Wallpaper Removal Using Fabric Softener and Water

gloved hand peeling back wallpaper
What You'll Need
Fabric softener
Spray bottle
Paint spatula
Utility knife

Wallpaper removal can be a tedious chore, but it's one that’s entirely necessary when you’re redecorating a room. It’s especially hard work in an older house where there can be many layers of wallpaper to take off. Steamers and removal solutions can be expensive and damaging to your walls, but there is an easier and cheaper way to remove wallpaper using only fabric softener and water.

Step 1 - Hand Strip

Start by taking off as much of the old wallpaper as you can by hand. Grab one corner and just pull to see how much you can remove; the more you take off this way, the simpler your job will be later. Work your way across the wall or around the room, removing as much as you can on the way.

Step 2 - Prime

man stripping wallpaper off the wall

You need to prime any paper that's left on the wall. To do this, take your utility knife and make cuts in the wallpaper. Go through just one or two layers. The cuts need to be in a criss-cross shape and fairly close together so that you get obtain optimum effect with your homemade solution. Follow this up by washing down the walls with a sponge that’s soaked in the hottest water your hands can stand. This will loosen the paste on the wallpaper which keeps it in place. This will make the wallpaper removal much easier later on.

Wait several minutes for the hot water to work on the adhesive. The adhesive should bubble a little and the wallpaper should begin to peel away of its own accord. Pull off what you can and repeat the application of hot water several times.

When you’ve pulled off as much as you can, take a paint spatula and scrape off more of the paper. The simplest way to do this is to put the spatula under some of the peeling paper and scrape downwards. You won’t take off all the wallpaper this way but you’ll often manage to remove the majority of it.

Step 3 - Fabric Softener

man scraping away wallpaper

To use the fabric softener, you need to mix it into a solution that’s one part fabric softener to one part water. Put this into a spray bottle and spray onto the wallpaper, soaking it thoroughly. Use the sponge to make sure the entire wall is covered with the solution. If you prefer, you can distribute the solution with a paint roller which will give more even coverage. Wait 15 minutes for the solution to soak through the wallpaper all the way through to the adhesive. After this, begin scraping with your paint spatula. You’ll find that wallpaper removal becomes very easy with this tool.

Be sure that you not only take off the wallpaper, but also the adhesive that’s underneath it. This might require another application of the solution in some areas. When the wallpaper and adhesive removal is complete, allow the wall to completely dry. Note that before you put new wallpaper or paint on the wall, you’ll need to first apply a neutralizing solution.

WARNING: Fabric softener is toxic to pets and potentially toxic for humans to breathe in. Keep pets and children away while using it and wear a respirator mask while mixing and applying it.