Wallpaper stripping help!
May 26, 2006 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone give me wallpaper stripping/removal tips? My fiance and I just purchased a home (built in 1988) that is pretty much covered in wallpaper. And we hate it. I've heard the process is torturous. Help!
posted by fabesfaves to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If the wallpaper is in good condition, you might have success painting over it. It would almost certainly be easier, and as long as your paper isn't peeling you should be able to do a very neat job of it.
posted by thejoshu at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2006

Be thankful, modern wall parer is much easier to strip than the old stuff. It's quite likely you're paper is vinyl. You should be able to start peel ing at an edge and slowly pull large sheets of material from the walls. However, you'll leave behind the paste that was holding it on and some of the paper backing. Now comes the nasty part. Wash this stuff with hot water and an enzymatic cleaner called DIF. It will eat the paste and allow you to wipe it off the wall. Wet large areas thoroughly, let them site for a few minutes, and then come back and wipe with a sponge to remove the paste. Other than that, good luck. It's a shitty job. Make sure you get all the paste, or the paint will look awful.
posted by cosmicbandito at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2006

You need to use a steamer - it will come off easily.
posted by A189Nut at 12:47 PM on May 26, 2006

Painting over can work, but if the paper's loose at all, it'll pucker and look like you painted over wallpaper.

We used a steamer. If you have wooden floors, cover them well. I guess you'd want to cover carpet even more, though. Cover everything that isn't wallpaper in plastic. Put big trashcans in the middle of the room.

Whether you use steam or enzymatic stuff (or a combo of both), puncture the top layer of wallpaper. They have wallpaper knives just for this at Home Depot. If you don't cut little holes in the top layer, it won't work nearly as well. If you can peel any of the top layer off right away, do it. But the little circular knife was tres useful.

I found that we used a lot of DIF, but the steamer and DIF, alternating, worked best.

Do a section two foot wide section (starting at the top so it can drip down). Go back and scrape what you can off with the widest putty knife you can find.

You may have to do it twice to get the white, papery layer off. No matter how well you do it, you will have to go back and wash the walls with hot water and TSP (using gloves) before you paint.

You will gouge walls with the putty knives. It's just going to happen. Expect it. Therefore, mentally prepare to spackle and prime, not just paint. (Although you'd have to prime anyway after removing wallpaper.)

A two-person team can do it well, once you get the hang of it.

Also, tie back your hair and go barefoot or use shoes/socks you'll be willing to throw away. You will be covered in glue.

Of course, since the people that owned our house before were crazy with the adhesive and used super-strong wallpaper, YMMV.

But after an experience like that I vowed that I will never put up wallpaper anywhere I live.
posted by Gucky at 12:48 PM on May 26, 2006

I recommend an bent icing knife and a DIF with a sponge.

The narrow blade gets under the edge of the paper and helps you get it started on a good peel.

IMH, It is the second most painstaking home improvement job , after refinishing Floors.
posted by Megafly at 12:51 PM on May 26, 2006

We've used a lot of DIF, and it works best of the methods we've tried and the paper we've had to deal with.

Get one of those rotary scoring tools - I think they're called "Paper Tiger" or something like that. The more you score the paper, the easier it will be for the DIF to penetrate.

And...try to peel a corner or seam of the paper before you go to all this bother. We did one whole wall of hideous Baby Mickey Mouse the hard way before realizing that we could peel it off in WHOLE SHEETS.

I hate wallpaper.
posted by ersatzkat at 12:59 PM on May 26, 2006

Wow, we just used DIF.

I hated the Paper Tiger. The paper that we had came off in one big strip, and we just needed then to soak down the wall again with Dif and peel the backing and glue off in one big peel. If we hit the paper with the paper tiger, then it came off in shreds instead of one big sheet.

We also used a slightly higher concentration than was adviseable, and made sure to use hot water in the sprayer.

Be aware that we needed to wash the wall down with dif and water and finally water again to get all the glue off before paint would hold on well.

Steaming sucked. It was miserable. We tried that first and were almost resigned to living with the wallpaper before we tried the dif.
posted by SpecialK at 1:01 PM on May 26, 2006

I had the best luck using a spray bottle filled with warm soapy (Dawn or Palmolive) water and a plastic putty knife. Just spray the wallpaper and let it soak for a couple minutes. (The house I did this in was built in 1986.) That should loosen a seam and you can get under it with the putty knife OR pull if off by hand.

It's really not that bad if there is vinyl in the wallpaper. It only took 1.5 days to do three rooms.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:06 PM on May 26, 2006

Kind of like what fluffy battle kitten suggests, I recommend 1/4 - 1/3 cup fabric softener in a tall spray bottle of warm water. Spray liberally and let it soak a few minutes. This worked really well to get the wallpaper and most of the remaining paste off the walls, however, after we got off all we could with the fabric softener concoction, I am pretty sure we did use DIF or something of the like to get the walls nice and clean.

Oh, and if you do decide to go this route, choose a fabric softener with a very mild scent (do they make unscented?), after a while we got a little sick of our floral scent. Best of luck!
posted by viachicago at 1:20 PM on May 26, 2006

Never, never, never, never paint over wallpaper. You are just creating an even larger nightmare down the road. Honest.

