Wallpaper Nemesis

AKA "One girl's journey through wallpaper removal"  AKA "Wallpaper Removal 101" wallpaper start

The hallway of Grover the Fliphouse I'm sure was considered stylish once upon a time, but it wasn't so much the case when I got my hands on it.  There was a snake-skin-ish wallpaper pattern (original to the house) that was painted over, then wallpapered over in the 80s or 90s.  Very pretty, don't you think?  Nope, it had to go.

This wasn't my first tango with wallpaper removal, but it was my first time with this many layers.  It's actually very simple, but time consuming and messy.  You've been warned.

Wallpaper removal supplies:

-Scraper/putty knifes of varying sizes

-Boiling water

-Spray bottle

-Wallpaper scorer

-Patience.  Lots of patience.

wallpaper wall

Once I practiced my technique and figured out what in the world I was doing, I saved this little sliver of wall to show you guys.  Wallpaper removal can be super taxing, so I'm all about working smarter, not harder (that's where the patience comes in...)  The only thing I did prior to the above pic was attempt to peel some of the top layer off dry.  As you can see, on this wall, it was stuck pretty darn good, although on others, I was able to peel it off in sheets.  Like I said, though, smarter, not harder.  If the layer didn't come off, I didn't force it (until later).

Lots of people recommended trying a wallpaper solvent, but I opted to try boiling water first.  It ended up working pretty well for my wallpaper, so I stuck with it, but every wallpaper case is going to be different.  Even the 2 wallpapers that I was dealing with acted differently: the newer coming off easily in sheets, and the older crumbled.

As for my process:

1. Score wallpaper

2. Boil water

3. Spray wall with boiling water (careful not to burn yourself!)

4. Wait.  a while.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 until your wallpaper easily comes off the wall.


How's that for over-simplifying?  I can't emphasize enough, PATIENCE!  If you allow enough time for the water to really penetrate into the wallpaper, your arm will thank you.

Allow me to demonstrate.

The more modern layer of wallpaper came up pretty quickly.  Once it was scored and soaked, the top layer had little resistance.  Using a putty knife to get under the edge, I was able to remove large pieces until I reached layer #2.

first layer wallpaper

Layer #2 is where the real patience came into play.  It was essentially kraft paper glued to the wall and painted over... it was holding on tight.


wallpaper score


wallpaper spray



Score, spray, wait....score, spray, wait... spray, wait...  I found it best to either work on 2 areas at the same time (so while one was waiting, I could be spraying the other) or walk away altogether while the water was penetrating.  I did try to eliminate the "boil water" step, but the steaming water seemed really get in there and do the job better.

The 2 most important things here are: make sure you have a decent spray bottle (I went through 2) and HAVE PATIENCE.  Have I mentioned that?  If you try to scrape the paper before the water's done it's job, you'll end up doing much more work than you need to.

When you think it might be ready, take your scraper to the wall.  If the paper comes off with little resistance, go for it.  If not, spray again and wait.

wallpaper scrape

Even during the scraping phase, I would re-spray everything down to make sure that nothing dried out before I got to it.  If you find spots that give you a hard time, don't force it.  Spray them again and come back later.  The more you force the paper off, the tireder your arms get, and the more scraped up your wall will get.

Since I allowed the water to do the majority of the work, it only took me about a half an hour to actually scrape off all of the old wallpaper.

wallpaper progress

Even after scraping every other wall in the hallway, I was shocked at how cleanly the paper came off of this wall.  On other walls, I was less patient and tried to muscle the paper off, leaving residue.

wallpaper residue

Luckily all I had to do was spray down the walls again (and wait), and the paper remnants came off no problem.

And finally the hallway walls were wallpaper free!  And the townsfolk rejoiced.

wallpaper gone

Now if only demoing walls in the bathroom was as easy!

Like I mentioned earlier, different types of wallpapers act differently, so I'd love to hear what worked (or didn't work) for you!