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How to Use Fabric as a Wall Covering

Updated on October 7, 2014
chezchazz profile image

Chazz is an Interior Decorator/Consultant/Retailer, amateur photographer, cook, gardener, handyman, currently restoring an 1880 Victorian.

© 2012-15 Restoration Fabrics & Trims LLC
© 2012-15 Restoration Fabrics & Trims LLC | Source

How to Apply Fabric as a (Removable) Wallcovering Using Starch

Using fabric on your walls is a great way to decorate your home for many reasons. Fabric wallcovering can be provide a lot of decorating impact for little cost. It is not only easy to apply fabric to your walls with starch, the fabric will be easy to remove (and reuse) and it will not damage the wall.

Whether you live in an apartment or dorm and are not allowed to paint or wallpaper or even if you simply like to change your décor frequently or want to cover flawed walls, hanging fabric as a wall covering is the perfect decorating solution.

Champagne Living on a Beer (or even Tap Water) Budget

Living in a Nutshell: Posh and Portable Decorating Ideas for Small Spaces
Living in a Nutshell: Posh and Portable Decorating Ideas for Small Spaces

Although the focus of this book is on "Posh and Portable Decorating Ideas for Small Spaces," the tips, advice and projects presented here can bu used by anyone and work equally well for larger spaces and established homes.

Altered Dreamstime photo.
Altered Dreamstime photo.

Why Use Fabric on Your Walls?

1. Fabric can be considerably less costly than wallpaper

2. Fabric applied as described below can be easily removed without damaging walls

3. You have more design options as there are more fabrics than wallpapers available

4. Applying fabric is easier than using wallpaper

5. Fabric can hide flawed walls

6. Removed fabric can be laundered and reused

Decorator's Tip

Apply a panel of cut-to-size and shape fabric on the wall behind your bed as a designer-look headboard.

Finish by covering the edges with gimp or other decorative trim applied with a glue gun.

Types of Fabrics you can use on your walls

© 2011-15 Restoration Fabrics & Trims LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 2011-15 Restoration Fabrics & Trims LLC. All Rights Reserved. | Source
Stanley 33-425 25-Foot by 1-Inch Measuring Tape
Stanley 33-425 25-Foot by 1-Inch Measuring Tape

Anything thinner or not as strong will flop over when extended. You need a heavy duty tape measure if you intend to measure more than 3 or 4 ft distances. If you can go wider than 1 inch, even better.


Lighter weight interior decorating fabrics are the easiest to use and are usually about 54 inches wide, so will cover a good size area per panel.

Chintz, glazed or polished cotton, gingham, toiles and cotton blend solids, sateens, patterns or prints are the most frequently used.

Some microsuedes, velveteen, damasks and jacquards can also be applied with this method.

Avoid using silks (real and faux), sheers, heavier upholstery fabrics, and fabrics that will stretch.

On a tight budget? Look for sales on fabric, fabric shower curtains, bed sheets, and even some unlined, unpleated drapery panels.

Decorator's Tip

If possible, purchase fabric on the bolt, which means it comes rolled on a heavy cardboard tube, which keeps it from being creased or wrinkled. After cutting the fabric, you can roll it back on to the bolt to store it neatly if you are not able to apply it to the wall right away.

If you roll each length of fabric onto an empty bolt before hanging it is easier to handle and you can unroll it from the bolt onto the wall.

Part 1: Preparation

1. Measure the wall area you want to cover and add at least three inches to the height. You can cover all of the walls, a single accent wall, or a partial wall like the area above or below a chair rail. If your fabric has a large repeat, add a minimum of 20% additional fabric length to allow for matching the pattern when you hang it. (You will trim off excess fabric once it dries on the wall.)

2. Determine how much fabric you will need.

3. Purchase the fabric and other supplies (See "What You'll Need" list below)


4. If fabric is washable and not dye fast and pre-shrunk, launder it and iron if necessary.

This will prevent shrinkage and make sure the fabric won't run during application.

Be sure to do this prior to cutting the fabric so if it does shrink you will not wind up with lengths that are too short.

Pro Tip: Washing and ironing fabric before hanging will prevent the colors from running.