Get a steamer and some wide putty knives.
And pray that the paper was put over properly primed walls, and not over bare drywall. Been there...want to find the friggin builder that did it, and not for a friendly talk.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:31 PM on May 26, 2006

I have an old house with unprimed plaster walls and I just stripped string wallpaper in two of the rooms. Tried DIF but found that a hot water and vinegar solution on the walls worked better.

I ended up spraying the wall with the vinegar solution (I used a 1 gal pressurized sprayer from a hardware store for this), letting it soak into the paper for 10-15 minutes. I repeated this until the paper peeled off in large strips. Finally, I scrubbed the walls with warm soapy water (laundry detergent worked well) to remove any remaining glue/wallpaper backing.

Good Luck!
posted by bCat at 1:46 PM on May 26, 2006

Did this in my parents' kitchen as a mother's day present for my mom. It took sooooo long, and the kitchen's only about 13 x 20. Try using the DIF without the Paper Tiger; only use the Paper Tiger if you find that the DIF doesn't soak through. As stated above, the Paper Tiger punctures holes in the wallpaper and you'll end up shredding the paper as you rip it off.

Plan on showering for a long time when you're done. If you have long hair, wear a hair net. I ripped quite a few of my hairs out because of the paste.

Buy twice as much DIF as you think you need. Trust me, you'll need more.
posted by MeetMegan at 1:52 PM on May 26, 2006

I'd second bCat. Vinegar and water in a pump spray bottle.
posted by ab3 at 2:43 PM on May 26, 2006

Thorzdad, what if the wallpaper is over drywall? Sorry to tag onto this question, but the grey wallpaper (over drywall) in my bathroom must go. And soon.
posted by MadamM at 2:43 PM on May 26, 2006

TSP is awesome. Get the wallpaper wet with a solution of TSP (or a safer TSP-alternative) and water, and then the wallpaper practically falls off the wall. Careful when you use a scraper, to avoid damaging the underlying surface.
posted by knave at 3:10 PM on May 26, 2006

CHOMP. We, too, have a house built in the 80's, partially infested with nasty wallpaper. CHOMP was the only thing that worked. It's frikkin' amazing. Dif was a pale, bad, frustrating imitation.

And scoring is over-rated, by the way. We found that pulling the front paper off the glued bits wasn't so hard with the age of ours -- you may want to try that -- and then the CHOMP just ate the gluey stuff. It was a beautiful thing, especially after struggling with it so much.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2006

We used Dif about 2 mo. ago on wallpaper from the 70s, only to find out there was wallpaper from the 20s underneath it. The paper tiger helps, the more you score the paper the easier it comes off. Putty knives we also helpful along with the shaving device sold near the Paper Tiger and Dif. You do have to wash down with warm water afterwards. Some walls weren't bad, others were a bitch--the more paste that was used, the worse it was, (I hope they didn't use gobs like we came across). Paper that has water damage comes off easy. BTW, if you have bare plaster under the wallpaper, be ready for lots of primer!

Have fun! (FWIW, Home Depot suggested DIF over steamer. Steamer was rented by a block amount of time. At least the DIF we could go at our own pace.)
posted by 6:1 at 11:19 PM on May 26, 2006

"If the wallpaper is in good condition, you might have success painting over it. It would almost certainly be easier, and as long as your paper isn't peeling you should be able to do a very neat job of it."

As someone else said above... please, please, don't even consider this. If you do this, not only will the wallpaper seams show under the paint (making the paint job look kind of tacky), but you will be causing a nightmare for either you, later on, or a future owner. Wallpaper is much easier to remove if it hasn't been painted over. When they paint over wallpaper on Trading Spaces or Changing Rooms it's not because it's a good idea -- it's because they are in a big hurry and cutting corners.

Our 1911 house had several layers of paint over the original wallpaper (which was on unprimed plaster), and over the brick fireplace as well. Heavy scraping, steam, and chemicals were required to remove it and it was NOT what I would call a good time. And we still have two wallpapered rooms left... sigh.

Your house is newer, and the wallpaper is likely to come off relatively easily, as long as someone else hasn't already painted over it.
posted by litlnemo at 3:10 AM on May 27, 2006

There are product that are specifically used to remove wallpaper. Most of wallpaper is attached with glue, so if you dissolve the glue and the wallpaper will come off easily.

The product I used (years ago) was a generic wall paper removing product that you will mix into a plastic bucket with tap water ; mix and paint the mixture over the wallpaper. After not a long while, you will see that wallpaper almost comes off automatically , if not you will need to help it by hand removing it.

Given that I guess the compound is acidic and/or irritant I would suggest using glass goggles to protect your eyes during the painting procedure and maybe a couple expendable gloves.
posted by elpapacito at 4:56 AM on May 27, 2006

Add another DIF user. I've removed wallpaper from 5 rooms in two houses using a paper tiger to score and DIF to remove. It's sloppy work and needs a lot of cleanup, but for the most part it works well. You will definitely need a scraper too. I used stiff spackling/putty knives instead of sharp scrapers - I found the sharpened tools gouged the walls. Rubber gloves are also a must.

Vinyl wallpaper is a dream - it comes right off.

Paper over plaster is a pain.
posted by plinth at 8:45 AM on May 27, 2006

Although i have never had the misfortune to remove wallpaper, i am wondering if Simple Green might work? It has the advantage of being biodegradeable, and doesn't have an overpowering smell, because the smell fades fairly quickly.
I helped my sister remove a linoleum tile floor, and it dissolved the glue wonderfully!
posted by annsunny at 12:00 PM on June 7, 2006

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