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How to strip wallpaper

Posted by Adrian
May 2nd, 2010

Graphic of scraper and wallpaper

How to strip wallpaper, and not take off half the wall with it!

At sometime or another wallpaper has to be removed from walls or ceilings, this could be due to many reasons but mostly because it’s faded, old and out-dated.

Knowing how to remove paper without taking off half the plaster with it is important and could save you a load of work and money.

Many people think they will simply go and hire a wallpaper stripper and an hour later all the wallpaper will be off, it’s not as simple as that.

You can save yourself money and not hire a wallpaper stripper just yet, you may not need one, firstly try the old fashioned method.

To start, gather the equipment needed.

You will need:

  • Dustsheets – to cover the floor and furniture
  • A scraper – to remove wallpaper
  • A bucket – Filled with water
  • A step ladder – Optional
  • A paste brush or a large brush – To wet the wall

Firstly you need to remove the top layer of the wallpaper, with most papers you can remove the top layer as they are peelable, start in a corner by lifting the paper with your scraper and remove the top layer.

By removing the top layer you leave the backing paper behind, don’t be tempted to leave this on and either paint it or paper over it. The backing paper can bubble or lift as you paint or stick the new paper over it.

Next take your bucket of water and your brush, you could use a sponge if you haven’t got a big brush, wet the brush and then wet the backing paper on the wall or ceiling.

Allow the water to soak in, you could wet an entire wall in one go allowing time for the water to soak in. You may notice the paper bubble; this is the water softening the paste and lifting the backing paper.

Now take your scraper and start to scrape the backing paper off the wall or ceiling, you should find it come off fairly easily, if not you may need to soak the paper again or leave it for a bit longer.

Continue to remove all the backing paper but be careful not to scratch the wall or take lumps out of it with the scraper, you’ll only have to fill it later! Try and scrape as much old paste off as you can, as you go.

Once you have removed all the backing paper leave the walls to dry, you can then do any filling required and rub the walls down ready for re-decoration.

The Wallpaper Stripper Route

If you do decide to go with the more modern method and use or hire a wallpaper stripper please read the following carefully.

If you are stripping paper off an older property you may have loose plaster, a steamer/stripper will more than likely lift this with the heat, and you will then need to re-plaster or fill the walls.

Don’t think by using a stripper you don’t have to remove the top paper first, you do. If you don’t you need to hold the steam plate on the wall for a long time making the chance of blowing the plaster off the wall much higher. The only time you may not be able to remove the top paper are papers such as emulsioned wallpaper like woodchip.

Move the steam plate every few seconds minimising the risk of blowing the plaster.

Be careful if steaming ceilings, as the steam gathers in the steam plate it will drip, it’s HOT so be careful.

I would say consider your options first before going out and hiring a wallpaper stripper, try the old method first, it could save you money!

Alternatively you could always save the money and time on hiring a wallpaper stripper and hire a professional like myself to do the job for you.

There are methods such as a liquid wallpaper remover whereby you brush it onto the wallpaper and then leave for a set amount of time before scraping the wallpaper off. I have never used this method so can not comment on how easy or effective it is.

If you have any tips or advice please feel free to add your comments below.

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Posted in Decorating Tips | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “How to strip wallpaper”

  1. Adrian Says:

    Stripping wallpaper? Need to know how many rolls of wallpaper to buy : or for ceiling paper:

    Stripping wallpaper? Going to emulsion the wall, not sure how much paint to buy?

    Stripping wallpaper? Going to tile the wall instead of paper or emulsion, but how many tiles do you buy?

    Date posted : May 2nd, 2010 at 2:38 pm
  2. Paul Garnett Says:

    Liquid wallpaper remover is the only way to go when it comes to old style wallpapers in my experience.

    Date posted : May 16th, 2011 at 8:20 pm
  3. Derek Says:

    Thanks for your help,will give it a go cheers.

    Date posted : November 5th, 2014 at 7:52 am
  4. Lisa Wilson Says:

    Csn you advise about stripping wallpaper that has been painted over? Think it will be a tough job stripping it off . Any suggestions ? Lisa

    Date posted : June 13th, 2016 at 5:50 pm
  5. Adrian Says:


    Try removing the top layer of paper and then soak the wall, go have a coffee, soak the wall again then try carefully scraping the backing paper off. If you are using a steamer, be careful not to blow the plaster, don’t hold the steam plate in one area for too long.

    Date posted : June 14th, 2016 at 1:31 pm

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