Best Way to Remove Wallpaper, Glue, Paste Residue and Borders

Wallpaper usually consists of two or three layers of material; a decorative outer layer and two thinner layers underneath. The nature of the wallpaper has changed over the years and this means you may have to try various methods that will work with the wallpaper you are wanting to remove.

Removing the paste residues and borders can be problematic. Sometimes you can be very lucky and wallpaper can quite simply be pulled off dry without using any scoring tools soaking, scraping or chemicals. At other times it will be much harder to do.

The good news is that this article provides a review all the expert advice and lots of helpful hints to get you started to complete the removal of your wallpaper.

Types of Wallpapers and How to Remove Them

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Stripable Wallpapers

Most strippable wall coverings have smooth, plastic outer coverings that include viny­l, fabric-backed paper, fabric-backed vinyl, etc. But you can only really test if the wallpaper is really strippable by simply trying to peel it off the wall. Here's how:

Pry an inconspicuous corner of the wallpaper at the top of a wall with a scraper edge or a knife blade.

Keeping the paper close to the wall, and pull it off using a downward motion.

Beware that pulling the paper away from the wall and toward you makes it more likely that it will tear, and a downward motion is less risky.

If the wallpaper is strippable, it should peel away relatively easily with no more that steady, low to moderate pressure.

Plaster or Drywall Wallpaper Stripping

Non-Strippable Wallpaper Removal

 

Preparations Before Removing Wallpaper

Stripping and eliminating wallpaper can be a very untidy task. Before beginning to remove old wallpaper, cover the floor and furnishings with plastic of other covering materials.

Make sure you have all the tools you need for the method you have selected including spray devices, scrapers and special tools. Many persons use scoring devices that is rolled over the wallpaper creating a series of small indentations and perforations in the wallpaper.

These pin-pricks, allow water or chemicals to soak into the wallpaper and help to wet the glue underneath. However these scoring devices can make permanent indentations in drywall and other soft surfaces that may remain after painting.

So always ensure you don't use too much pressure and do some experiments in a small inconspicuous locality before scoring the whole wall.

If you are going to spray the wallpaper with chemicals, such as a liquid paper remover, always use a painters' mask to keep from inhaling chemicals. A mask is also a good idea when sanding off the surface after the paper is removed.

Slitting and Soaking to Remove Wallpaper

­With this method, you make a series of horizontal slits across the surface of the wall paper with a razor blade, a utility knife, or a special paper stripper tool that is available at hardware stores.

It is also a good idea to use a scoring too, mentioned previously called a 'Paper Tiger'.

This device has a small roller with needle-like protrusions to score the surface of the paper, without damaging the wall underneath.

Make a series of slits 8-10 inches (20 cm) apart. Make the indentations and apply a liquid paper remover or warm, soapy water to each strip to wet the adhesive allowing you to pull or scrape the wallpaper from the walls. You can apply the liquid with a spray bottle, cloth or a sponge.

Apply the paper remover or water and let it soak into the wallpaper for a few minutes. Wet several strips at a time and then go back to the first and wet it again. Using a 3 1/2 inch (8 cm) wide wall scraper with a flexible blade, start stripping the paper.

A section the width of the scraper should wrinkle up above it as you push, or come off as a strip as you pull it off. Continue pushing and pulling while the paper is easy to remove.

If the paper breaks or becomes harder to remove, re-soak that area. If the adhesive is clearly not being wet and loosened by simply soaking, you will have to use another method such as steaming of a chemical method to soften the glue.

Steaming to Remove Wallpaper

You can hire a wallpaper steamer that makes the job easier and avoids having to use chemicals. The unit blasts the wall with steam similar to an iron used for pressing clothes. Forcing steam into the wallpaper, softens the paper and weakens the paste. The paper can then be stripped with a putty knife.

Take care however as over-aggressive steaming can cause damage to paper-lined dry wallboards and plaster, especially if the surface wasn't properly sealed before the wallpaper was applied.

Chemical Treatments to Strip Wallpaper

Various chemical wallpaper strippers have been developed that can be added to hot water to help break down the glue. Some include special enzymes that helps dissolve the paste. One important tip is to use a scoring device to help the chemical penetrate and to allow sufficient time for the chemical to do it's work.

Handy Tips for Removal Wallpapers and Paste Residues

If the outer coating of the wallpaper is vinyl, you will have to tear off the vinyl face layer first because neither the chemical stripper or steam penetrate the vinyl to soften the glue.

Once the wallpaper and glue residues have been removed, remember to give the wall surfaces a light sanding to eliminate any remaining roughness and create a surface suitable for binding the paint, wallpaper or new coating you are going to apply.

If you intend to paint the walls, use a good quality sealing, oil-based primer as a base coat. After the primer has dried thoroughly, you can sand it and apply the new paint.

Use a Fabric Softener - Many people find this easy method of stripping wallpaper works well. Simply add about one part liquid fabric softener and two parts water into a spray bottle. Shake well, spray the mixture on the wallpaper and allow a few minutes for the liquid to soak in.

Dishwashing Liquid - Once again many people have found that this method works well with particular brands of dishwashing liquid such as'Dawn'. Simply mix about one part dishwashing liquid to about ten parts of hot water.

Vinegar - Many people have found white vinegar to assist with stripping old wallpaper. The acid in the vinegar seems to help softens the glue. Mix about one part of white vinegar with about eight parts of hot water. The odor quickly fades as the wall dries.

Tri Sodium Phosphate - When simply home remedies do not work it may be time for a steamer or a stronger chemical approach. You can buy tri sodium phosphate (TSP) from most hardware stores or other commercial chemical strippers. Follow the instructions supplied.

Removing Wallpaper Borders

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson

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Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Very good info. I love wallpaper and there are so many things to know you can never just do it! Voted up.

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