5 essential steps for stripping wallpaper

Somewhat surprisingly, stripping wallpaper is a pretty straightforward DIY job — as long as you follow the proper procedure. Keep these five essential steps in mind and you'll be more than ready for the task.

5 essential steps for stripping wallpaper

What you will need

  • Safety goggles (if using chemicals)
  • Drop sheets and masking tape
  • Wetting agent (either chemical wallpaper stripper or hot water and dishwashing detergent)
  • Stiff filling knife
  • 20 litre garden sprayer
  • 15 cm broad knife
  • Scoring tool
  • Bucket and sponges
  • Acrylic primer
  • Commercial wallpaper stripper
    (if required)
  • Bleach (optional)

1. Peel off first layer

  • Modern, strippable wallpaper can be removed entirely in one piece.
  • Old-style peelable wallpaper comes off in two layers: first the top vinyl coating, then the paper backing.
  • To remove strippable wallpaper or the vinyl coating of peelable wallpaper, pry under a lower corner with a stiff blade, then peel gently upwards until the entire layer is removed.

2. Spray the wall

  • Under the vinyl coating of peelable wallpaper, the paper backing will still be fixed to the wall.
  • Cover the floor with drop sheets, turn off the power and tape over electrical and telephone fixtures first.
  • Spray the wall with your wetting agent to remove this paper.
  • Apply your wetting agent with a garden sprayer (wear safety goggles if you're working with chemicals).

3. Scrape it off

  • Continue spraying the walls until the paper bubbles or begins to separate from the surface.
  • Once that happens, start scraping the paper off with your 15 centimetre (6 inch) broad knife.
  • Take care not to gouge plasterboard walls.
  • If your scraper isn't doing the job, consider a commercial wallpaper stripper.

4. Wash clean

  • After all the material has been scraped off, wash the walls with the stripper of your choice.
  • Use a chemical wallpaper stripper for stubborn glue reside.
  • Use a mix of hot water and dishwashing detergent for a gentler solution.
  • Or use a mix of 50 millilitres (1/4 cup) of bleach in seven litres (one gallon) of water if the walls you've revealed looks like they could use a good cleaning as well as stripping.
  • Continue washing until all glue residue has been removed.
  • Before painting or hanging new wallpaper, coat your walls with acrylic primer.

5. Get below the surface

  • Some types of wallpaper will resist the wetting solution.
  • To help your wetting solution penetrate, score the wallpaper's surface in a criss-cross pattern with a scoring tool and then spray it with the wetting solution as before.
  • Then, let it soak in.
  • You'll know that your solution is working when the paper starts to bubble up or separate.
  • Then scrape the surface with a scraper or wallpaper stripper.

Follow these five essential steps and you'll be more than ready for stripping wallpaper from your walls.

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