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How-To: Removing Wallpaper

Downstairs Bathroom, How-To

I’ve decided to add a category for how-to’s, so we can share some of the tricks and techniques we’re learning (and other fixer-uppers can tack theirs on as well). For the first how-to, I’m starting with something easy ;)

One of the things we’ve been working on this week is removing old wallpaper from the downstairs bathroom. The walls have 4-5 layers of old wallpaper on them, but underneath we were thrilled to find drywall. This makes the bathroom the only room on the first floor that doesn’t have crumbling plaster walls.


I don’t like buying stuff I don’t need. I never bother with wallpaper remover sprays or gels because I’ve found that hot water and dish soap works just as well – just mix some up in an old spray bottle. Spray down a section of the wall and let the hot water soak in good; you should be able to scrape off multiple layers without much elbow grease. I use a putty knife to scrape with – plastic is a safer bet if your walls are easily scratched or dented. I also keep a bucket of hot water and an old scrubby sponge nearby; when you get down to the bare wall, use the scrubber side of the sponge to get off the last little bits.

Hot water is the key; the hotter the better.

Here’s what it looked like once we got the paper off – check out what color the walls are!


Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

Kasmira had this to say on 02.17.05:

I appreciate the tip! I have two layers of painted over wallpaper to strip in the kitchen. I bought DIF spray gel but haven’t tried it yet. I’m a little intimidated by the project. I keep telling myself just to try a little corner and see how it goes….but, I have trouble getting started. Maybe you will inspire me!

Trissa had this to say on 02.18.05:

I wish I had known to try that when I helped my sister-in-law remove the foil wallpaper in their dining room. Can’t wait to see the final product!

Brian had this to say on 02.18.05:

on toh the other day they had a littl tool that pokes milions of holes in the walpaper. its a circle 4″x1″ with pokey wheels that move in circles while you move it around. i found one at menardos for 5 bux. we’ll be using it soon

Derek had this to say on 02.18.05:

I was surprised how easily our 7 layers of painted and spackled wallpaper came off with hot water. If it’s the plastic type, or the drywall isn’t primed 1st, that’s when you run in to problems

Kristin had this to say on 02.20.05:

I agree about good old-fashioned soap and water. We stripped the kitchen wallpaper in our last house, and that blue gel stuff didn’t affect it AT ALL. We used water and putty knives, too … though once I resorted to using a metal cooking spatula …

jimstpaul had this to say on 02.23.05:

30 percent white vinegar and a dash of dishsoap is even better than plain dishsoap.

This is a tip from my dad, 5th generation paperhanger and painter.

Graham had this to say on 03.07.05:

Too funny,
I am stripping the walls in my hallway and have just about the same pink color under my wallpaper (what were they thinking???).

Jean had this to say on 10.31.07:

How can you safely remove old wall paper from plaster and lathe walls? Hot water seems to soak in and damage the plaster. Any ideas?

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