the yellow pages of your phone book or by researching online. To take a sample, use a spray bottle of water with a very small amount of detergent to wet various areas of the ceiling around the room. Gently scrape off bits of the ceiling texture with a putty knife and enclose the scrapings in a small plastic bag. If the laboratory finds that it contains dangerous amounts of asbestos or lead, you need to contact a professional to remove it. If the sample is considered safe, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 2 - Check Your Ceiling's Ability to Soak Up Water

If your ceiling has been painted at some point, it may not absorb enough water for you to remove it safely. Check this by wetting part of the ceiling with a spray bottle using a weak detergent solution. Repeat spraying every five minutes until twenty minutes have elapsed. Scrape off a sample of the texture and make sure that it absorbed the solution and is wet. If it did not absorb the liquid, chances are you will create a lot of fine dust particles during removal. Asbestos risks aside, the fine dust is extremely hard to clean and control. In that situation, it would be easier and safer for you simply to paint your popcorn ceiling and avoid the headache.

Step 3 - Contain the Work Area

Using duct tape and plastic sheeting, separate off the work area so that dust cannot enter other rooms. Hang sections of plastic to form a wall if you need to divide a room. Layer every wall in plastic to keep dust off of them. Place two layers of plastic on the floor, since one layer will help you dispose of the waste while keeping the floor protected with the other. Turn off air conditioning and heating units to prevent the air from circulating the dust.

Step 4 - Put On Personal Protective Equipment

Even asbestos-free dust can be harmful to your body. Wear a HEPA-rated respirator, rubber boots and gloves, and coveralls.

Step 5 - Spray the Ceiling

Use a weak detergent and water solution in a 2-gallon sprayer to thoroughly saturate the ceiling. Wait about twenty minutes for it to fully soak in.

Step 6 - Scrape Away

Scrape the popcorn texture off with a six-inch or eight-inch drywall finishing knife. Allow it to fall freely to the plastic layer on the floor. Continue until all of the texture is removed.

Step 7 - Contain the Waste

Carefully fold up the scrapings into the top layer of the floor plastic. Dispose of the waste in large trash bags. Wipe down tools with damp rags. After the visible debris is gone, remove the plastic from the walls and the last layer from the floor. Dispose of these in trash bags as well. Carefully wipe dust from your protective equipment with a fresh damp rag before removing it.

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