how to remove wallpaper from drywall

How To Remove Wallpaper From Drywall

Removing wallpaper tends to go one of two ways: it’s either incredibly easy or painstakingly hard. Usually painstakingly hard.

And really, the ease of removal depends on several factors. These include the age of the wallpaper, how it was applied, if the homeowner sealed the drywall before installation, and the humidity levels in the room.

If you’re having difficulty removing wallpaper without tearing your drywall, here are the top methods for damage-free wallpaper removal.

Wallpaper Removal Supply List

Prep and Clean Up:

  • Screwdriver
  • Painter’s tape
  • Plastic sheeting

Wallpaper Removal:

  • Empty spray bottle
  • Hot water
  • Metal putty knife with rounded edges
  • Gel wallpaper stripper

How to Remove Wallpaper from Drywall: Step by Step

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To successfully remove wallpaper, you need to set aside at least a full day for the project, but it may take multiple days depending on the size of the room.

I’ve removed just about every kind of wallpaper imaginable. So unless you’re working in a high humidity room like a bathroom or are removing peel and stick wallpaper, expect the job to be tedious. (And mentally prepare for it!)

Here’s how to remove wallpaper from drywall – the best method for damage-free removal.

Prepare Your Room

Since removing wallpaper requires the walls and surrounding surfaces to get wet, you’ll want to switch off the electricity in the room you’re working on. You’ll need to bring in work lamps powered by an extension cord.

Then start removing any pictures or decor hanging on the wall. You’ll also want to remove electrical outlet covers, light switch plates, vents, and anything else on the wall.

Cover open outlets and light switches with painter’s tape.

Cover your baseboard with a coat of plastic sheeting taped on with painter’s tape. You’ll also want to consider covering your floors in a drop cloth since water will likely run down the wall and soak them.

Pull Off the Paper Facing

Now you’re going to pull off the paper facing. This is just the top layer of wallpaper where the print is.

Doing this allows the backing and glue to absorb water.

To pull off the paper facing, start in a corner or around an outlet where you can get a good grip. Then, grab the paper and pull it off at a 45-degree angle using even pressure.

The paper will likely come off in small sections.

However, if you’re working in a room affected by high humidity or working with newer wallpaper, the paper may come up in large sections, which is ideal. (Note: ideal does not mean normal.

It’s normal for the paper to come off in small areas.)

Soak and Scrape the Backing

Once you have the vast majority of the paper facing pulled off, it’s time to soak the backing and scrape it off.

Here’s how:

  • Fill a spray bottle with hot water
  • Spray a small section of the wall until you’ve saturated the backing 
  • Allow the paper to soak for 5-15 minutes or until the paste softens
  • After the paste is soft and the paper looks like it’s peeling, scrape it off with a rounded-edge putty knife

You’ll need to work in small sections, so your drywall isn’t wet for too long. Since drywall has a paper face, leaving it wet for a prolonged period can expose it to rotting and mold growth.

If your paste doesn’t soften the first time, rewet it.

Work in sections, spraying the paper with hot water, allowing it to soak up, and then scraping it off.

Remove Any Lingering Glue

Once you’ve scraped the wallpaper from the drywall, you’ll likely have patches of wallpaper glue left behind. These patches often glisten in the light and look a slightly different color than the wall.

To get rid of the leftover glue, start by washing your wall with soapy water and a sponge. This will remove some lingering residue.

Spray the remaining patches with gel wallpaper remover, allow the remover to sit for 15 minutes, and then use your scraper. (Refer to the gel remover you’re using for specific instructions.) 

You can wash the wall afterward with mild soap and water.

Repair and Prime

Hopefully, you’re left with clean and smooth drywall after wallpaper removal. But, that’s not usually the case.

Even in the most careful removal, it’s common to have a spot or two that needs repairing.

You can repair small divots by filling them with joint compound or spackling, allowing them to dry, and sanding them smooth. 

Afterward, prime your walls and add paint or new wallpaper.

Tip: If your walls are very torn after wallpaper removal, you’ll need to skim coat them. To do this, use a drywall skim blade and thinned joint compound to apply a thin coat to the wall. Your skim coat should be about 1/16 inch thick. Allow this coat to fully cure before you prime and paint.

How to Remove Strippable or Peelable Wallpaper

How to Remove Strippable or Peelable Wallpaper

Some newer wallpapers are strippable or peelable. For both of these, start in a corner and pull the wallpaper off at a 45-degree angle.

The wallpaper should come up in one large sheet. After removing all the wallpaper, wash your walls with soapy water and a sponge.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to remove wallpaper with vinegar?

If you want, you can add white distilled vinegar to your spray bottle to create a wallpaper removing solution. Start by tearing the paper face of the wallpaper, so you’re left only with the glued-down backing.

Now fill a spray bottle with half hot water and half white distilled vinegar. Working in sections, spray the backing and allow it to sit for 5-15 minutes.

Then, come in with a putty knife and scrape the backing off the wall.

How to remove wallpaper with fabric softener?

While hot water often works just fine for removing wallpaper, you can use fabric softener to increase its efficacy. To do this, add three parts hot water and 1 part liquid fabric softener to a spray bottle.

Then, remove the paper face of your wallpaper by pulling it off the wall – this will expose the glued-down backing portion of the paper.

Spray the glued-down backing with your hot water and fabric softener solution. Allow the solution to soak into the paper for up to 15 minutes.

Once thoroughly soaked, scrape the paper off the wall using a putty knife with rounded edges.

Will GooGone remove wallpaper?

The best way to remove wallpaper is to use hot water. Hot water alone will help you get most of the paper and glue off the wall.

However, if you have leftover spots that aren’t budging, GooGone may help. Simply spray GooGone on the wallpaper, allow it to sit for 15 minutes, and then scrape it with a putty knife.

Final Thoughts

Removing old wallpaper is one of the least enjoyable DIY tasks. But, if you’re ready for a new look in your home, it’s unavoidable.

The best wallpaper removal process is to start by peeling off the paper face. Once you do this, the glued-down backing will be exposed and able to absorb water.

The hot water you spray on the backing will help loosen up the glue, and you can then scrape it off the wall.

After the paper is gone, wash your walls with soap and water, remove any excess paste, and make necessary repairs.