Whenever I visit my mother, I try to do a project around the house to help her since she doesn’t have any free time to do them and because I still owe her for being a complete brat from the age of 16 until I left for college. The big project on my current visit (yes, writing this article is considered my break time) is to remove the wallpaper from the main floor bathroom and paint the room.
Let me start by saying that I don’t know why the previous owners of this house hate me, but clearly I wronged them somehow because prying their 1980’s paisley wallpaper off the bathroom wall where it has slowly been absorbed into the wall behind it has been nothing short of torture. And I did it the easy way!
Homeowners, please be warned. If for some reason you convince yourself it is a good idea to put up wallpaper, don’t use superglue to affix it to the wall. I promise you that the bright orange and yellow that is all the rage this year will not be appreciated 15 years from now. The future owner of your home might track you down and wallpaper you to a wall (or at least fantasize about it) after they are done scraping the remnants of your design faux pas from the walls.
As with most things, I decided to do some research before I started this project to find the easiest and most efficient way to remove wallpaper. I read a couple dozen websites and watched several YouTube videos. Read on for a summary of my findings.
Empty Spray Bottle or Garden Sprayer
Disposable Drop Cloth
Fabric Softener or White Vinegar
- Make sure the children are occupied far out of hearing range. If you choose not to do this, then at least practice your clean expletives before starting. I had nowhere to send my kids so had to rely on a lot of “For the love of peanut butter!” and “Calamity Jane!” whenever I got to an especially stubborn spot.
- Lay a disposable drop cloth on the floor unless you want to spend an hour after you’re done cleaning up the floor. With a disposable drop cloth you can just fold up the mess and throw it away, because this is what the floor will look like when you are done:
- Score the wallpaper. This is very important. If you don’t poke all those tiny little holes in the wallpaper, the liquid solution won’t be able to penetrate through the paper to dissolve the superglue, I mean wallpaper paste.
- Dilute fabric softener or vinegar with water in the sprayer. For fabric softener use 1/3 fabric softener to 2/3 water and for vinegar use a half and half solution. I actually tried one of the store-bought cleaners and didn’t notice any difference between its effectiveness and the vinegar solution. In fact, it looked and smelled like diluted fabric softener.
- Thoroughly coat the wallpaper with the solution. Leave for 10 minutes.
- If the wallpaper doesn’t easily pull away from the wall, repeat step 3 as many times as possible. For me, the magic number was five.
- If you are lucky (unlike me) you should be able to slowly peel an entire strip of wallpaper from the wall in one shot. If some spots are more stubborn than others, remove what you can and then spray the remnant with additional solution and use the scraper to work it off.
- Once all of the wallpaper is removed, wipe down all the walls with a large, damp sponge to remove any debris or paste remnants.
The little half bathroom I tackled took me 4 hours, mainly because some pieces of wallpaper really did seem to have merged with the drywall so I spent a lot of time on the spray and scrape technique. My mom was so tickled, she asked if I can tackle the kitchen wallpaper on my next visit. I was a really bratty teenager.