If you think the fabric may run, use cold water and add a handful of regular table salt to the load. The salt will help set the color and prevent it from bleeding.

Zinsser 97409 Wallcovering Sponge
Zinsser 97409 Wallcovering Sponge

Large enough to get the job done fast; shaped for comfortable grip


5. Prepare the walls by scrubbing them with mild detergent in warm water. (Liquid dish washing detergent works great.) This will remove any dust, soil, etc. that will prevent the fabric from adhering to the wall. Make sure you rinse the walls thoroughly with clean warm water and allow them to dry thoroughly.

6. Cover the floor with dropcloths, using painters tape, mask off baseboards and door and window frames. Move furniture out of the way.

The Right Tools Make the Job Easier

Paint Essentials 9-Feet x 12-Feet Canvas Drop Cloth HW912
Paint Essentials 9-Feet x 12-Feet Canvas Drop Cloth HW912

You can use cheaper plastic ones, but I find they tear easily and this does a much better job of protection - plus it is not slippery to walk on like plastic ones are


What you'll need

• Fabric • Tape measure

• Push pins or stapler with long staples

• Straight edge • Level • Craft or utility knife

• Drop Cloths, plastic • Large sponge

• Foam paint roller, Brush • Blue painters tape

• Paint roller tray • Scissors

• Wallpaper brush and/or smoothing tool

• Gloves • Work table • Ladder • Starch*

Some additional Starch options from Argo, Linit, and Easy-On.
Some additional Starch options from Argo, Linit, and Easy-On.

* Starch Options

You can use liquid starch which is pre-mixed or you can purchase starch you have to mix yourself. The latter type comes with instructions on the package.

If you are only doing a small area, you might find that spray starch will work for you, but it is harder to control and you will have to do more extensive masking if you choose to use a spray.

My personal preference is to use liquid starch as it is easier to control coverage and costs less than spray starch.

Starch Options

Earth Friendly Products Spray Starch, 22-Ounce (Pack of 2)
Earth Friendly Products Spray Starch, 22-Ounce (Pack of 2)

Other popular choices include the products shown on the right: Argo Gloss Laundry Starch, Linit Crisp Classic Liquid Laundry Starch, and Easy-On Spray Starch. All are available via the Amazon link.

Altered photo used under Royalty Free License
Altered photo used under Royalty Free License | Source

7. Carefully measure and cut the first full length of fabric. If the fabric has a pattern, make sure it will match before you cut the next length, and so on. Remember - measure twice, cut once.

8. If you are covering more than one wall, decide which is the least conspicuous corner. This is where you will start hanging from as you work your way around the room so the final corner, which will be mismatched if you have a patterned fabric, will not be obvious.

9. Once you have determined where to start from, measure out from the corner equal to the width of your fabric. Using a plumb line or a level, draw a light pencil line along the wall to guide you in hanging the fabric straight. (Do not assume that corners, edges of door frames, or other features are plumb. They usually are not.)

Proceed around the room drawing plumb lines at the same width to use as guidelines. (Depending on your walls, you may have to slightly overlap parts of the fabric or cut a slit in the fabric when you get to the corner so you can overlap the fabric a little to compensate for imperfections in the walls.)

10. Enlist one other person to help you hang the fabric, especially if you are covering large areas with wide fabric or bed sheets.

What about the Selvage?

Depending on the width of the selvage and

the thickness and weave of your fabric, you

can either carefully cut the selvage off or you

can fold it under when you hang the fabric.


Part 2: Applying the Fabric to your Walls

1. Pour the liquid starch into the paint tray or a clean bucket and brush or roll it onto the top half of the wall where you will hang your first cut length of fabric. Wear gloves as starch can cause severely dry skin.

2. Leaving an inch and a half overlap at the ceiling,* and using your plumb line as a guide, place the fabric on the top part of the wall. Smooth it in place with your hands or smoothing tool. A sponge will also help you get any wrinkles or bubbles out of the fabric and will also absorb excess starch.

* You will also want to leave a one inch overlap around window and door frames. You can cut a small slit at the corners so fabric will lie flat, but do not trim excess off at this point. It will be easier to trim neatly once the fabric has dried completely.

