Choosing and maintaining wallpaper

Wallpaper and other wall coverings can add a pretty touch to your interior, but choosing the right kind and maintaining it takes thought and care. Here are tips to help.

Choosing and maintaining wallpaper

Cleaning wallpaper

  • The best thing you can do to keep the wall covering in most rooms looking pristine is the simplest: vacuum it. A soft brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner works best — and is a must if the paper is flocked or has any kind of texture. Start at the top of the wall and work your way down, doing a couple of panels at a time.
  • Be careful of cobwebs. Lift them up with the vacuum; if you try brushing them away, they may streak the wall. Depending on how dusty your house gets, dust every few months. A microfibre cloth on a long-handled sweeper or a clean white cloth wrapped on the end of broom will also work on flat, non-textured wall coverings.
  • Natural coverings — grass, reed, hemp, cork, leather, fabric — and uncoated wallpaper are easily damaged by water and cannot be washed.
  • To find out if a wall covering is washable, squirt a little dishwashing liquid in water and dab some on the wall in an out-of-the-way spot. If the material darkens or absorbs water — or if the colours run — the covering is not washable. Clean it with wallpaper dough.

Types of wallpaper and top spots to hang them

  • Paper-backed vinyl consists of a solid vinyl surface laminated to a paper backing. It is washable and, since the paper backing gives extra strength to the vinyl, very durable — qualities that make it good for high-traffic hallways and such.
  • Sheet vinyl is vinyl through and through with no paper backing. It's by far the best choice for kitchens and bathrooms because it is resistant both to moisture and to stains and grease and is easy to clean. The absence of a paper backing makes it a bit fragile, however, and it does not hold up well to a lot of wear and tear.
  • Vinyl-coated paper is essentially paper wallpaper that has been coated with vinyl to make it resistant to dirt, grease, and moisture. You can wash it with a damp sponge. It's the most common and best all-round wall covering.
  • Coated fabric wall covering is cloth coated with vinyl or acrylic. Because the underlying fabric can absorb moisture, this type of wall covering is best used in low-moisture rooms.
  • Natural fibre wall coverings are made of grass, jute, cork, hemp, sisal and other natural materials laminated to a paper backing. They can be very decorative and are good at hiding a wall's imperfections, but they are tricky to hang and to clean.
  • Foil coverings are made by laminating a thin sheet of aluminum foil or a Mylar-like material onto a paper base. They add drama and reflected light to a room, but are very unforgiving of flaws in a wall. If a wall is less than perfect, apply lining paper first.
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