How to Remove Wallpaper - Best Way to Remove Old Wallpaper

It's an arduous job, but anyone can do it.

Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. Why Trust Us? Mural Wallpaper

How to Remove Wallpaper - Best Way to Remove Old Wallpaper

Maybe a few years ago your family was in love with a forest-printed accent wall, and now it looks tacky. Or you recently moved into a new home, and you have some cute wallpaper in what used to be a toddler’s room, but it doesn’t make sense in your new office. Either way, the wallpaper has to go.

What’s tricky about removing wallpaper is that it’s hard to gauge how long it’ll take until you actually start. In general, the amount of time it takes to remove wallpaper will depend on the type of wall and the kind of wallpaper you have. There's no shortcut for removing wallpaper. It's a messy and time-consuming job, but with the right tools, anyone can do it.

The first thing you’ll want to do is determine which kind of wallpaper you have. You can do this by picking at a small corner and trying to remove it. If you’re lucky, it’ll be peel-and-stick wallpaper. This one comes off easily in one layer and does not usually leave any marks on the wall. You can probably remove a whole wall with peel-and-stick wallpaper in ten minutes.

However, other types of wallpaper stick to the wall with an adhesive and take more time to remove. The main kinds of wallpaper with adhesive are pre-pasted (paste is already on the back) and non-pasted (paste has to be applied before sticking to the wall). Wallpapers typically have two layers: the paper that sticks to the wall and then a vinyl or another water-resistant layer with the actual pattern. Yes, this means you’ll have two layers to remove with non peel-and-stick wallpapers.

Homes built since the 1950s have walls that are constructed using drywall, whereas older homes have walls made of plaster over a wood, gypsum, or metal lathe. Removing wallpaper from drywall can be a bit trickier, as the drywall surface can bond to the wallpaper, making removal of the wallpaper nearly impossible without damaging the wall. Plaster-built walls usually don't have the same issue.

If you are unsure about what type of wall you have, remove a wall plate around a light switch and look at the exposed section of the wall. Drywall will be thinner and more uniform than plaster, which is usually troweled right up to the electrical box.

Even if your home is older, there could be drywall in place because of a recent remodel or renovation. It's always good to check before proceeding with wallpaper removal.

How your walls look at the end of this process really depends on whether or not they were painted before. If they have been painted, the adhesive layer will be a lot easier to remove and the walls will look cleaner. Chances are good they will look almost exactly the same once you are finished. Depending on the paint, there may be a slight sheen remaining if you look closely at the wall. However, the walls will be clean and undamaged and unless there is a specific circumstance, you will not have to repaint them.

If the walls haven’t been painted, there’s a chance the water will seep through and damage them. It will also mean the removal process will be more difficult.

In this case, you may find you need additional tools to remove the adhesive layer. A steamer may be necessary if your wallpaper is particularly hard to remove or not budging. If the top layer of the wallpaper is not coming off easily, you can consider using a scorer, which will poke holes in the wallpaper and make it easier for the water to seep into the adhesive. The risk in using a scorer is that you’ll leave marks on the wall.

However, while there are many wallpaper removing products out there, the most reliable method of removing adhesive is with water. It’s best to give this a real try before moving on to other products. Using a water spray or sponge may be cumbersome, but generally works and it is the best way to ensure the walls will remain undamaged.

It’s completely possible to remove wallpaper on your own but be prepared to spend a good amount of time on it. Multiple days for a small area like a kitchen is a good timeframe. You can expect that some sections will be harder to remove than others, and no matter what, it’s a time-intensive process. Or, who knows, you might get lucky and removing your wallpaper will be as easy as it looks in DIY videos.

Leeron Hoory is a New York-based journalist with experience covering technology, health, and real estate. Her work has appeared in publications like Quartz, the Village Voice, Gothamist, and Slate, among others. She has reviewed home, outdoor and technology products for Popular Science, Tom's Guide, First for Women and Woman's World. 

Timothy is a lifelong DIY enthusiast who is fixated on smart home tech, beautiful tools, and wrenching on his FJ62 Land Cruiser.  He’s the DIY editor at Popular Mechanics and also the founder of the home improvement site, Charles & Hudson, the Webby-nominated family site, Built by Kids, and Tool Crave. When not working, you’ll find him on his board or bike enjoying the LA weather with his family and friends. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

The Fortress For the World’s Ancient Manuscripts

A Fifth Ocean May Be Forming, Scientists Say

What It’s Really Like to Be a CIA ‘Shadow Warrior’

How Dead People Are Turned Into Diamonds

This Year's Burning Man Had Lots of Sea Monkeys

Was Amelia Earhart Eaten by Crabs?

New Photo May Be a Clue in Earhart Mystery

Why Air Turbulence Is Getting Worse

New Medicine May Help New Teeth Grow

3 Ways War Might Start Between the U.S. and China

How the Silver Bridge Came Crashing Down

How the M2 Became the U.S. Military’s Favorite Gun

A Part of Hearst Digital Media

We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back.

How to Remove Wallpaper - Best Way to Remove Old Wallpaper

Hotel Decoration Wallpaper ©2024 Hearst Magazine Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.