3. Either have your helper hold the fabric out of the way or use a few push pins to pin it up out of your way while you apply starch to the bottom half of the wall. Then smooth the bottom half of the fabric onto the wall as you did the top half.

4. Once the length of fabric is attached to the wall, apply a coat of starch to the entire surface of the fabric starting at the top and working your way down the panel. Make sure the starch penetrates the fabric evenly then, using a sponge, paint roller or wallpaper smoothing tool, smooth out any wrinkles and air bubbles.

5. Repeat the process with each successive panel, aligning the pattern and being careful to hang the fabric straight with the help of your guidelines.

Allow the fabric to dry thoroughly before going on to Part 3.

(This may take 24 to 36 hours or a little bit longer)

Video: How to Cover Walls With Fabric

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Part 3. Finishing & Clean-up

Once Fabric is Thoroughly Dry

1. Carefully remove the push pins or staples you used to hold the fabric in place while it dried

2. Using a metal straightedge and sharp carpet or craft knife, trim extra fabric from the top and bottom of wall and around door and window frames. You may have to change the blade a few times but make sure you only make cuts with a sharp blade or your cuts may not be as clean as they should be.

3. Sponge off any starch residue left on ceiling and woodwork with a sponge dampened with warm water.

4. Remove remaining drop cloths and blue tape.

5. Stand back and admire your work!

To Remove Wall Fabric

Simply Peel it Off starting with a corner

(Dampen with a wet sponge if it doesn't come off easily)

• Sponge down the wall with warm water and mild detergent to remove starch residue, if any

• Launder the fabric to remove starch & it will be usable for another project

For the Finest Selection of Discounted Designer Fabrics - Shop at Restoration Fabrics & Trims


Specialists in Period Sensitive Decorating at Budget Sensitive Prices


Decorator's Tip

You can use the same starch method described here to cover cabinets, furniture and door panels

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Like Interior Decorating Tips and/or Old Houses?

© 2012 Chazz

Have You Ever Hung Fabric on a Wall? - Do you think it's a good idea?

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    • chezchazz profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from New York

      Thank you. Glad you found it helpful.

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 

      2 years ago from USA

      Excellent article explaining this wall covering method. I've been looking for this for a long time.

    • chezchazz profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from New York

      You are most welcome, Ruth. Hope you enjoy the results! If you'd like, send me a photo of your finished project and I'll add it to this page.

    • profile image

      Ruth Cox 

      4 years ago

      This is exactly the fix I needed for my walls in my home I rent. Thanks for the how-to and another to-do!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you. This is the first time I have seen a comment on what to do with the selvage edges. I have the fabric and the place to put it but did not know what to do about the selvage edges.

    • auntjennie profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      I have never used fabric on a wall before but it sounds like a cool alternative to wallpaper.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've used fabric on walls before, but always with padding underneath.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      Great idea and explanation. Especially useful for renters or college students in dorms.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Will definitely be using your ideas next time when I cover my room walls with fabric.

    • WhiteOak50 profile image


      7 years ago

      Congratulations on your purple star!!

    • MikeRobbers LM profile image

      MikeRobbers LM 

      7 years ago

      I love Wallcovering and your instructions are really useful and clear , I'm gonna try it one day for sure

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 

      7 years ago

      Oh, you have definitely inspired me! I rent, so the fact that it's removable is great. Now I'll be looking for fabric. Thanks so much. (Squid Angel blessed.)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My hairdresser actually pink fur fabric on the wall... seemed odd at first, but the color is very flattering...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Who knew? This is such an awesome idea! Wonderful clear instructions, too.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i love it! unable to paint most apts.....i've experimented with metallic gift wrap,silk linens, curtains, etc.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for the detailed instructions. Still too complicated for me to try myself.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I was going to start painting but now I think I have other plans. Thanks for putting this lens together.

    • Camden1 profile image


      7 years ago

      I didn't know you could hang fabric on a wall, much less remove it! Your tutorial makes it look so easy!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow - I didn';t know you could do this - my house may be getting a makeover quite soon!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      No, but this is a great idea! I had no idea the fabric and corn starch combo would hold!


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