Damage free wallpaper stripping


It can be easy to forget when planning your decorating project that your new home may be anything but new when it comes to its construction.

Victorian Terrace

It may be your new home but it your walls are vintage

I visited a beautiful Victorian terrace recently where previous owners had lovingly added their own stylish and some may say not so stylish touches to this beautiful building.

There were a number of rooms where wallpaper needed to be removed and in order to keep costs low the owners had decided to tackle this work themselves. Just purchased and still in its box stood the ‘steam stripper’ an instrument of torture to your walls and a lucrative source of income for many a plasterer.

The steam stripper works by forcing steam under pressure into your wallpaper, breaking down the adhesive and therefore aiding removal. Unfortunately it knows no bounds and will continue to force hot water into your very old and often delicate plaster thereby aiding not only the removal of the unwanted wallpaper but the very much wanted plaster as well.

An average steam stripper has a 4 litre tank. It is a giant kettle that continually boils. As steam cools it turns back to water. You only have to fill a steam stripper twice and you are throwing a bucket of water around your room.

So here my top tips for easily removing wallpaper without enduring a Swedish sauna that is gentle on your home and won’t warp your wood.

Protect your floor with a plastic sheet and then a dust sheet – A small amount of water goes a long way if it gets spilt.

Look at your wallpaper before you start. Vinyl wall coverings usually have an easy to peel top layer that is not only really satisfying to remove as it comes away in one sheet but also makes the job of removing the backing paper a doddle.

Get yourself a Zinsser Paper Tiger – They are easy to use and perforate the wallpaper allowing moisture to penetrate without damaging the substrate underneath.

Zinsser Paper Tiger

Extreme Spirograph

Use a garden pump spray – Cheap to buy, allows a really fine mist that is easy to control. Adding vinegar to the water can aid the breakdown of the adhesive. Wallpaper stripper products are also available that you add to the water, I’ve never found them necessary but maybe they would make the job even easier, just can’t imagine how.

Wallpaper scraper

The right tool for the job

Use a good wallpaper scraper that sits well in your hand and has a fine blade. Removing wallpaper is not about hard work but the right tools make any job easier.

Some people can be sensitive to wallpaper paste and the fungicide is often contains. A pair of rubber gloves will give you the protection you need. If you are stripping ceilings wear protective goggles.

So now you are ready to begin:-

If the top layer of wallpaper is vinyl peal it off first. Your paper tiger will score this layer as well so it’s not essential but is really satisfying so I always give it a go.

Use your Zinsser Paper Tiger to score the wallpaper. This tool is fool proof, nothing technical it’s like extreme Spirograph, if you are feeling really creative you can make some really great patterns.

Paper Tiger in Action

Fool proof and fun

Fill your pump sprayer with water and make sure the nozzle is adjusted to a fine mist. Pump up the pressure and start spraying from the top of the wall. Take your time but don’t linger in one place, you are not trying to create Niagara Falls in your living room.

When you have finished spraying the area either move on to the next area of wallpaper or go for a cuppa. You need to be patient let the moisture soak in so wait at about 20 minutes before trying to remove the paper.

After 20 minutes; using your scraper test the top corner of wallpaper it should lift easily. Gently pull away from the wall. If it doesn’t come away easily, respray and leave to soak for longer.

The wallpaper scraper is there to assist with the lifting, unless you want to re-create a bear attack in your living room do not try and remove wallpaper that hasn’t soaked for long enough. You will just end up gouging out your plaster.

Scraping wallpaper

If you have a really stubborn piece of wallpaper just repeat with the Paper Tiger, re-spray and make sure you allow plenty of time to soak.

Clear up as you go along. Wet wallpaper will dry and re-stick only this time to the bottom of your shoe, the dog or the landing carpet. Be careful with pets. Wallpaper paste often contains fungicide so don’t let your pets or small children chew the old wallpaper.

When the wall has been stripped it should be cleaned to remove any remaining paste residue. The sprayer is useful for this. Use warm water and add a bit of detergent, lightly spray and wipe.

Air the room and allow it to dry out naturally. This won’t take long as the damp is only on the surface of the plaster.

Stripping has never been so easy!