Removing Wallpaper Like a Pro

Last updated Dec 11, 2018 | Published on Apr 1, 2018 | Re-modeling, Tutorial

There were a few walls in our house – the stairway and upstairs hall, the kitchen and the guest bedroom – that were wallpapered and I wanted to get rid of the wallpaper and convert them to paint.

I first tackled my guest bedroom, where I completely removed the wallpaper before painting. Because we have old, horsehair walls, removing all the wallpaper resulted in a lot of wall repair. Once I had gone through this once, I googled how to paint over wallpaper and elected to go that route with the other 2 rooms. So I didn’t do this again. Click here for my post on how to paint over wallpaper.

But, in case you have normal walls and wish to completely remove your wallpaper before painting, here’s how to do it.


spray bottle
Laundry detergent
wallpaper strips
water (lots)
paint brush
paint pail
mineral spirits and dishwashing detergent (for cleaning oil-based primer)
paint tray (for soaking the strips)
primer (this link is oil-based but you can use water-based primary if your walls are in good shape when you are done)

STEP 1: Preparation
Remove furniture from the room or move it all to the center and cover it with dropcloths. Then also cover the floor where you’ll be immediately working with a dropcloth.

Gather your tools & materials so they’re all handy.  Fill the (long rectangular) tray with a solution of 1/4 laundry softener and 3/4 water, then fill your sprayer with the same solution.

Make sure you’re dressed for it – you’re going to get messy and wet. Have an assortment of clean, dry towels handy.

Pick a spot to start. I like to work from right to left so I usually start at the right side of a long wall.

STEP 2: Soak the Walls
Place a good number of the removal strips in the rectangular tray. You’ll have to fold some of them in to get them to fit. Let them sit there an soak for a few minutes.

Start at the top of the wall where you’ve decided to begin and lay down your first strip. Push the strip into the wall at the top and then use your hands to smooth it down its length so it adheres to the wall.

Keep going until you get 4 or 5 strips up at a time. I found it easiest to focus on a single (approximately) 3-5 foot area at a time.

Sometimes the strips fall to the floor too quickly. If this happens, place the strip back and use your spray bottle to apply more water, then smooth it down again. As the strips are soaking the wall, spray them every few minutes with the laundry softener/water solution to keep them on the wall as long as possible.

STEP 3: Remove the Wallpaper
Once approximately 15 minutes has passed, pull strips off the wall if they haven’t already fallen. Then, use a scraper to get underneath a corner of the wallpaper and try fulling that strip off the wall. You’ll probably find that certain spots come up very easily, in large strips. Others, not so much. For those, you’ll need to use your scraper the get them up. It works best if you keep the area you’re working on wet with your spay bottle.

You may need to repeat placing new soaked strips on the wall until you are able to get all the wallpaper up.

STEP 4: Repair, Sand & Prime
Once all the wallpaper has been removed, sand the walls down. Then, wash them with a solution of ammonia and water (I used a BIG sponge to make things go quicker).

Once the wall is completely dry, examine the wall and decide where you need to repair. Spackle the small holes. You may need to do a little more extensive repair to larger holes. If a hole is large enough, you may need something like this drywall repair kit.

Sand down any areas you repaired, then one last quick wash to get the remaining dust off.

Apply a layer of primer. We used an oil-based primer because our walls were in tough shape. If you have a newer wall, consider a water-based primer (it’s easier to clean and doesn’t smell as bad). Some paints are both a primer and paint in one. If your walls are in really good shape, consider those and you can skip right to the painting.

That’s it! Once the primer is dry (we let the oil-based primer dry overnight), you’re ready to paint your walls (or re-wallpaper them if you so choose).

For more information

Read more about our guest bedroom, where we did remove all the wallpaper. That was before we figured out how to paint over wallpaper. You can read all about that here.

How about you?

Do you have a wallpaper removal tip or adventure to share? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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