How to Remove Wallpaper from Drywall

Home decoration fads come and go. As times change, today’s hottest look inevitably becomes yesterday’s out-of-touch style.

Unfortunately for homeowners, some of those fads go up easier than they come down. One prime example of this: wallpaper. Throughout the 1900s, homeowners saw wallpaper as a way to give rooms a unique look. As wallpaper technology improved, the cost dropped, and homeowners rushed to glue the paper in every room of their homes.

Although it made a hot fashion statement years ago, today it may not look so great. In fact, if you bought a home with wallpaper, you probably want it gone. 

Don’t fret: that wallpaper can be removed. And once it’s removed, you can give your wall that color you’ve always wanted.

Our painting professionals have helped countless homeowners update their homes from the out-of-date styles of yesteryear to the best colors of today. We’ve brought you some of their best tips on how to remove wallpaper from drywall so you can get your home looking great!

Do I have to remove it?

Wallpaper is made from paper or vinyl that is glued onto the drywall. Over time, that glue can begin to loosen, causing the wallpaper to peel or bubble. 

Therefore, we advise against painting over wallpaper. The wallpaper underneath the paint can separate from the drywall, leaving an unsightly problem. Seams in the wallpaper can peel back, leaving long ridges in the paint. Even worse, once the wallpaper has been painted over, it becomes nearly impossible to remove. 

To get the best, long-lasting result from your paint, go ahead and remove the wallpaper. 

How to remove wallpaper

Step 1: Prepare the space
Remove all items from the walls. Move any furniture out of your way and cover what can’t be moved. Move or cover anything that could be damaged from a liquid wallpaper removal spray.

Lay a dropcloth against the wall where you plan to begin work. Removing wallpaper creates a major paper mess. Protect your floor and expedite your cleanup by using a drop cloth.

Step 2: Try to peel the wallpaper off
Some of the newer wallpapers are designed to peel off with minimal effort. If your home was decorated with one of these wallpapers, count yourself lucky!

Using a putty knife, work up a bottom corner of a strip of wallpaper. Begin pulling; if it comes off easily, then just keep stripping it until it’s done! If needed, you can use a putty knife or flat razor blade to assist with the occasional stubborn section.

However, if you are unable to remove large pieces just by pulling, proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Use water 
Remember that wallpaper is glued on. If you can’t get the wallpaper easily off, you’ll need to try a strategy to loosen the glue.

One great trick is to use a liquid wallpaper stripper concentrate. Mix the concentrate with warm water per manufacturer instructions. Use a spray bottle to spray the mixture onto the wall, then begin peeling once the mixture has had enough time to soak into the paper. 

Only spray as large of an area as you can work before the mixture dries. Wallpaper is easier to remove when wet. In fact, you’ll know the wallpaper has absorbed enough water when it peels with a fingernail. 

Step 4: Score the wallpaper
If the wallpaper does not seem to be absorbing the water, try scoring it. Use coarse sandpaper or a wallpaper scoring tool. Both will scuff or score the surface of the wallpaper, which allows the liquid mixture to penetrate the paper and loosen the glue.

If you use a scoring tool, be sure not to press so hard that you score the drywall underneath! Only score the wallpaper enough that it can absorb water.

Step 5: Remove any remaining residue
Sometimes, the wallpaper paste leaves a residue on the walls. This paste can be removed with the wallpaper stripper mixture, or sometimes even with just soap and water. Remove the residue with a scraper or a sponge and hot water.

When all else fails: steam removal
If none of the above tips help, you may have to try a steam wallpaper removal tool. This tool uses hot steam to release the paper from the wall. You need to move quickly to remove the paper as soon as it is steamed, so consider getting a second pair of hands for this task.

One final warning

BE CAREFUL not to damage the drywall underneath the wallpaper! Drywall is a chalky substance covered with a thin cardboard layer. If you’re not careful, you can gouge or scratch the cardboard with a scraping tool. 

If your drywall gets scratched and reveals the cardboard underneath, you must repair it before painting. In short, you will need to:
  • Cut away any loose pieces of paper.
  • Lightly sand smooth the revealed area.
  • Apply two coats of an oil-based primer, as a water-based paint will further damage the cardboard.
  • Apply a skim coat of drywall joint compound. Wait for it to dry, then sand smooth.
  • Apply primer to the drywall compound to ensure a uniform look on your wall.

Now you’re ready to paint!

Now that the unsightly wallpaper has been removed, you’re ready to paint! Begin with a coat of primer, especially if removing the wallpaper reveals unpainted drywall.

Wallpaper removal isn’t hard, but it does take a long time! If you don’t have practice removing wallpaper, then know that wallpaper removal in a normal-sized room will take a full day of work.  As you weigh this project, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our team of professionals stands ready to give you a free, zero-obligation estimate. Let us help you love your home again.

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