The Best Way to Remove Wallpaper

A wall with wallpaper stripped off onto the floor with the words, "8 Steps to perfect wallpaper removal."
What You'll Need
Plastic sheets and/or garbage bags
Putty knife
Scoring tool
Rubber gloves
Warm water
Gel stripper
Joint compound

Removing old wallpaper from your walls may seem like a troublesome task, but you can make the job easier and less time consuming by taking some preparatory steps. Your walls will be beautifully bare and begging for paint.

The job of taking down old wallpaper is, without a doubt, a day-long, dirty one. Be sure to schedule this task on a weekend when you have no other commitments. You will need the full 48 hours to get your walls prepared for a fresh coat paint or a new choice of paper.

Step 1- Prepare Your Room

Take down all the art and accessories from your walls. Place them in a safe place to protect them from any potential damage while you're working on the paper removal. Use a screwdriver to remove all of the outlet covers as well. (Tip: Tape the screws to the back of each cover so you won’t lose any of them.) Place all of your furniture in the center of the room and cover it with protective plastic.

Step 2 - Cover Your Floors and Trim

Use large garbage bags to cover the areas of your floor and trim that are connected to the walls where you're removing the paper. Take a pair of scissors and cut down one side and across the bottom of the bag. Open it up so that you have one large rectangular piece of plastic. Tape the plastic over the floor and trim to protect them from the mess you're about to create. Press firmly on the adhesive to ensure that the seal is watertight and no water can get onto your wood.

Step 3 - Remove the Paper Facing

Begin by removing the top layer of the wallpaper so that only the backing is left on the wall. This will make it easier to get water through the wallpaper, which you will apply in the next step. Start at the corner of a wall and lift the wallpaper's edge with a putty knife. Once you have a large piece lifted, pull up on the rest of the facing. Apply an even amount of pressure as you pull. Do not use any water for this step of the process. If the facing of the paper is too difficult to remove, carefully score it with a scoring tool. (These are available at most home hardware stores.) Be sure not to force the tool into the wall itself. This will lead to large scratches on the wall surface that will need to be repaired.

Step 4 - Apply Water

By soaking the backing of the wallpaper, the paste will become softer and easier to remove. Fill a bucket with very warm water and put on a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hand. Immerse a sponge into the water, but don't squeeze out any excess water from the sponge. Apply the warm water to a small part of the wall. Allow the water to absorb into the backing for about 15 minutes. You will know the backing is ready for removal when it begins to come away from the wall surface. At this point it should be possible to scrape the backing away with your fingernail.

Step 5 - Remove the Backing

Use the blade of your metal putty knife to carefully remove the backing. A rounded putty knife works best and reduces the chances of damaging the surface of the wall -- be sure not to make any scratches or small holes on the surface. Once the section you have soaked with water is free of any wallpaper, begin the process again in the next area until you have removed all of the backing from the entire wall.

Step 6 - Remove Stubborn Adhesive

If you find there is stubborn adhesive that isn't coming off of your wall, use a gel stripper to get the job done. Be sure to read the instructions provided by the manufacturer of the product before using it. Spray the gel stripper onto the adhesive and allow it to permeate the paste for about 20 minutes. Use your putty knife to remove the paste and the gel stripper. Apply warm clear water to the wall with your sponge to remove any remaining residue and then allow the surface to dry thoroughly.

Step 7 - Repair Your Walls

Use a joint compound to repair any scratches or small holes in your wall. Read the instructions provided by the manufacturer of the product before applying it to the wall. Use a putty knife to apply the compound and fix the damaged areas. Allow the compound to dry thoroughly, and then sand the areas down until the wall surface is smooth.

Step 8 - Prime Your Walls

When your walls have been properly repaired, you will need to prepare them for either more wallpaper or a coat of paint. Whether you are looking to use paper again or to paint, you will need to apply a primer to the surface. Visit your hardware store and speak with a representative about your project to get the best primer for this job. Make sure to ask about the best type of brushes to use for the application, too.