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Easy Peeling: Affordable, Natural Wallpaper Removal

As a homeowner, chances are you will need to remove wallpaper or wallpaper borders at some point. There are plenty of harsh—and expensive—chemical solvents to help remove wallpaper. At home improvement stores, bottles of the solvent start at about $19.00. That seems like too much money to get rid of something ugly. I found two effective and frugal methods to remove unsightly, peeling wallpaper (the previous owners of our home loved the stuff).

Prepare the Room

This is not a clean project, but a few simple steps will reduce the mess. If the entire wall is covered in wallpaper, move everything away from the walls or out of the room so you have plenty of space to work. Remove electrical switch plates and outlet covers. Protect the floor with a plastic drop cloth and lay newspaper over that. This keeps you from slipping on the wet plastic and makes cleanup a breeze.

Tug at a loose seam or corner of the wallpaper. If the wallpaper is vinyl, you will need to remove the outer layer and expose the paper backing. If the top, printed layer will not come off, use a scoring tool on the entire surface. Use a circular motion to score the wallpaper but be careful to not use too much force. The goal is to allow the remover solution to penetrate down to the adhesive.

Mix the Solution

Option 1: Mix 4 cups of liquid fabric softener (any brand) with 1 gallon of hot water. Mix well.

Option 2: Combine 2 cups of white vinegar with 1 gallon of hot water. Mix well.

Get Started

Pour the solution into a spray bottle or garden pump sprayer. Wear protective eyeglasses, and spray a manageable area of wallpaper with the mixture. Allow it to stand for at least 10 minutes. While you wait, keep the wall moist with the stripping solution.

Use a 4-inch wide, flat-blade putty knife to scrape off the wallpaper and paste. Find flat blade putty knives in the paint section of your hardware store. A smaller size comes in handy around obstacles and in corners. Let the mess fall to the drop cloths. When you are finished, simply fold up the drop cloth and dispose of it.

Once all the wallpaper is off the wall, make sure all the adhesive residue is removed. Lightly re-spray the wall with the stripping solution and wipe with a scrubbing sponge. This removes any residual glue. Allow the wall to dry completely before fixing damage to the drywall. Always use a primer before re-wallpapering or painting.

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9 thoughts on “Easy Peeling: Affordable, Natural Wallpaper Removal”

  1. Tanya says:

    I’ve taken down a LOT of wallpaper in my time and use the fabric softener/water mixture and it’s always worked easily……smells better than the vinegar too.  However, getting the paper off is the easy part.  THEN you have to get the glue off which requires washing and washing and washing……..a real pain in the rear.

  2. Redy2wrk23 says:

    I scored the wall paper, sprayed it with Downy fabric softener in warm water, and used a putty knife and it all came right up.  Until this, I had been frustrated, aggravated, and worn out.  The putty knife was the easiest tool to scrape off the wall paper.  Downey was cheaper than any chemicals I had bought which none of them worked.  Getting ready to tackle the bathroom now.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Your water and vinegar solution would also work very well for cleaning glass like windows and aquariums.

  4. Dianne says:

    I knew it was going to be tooo hot to enjoy going outside the last couple of days. So i  took down living room wall paper yesterday and foyer today. It came right down with the fabric softener and water in the spray bottle very easy.. I do make sure the water is hot. It works better than the products to remove the paper and I didnt need a steamer. As long as I sraryed it down real good and just came off.. Nice scent to

  5. Anonymous says:

    Several years ago I purchased a steam cleaner from a mail order company specializing in environmentally friendly products.  Ya’ll just gave me an idea to try it on the wall in my office that needs some wallpaper removed.  Before I do, I will score the walls to improve the absorption of the steam and water.  Thanks for the idea.  And if that doesn’t work I will try the two solutions suggested in this post.

    • Anonymous says:

      A wallpaper steamer is specifically designed for the job. It has a special wide attachment on the hose for steaming large sections.

      Scoring the wallpaper is important.

  6. Truckescrt says:

    I have bought homes with wallpaper that needed removing, one had 3 or 4 LAYERS of paper on paper. The ABSOLUTE BEST invention is to go and buy a wallpaper steamer remover! The best $50 I HAVE EVER SPENT!
    If you’re young, overly energetic and have nothing but time on your hands, try all the other stuff, but the chemicals are a waste. This uses nothing but water and other than the risk of burning yourself with steam, it is perfectly safe. There may be other ways of steaming it off, maybe if you have one of those iron machines with the steamer or even one of those steam cleaners, but it is amazing how much better it works. Saved myself a TON OF WORK and time.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree, nothing beats a wallpaper steamer. It’s the best way to go. No chemicals and takes the paper off easily and cleanly. I’ve unfortunately had to take down more than my fair share of wallpaper so I know. Worth every penny. When I was done with it and certain I wouldn’t need it anymore I sold it on Craigslist and got 70% of my money back on it.

  7. Kristi says:

    I’ve never tried fabric softener, but the vinegar and water works very well.  It also works for scraping popcorn ceilings.  (as long as they have not been repainted)