How to Strip Wallpaper

How to remove wallpaper

Before hanging new wallpaper or applying a fresh coat of paint to a wall, you’ll need to remove any existing wallpaper. While it’s certainly possible to hang new wallpaper over an existing layer, the finish will never be as smooth as if you start with stripped walls, and it’ll be significantly harder to remove down the line, so it’s worth taking the time and care for a better, longer-lasting finish. 

In this guide, we’ll outline how to prepare your walls, the tools you’ll need, the best way to remove wallpaper, and how to clean your freshly stripped walls in preparation for their new decoration. 

Preparing your wall to remove wallpaper

Clear your room  

Remove as much as you can from the room before you get started; anything you can’t remove, push into the center of the room and cover with dustsheets.

Clear the walls 

Take picturesmirrors, and shelves off the walls, and protect any sockets and switches with masking tape and plastic sheeting. 

Switch off the electricity 

Turn off the electricity for the room you’re working in using your fuse box, in case any water or steam gets into any sockets or switches. 

Lay down dustsheets 

Protect your floor and make the cleaning process that much easier by covering all flooring and surfaces with dustsheets. 

Get the right equipment ready    

You’ll also need some extra equipment depending on the method you use, which we’ll outline below. 

The best way to remove wallpaper  

There are two main options for stripping wallpaper: a chemical stripping solution or an electric steam stripper.  

A chemical stripping solution could be sufficient if you’re only taking off wallpaper from a small area, or if there are only one or two layers of wallpaper to deal with. You can buy a ready-to-use solution, or make your own using warm water and liquid detergent. 

An electric steam stripper is ideal for tackling larger areas and stubborn spots, and these machines generally make removing wallpaper that much quicker and easier.  

Safety notes  

  • Keep all chemicals and adhesives out of the way of children 

  • Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from falling debris 

  • Wear protective goggles when working with chemicals and heat 

  • Open doors and windows to keep the room well-ventilated  

  • Ensure someone is around to hold the ladder  

How to remove wallpaper

You will need: 

  • Chemical wallpaper stripper 

  • Spray bottle 

Step 1: Prepare your solution 

Follow the instructions on the product to prepare your solution – some solutions are ready to use, while some may need diluting with water. Once it’s ready, transfer it into a spray bottle. 

Step 2: Spray the wall  

Apply the solution to a small section of the wall, as instructed on the product packaging, and let it absorb for a few minutes. 

Step 3: Scrape the wallpaper off 

Use your stripping knife to remove the wallpaper, holding it flat against the wall and taking care not to damage the wall behind by working too forcefully. Once you’ve removed the paper from this section, repeat steps 2 and 3 across the entire wall or room. 

Note: Make sure you pick up old wallpaper and put it into your bin bags as you goas it will stick to the dustsheet as it dries and become tricky to remove. 

Step 4: Clean the walls 

Scroll down to the section below on cleaning your wallpaper-free walls. 

How to remove wallpaper using an electric steam stripper 

If you’re struggling to remove wallpaper using the easy method, you may need the help of an electric wallpaper steam stripper. 

You will need:

  • Electric steam stripper 

Safety note 

  • Always read the manufacturer’s instructions before you start 

  • Wear heat-resistant gloves 

  • Never leave the steam stripper unattended when it is switched on 

  • Do not allow the steamer to boil dry 

  • Turn off the power and leave to cool before refilling the tank 

Step 1: Fill the steam wallpaper stripper with water 

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prepare the steamer, filling it with water and letting it heat up before you get started. 

Step 2: Steam the wallpaper 

Starting at the bottom of the wall, hold the steamer up to the wallpaper for around 10 seconds, until the paper appears damp. Take care not to over-steam the plasterboard underneath. Work your way up the wall with the steamer, pulling off loose wallpaper in an upwards motion as you go. 

Step 3: Scrape off the wallpaper 

Use your stripping knife to scrape off any wallpaper that hasn’t already pulled away. If the steam hasn’t fully penetrated the wallpaper, you may need to use a scoring tool to make small holes in the paper. Repeat steps 2 and 3 across the entire wall or room, working in sections from bottom to top to benefit from the steam as it rises. 

Note: Make sure you pick up old wallpaper and put it into your bin bags as you go, as it will stick to the dustsheet as it dries and become tricky to remove. 

Step 4: Clean the walls 

Read on to find out how. 

Cleaning your wallpaper-free walls

Once you’ve finished taking the wallpaper off of your walls, it’s time to remove any residue to ensure your wall is clean and smooth, ready for decorating. Carefully use your stripping knife to scrape off any small remaining pieces, then use a damp sponge to clean the wall. It’s worth going over the wall a few times to ensure it’s as clean as can be, so that the fresh paint or wallpaper you apply sits smoothly, for a flawless finish. Dry the wall with a clean cloth, and leave the wall to dry out thoroughly before turning the power back on and beginning the redecoration process by priming your walls. 

If you’re worried that removing old wallpaper will lead to bigger problems with your drywall or brickwork, then read our guide to painting over wallpaper for an alternative solution. 

About the Author

Dulux Decorator Centre