Wallpaper Removal: 5 Cheap and Easy Methods

Someone removing wallpaper.
What You'll Need
Spray bottle
Scoring tool
Putty or scraping knife
Liquid fabric softener or a hand steamer
Trash cans
Work gloves
Drop cloths

Many variations of wall decor have emerged over the years. From faux paint to pallet board paneling, changing up the walls is always in vogue. Wallpaper is one of those products that has stood the test of time, appearing in homes ancient and new. But when you decide to diversify your wallpaper selection or wish to uncover the original grandeur of your newly-acquired home, you might discover that removing wallpaper can prove to be a chore.

Before you grab a pressure washer and a stick of dynamite, consider these cheap and easy techniques for removing wallpaper from the wall.

To get started, you’ll need to gather a few supplies. Make sure you have a sturdy and versatile ladder to reach high areas on the wall. You will also need a spray bottle to fill with water, a scoring tool, a putty or scraping knife, and a light liquid fabric softener or a hand steamer. Other supplies include trash cans, work gloves, drop cloths, and old clothing that will not get damaged.

1. Use Spray Detergent

Someone removing wallpaper.

This tried and true method has been the standard technique for many decades. Simply fill a spray bottle with mild detergent and warm water and shake the bottle vigorously. Spray the solution on the wallpaper and let it sit for several minutes until it soaks in enough to bubble slightly. Then slowly peel the wallpaper back, urging the paper along with a putty knife. You can repeat this process as necessary to keep the wallpaper wet while you work. After all the wallpaper is removed, use a clean, damp cloth to remove any excess wallpaper glue that may be lingering. There may be several layers of wallpaper from years gone by that also need to be removed. Follow the same steps until you reach a bare wall and then your new wallpaper or other wall application can be applied.

2. Use Water and Fabric Softener

Person wearing red gloves removes wallpaper.

Another quick and inexpensive method to remove old wallpaper is to use liquid fabric softener and water mixed together. Spray the solution to thoroughly dampen the wallpaper. Use the same technique described above to remove the paper. You can also try this with a washcloth instead of a water bottle for a similar, albeit a bit messier, result. Use gentle pressure, but do not rub hard.

3. Rent a Steamer

Man removes a layer of wallpaper.

You can also rent a wallpaper steamer from your local hardware store or home improvement store for a small fee. It is specifically made for wallpaper removal. The steamer looks and works similar to a clothing iron in that you fill it with water. Keep it at a distance from the wall and then steam away. It quickly and efficiently melts off the old wall coverings.

4. Use Scoring Tools

Someone removes decorative wallpaper.

Also available at home improvement, hardware stores, and craft shops is something called a scoring or perforating tool. It is similar to a razor. It scores and shreds the paper quickly. You can then wet down the paper with a sponge or use the steamer to lift remaining paper. This technique allows you to rip off neat strips rather than randomly tearing it off the wall. The tool is inexpensive and easy to use. Use caution with all sharp instruments and be careful not to press too far into the wall.

5. Use Store Bought Removers

Wallpaper removed from a wall lays on the ground.

There are numerous wallpaper stripping products available that make the process of removing wall coverings easy. These are liquids that can be applied with a simple damp sponge or a paint roller for easier spreading. Check with your local home improvement stores and ask which remover would be best for your specific type of wallpaper. Note that these removers may have chemical smells so use them in a well-ventilated area. This technique may save you time but it will cost more money.

Note that the first step with any of these methods is to look for loose corners or bubbles in the seams where you can get ahold of the paper and tear off anything you can before applying solutions. Also be aware that removing wallpaper can cause damage to the wall so use caution when pulling to make sure the paper is not also peeling away part of your wall. Whether you’ve adopted wallpaper covered walls, are making a change from one paper to another, or just want to let the wallpaper from the 70s go once and for all, these techniques will make it easier to get the job done.