The Absolute Best Way to Remove Wallpaper

struggling to remove wallpaper by hand

If you’ve ever tried to remodel an old house, you’ve encountered the ultimate setback that is wallpaper removal. While it may seem like no big deal at first, countless homeowners find themselves hitting themselves in the head looking for a good way to remove wallpaper. In this article, we show you how to remove wallpaper in just a few easy steps.

Preparing the Room

Take Everything Off the Walls

The first step is simple. You’ll need to clear your wall space. Remove knick knacks and take down shelving, so nothing will fall or break while you are working.

Protect Floors, Furniture, and Outlets

Place paper towels along the edges of the floor or baseboard. Then, use painter’s tape to secure a plastic tarp or drop cloth over the towels. Remove as much furniture as you can. If you aren’t able to move it, cover it with a drop cloth as well. If the wall has electrical outlets, leave the cover on, but run painter’s tape along the edges. You can remove any wallpaper under the cover once the majority of it is removed from the wall.

Figure Out What Kind of Wall You Have

Before you remove anything, you’ll need to identify the type of walls you have so you don’t cause damage. Generally, you can use the age of the wall or a light knock to figure out what material it was built with. If you don’t have that information, try these tips to identify your wall type:


If your home is over 50 years old, your walls are most likely made of plaster. If you hear a dull sound when you knock on the wall, it is solid, and therefore made of plaster.


Drywall is found in newer homes, as much as 50 years old. When you knock on the wall, you should hear a hollow sound. If your wall turns out to be made of drywall, you’ll need to be extra careful when using a scraping tool, so as not to damage the cardboard laid atop the drywall.

floral wallpaper empty room with wooden floor 1

Identify the Type of Wallpaper You Have

The last step of prepwork is to figure out what kind of wallpaper you have. There are many kinds and the type of wallpaper you have will determine the best way to remove it.


Most newer homes have strippable wallpaper. Use a putty knife to pull up the edge. If it comes up easily and continues to pull up, it is indeed strippable and will be relatively easy to remove.


Peelable wallpaper is similar to strippable wallpaper, except that peeling off the top layer will leave a back coating that will need to be removed as well.


While it is a lot easier to clean and maintain, washable wallpaper can be difficult to remove. This type of wallpaper is coated with a plastic film which will need to be peeled back before the wallpaper itself can be removed.

Wallpaper Removal Techniques

How to Remove Strippable Wallpaper

Grab the lower left corner of the strip. Then, pull toward you until the top and bottom corners are up. Get a good grip on the lower edge and pull it away until the entire strip comes off.

How to Remove Peelable Wallpaper

Follow our previous instructions to remove the vinyl topcoat of the peelable wallpaper. This will leave behind the backing, which should always be removed regardless of its condition. To remove the backing, use the steps to strip wallpaper with water, provided below.

How to Remove Washable Wallpaper

Penetrate the plastic coating. We recommend the Zinsser PaperTiger, because it’s cheap, effective and easy to find. Once you’ve poked enough holes in the paper, spray the wallpaper with water until it is thoroughly soaked. Do your best to spray the water in the holes and slits you just made, so it can get through the film. After you’ve finished spraying, allow the water to soak in for 10-15 minutes. Then use your putty knife to scrape the wallpaper off a section at a time.

woman removing wallpaper with scraper

Use Liquid to Remove Wallpaper

Choose a good liquid stripper concentrate. If you’re not sure which one to use, The Spruce lists their picks for the 9 top wallpaper removers for 2021. The article does a really good job of breaking down which products are better and why. Once you’ve chosen a product, follow the package instructions to mix with water.

Use a spray bottle or wide brush to apply the mixture to the wallpaper.  It is important that the paper is completely wet when you remove, so make sure to work in small sections. It is best to move from the ceiling toward the floor.

If the wallpaper is very old, it may have a hard time absorbing the liquid. If that is the case, use a scoring tool or sandpaper to help the water penetrate the paper. Once it’s soaked through, reapply two more times before letting it sit for about half an hour. Lastly, scrape the wallpaper off with your putty knife.

Use a Steamer as a Last Resort

Once you are down to the final layer of your wallpaper, it may be necessary to remove it with a steamer. This process is much harder, so only do this if nothing else works. You may even want to ask for help, as having two people will make the job go by a lot faster. 

First, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to power the steamer. Then, place the steamer on the wallpaper for 30 seconds. Once you move the pad, the paper should have loosened up a bit. Use a scraper to remove the loose paper. Repeat this process from top to bottom until all of the wallpaper is removed.

Make a Homemade Wallpaper Removal Solution

There are a couple mixtures we’ve found and tested with great results. Make sure to use hot water, as heat is the most important element to help the paper separate from the wall.

Fabric Softener

Mix ¼ cup fabric softener with ¾ cup water. Repeat this 1:3 ratio until you have enough to get the job done.

White Vinegar

Mix ⅓ cup vinegar with ⅔ cup water. Repeat this 1:2 ratio until you have enough to get the job done.

When Wallpaper Really Fights Back

If you’ve tried everything, but you’re really having a tough time getting it done, you may want to hire a general contractor to help you finish the project. If that is the case, Illinois Remodeling Consultants has plenty of local references to give you a leg up in your search. Feel free to call anytime. We’re happy to help.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

    Leave a Reply