Time: 2 Days
Level: Medium
Project Cost: $30-$50
Professional Cost: $395
How to Remove Old Wallpaper - Old Wallpaper
Tools you Need

Did you inherit fantastic fish wallpaper? Time to remove it!

Trial and Error

Unfortunately, removing wallpaper is a trial and error process. Bauen recommends starting first with just plain hot water. You might be surprised how much this can accomplish. We started off using a stripping agent for everything and then came to realize hot water worked for 90 % of the area. We only needed the stripping agent for the extra tough areas. The overall key is to make sure that water gets down to the bottom glue layer.

 Double the process

Many wallpapers have at least two layers – the decorative paper and the glued paper layer. When you start the removal process, you might encounter just the top layer coming off. That’s ok. You just have to wet and remove twice. 

 What if it doesn’t come off?

 Time to call the professionals! They will have the ability to remove the more adherent wallpaper. Situations like this might call for some heavy duty chemicals. Best to leave those to the professionals.

 A little about this ‘How To’

 The wallpaper we are removing in this project is washable wallpaper that was installed approximately 15 years ago in the bathroom. We assume it has been exposed to significant moisture. 


Answer these questions prior to starting. You might learn something!

1. What type of wallpaper is it?

Strippable Wallpaper: You struck gold. No water or chemicals are necessary. Just start peeling.

Washable Wallpaper: Things start to get a little tricky. Washable wallpaper typically has a plastic like coating on it that makes it easy to clean. When it comes to removing, you will need to score (a scratch or line cut in a surface) the surface so that the water or stripping agent can reach the glue.

Vinyl: Often found in wet areas of a residence, vinyl wallpaper typically has two layers – vinyl top and paper bottom. The top layer is impermeable to water and requires scoring.

2. What type of walls do you have? Plaster or drywall?
This information is helpful in understanding how durable your walls will be during the scraping process and ultimately, what type of wall repair you might have to do at the end. Plaster walls are very dense and thicker than drywall, which makes drywall more sensitive to blades and pressure.

Plaster walls are more dense and harder than drywall.


3. Can you tell if the walls were primed?
Unless you were the installer of the existing wallpaper, you are most likely dealing with a mystery until you start scrapping. If your walls were primed prior to wallpaper being placed, then you are lucky! This should make the scrapping process a little easier. If the wallpaper was applied directly to drywall, then things will be a little trickier.

BottomlineRemoving wallpaper is very much a trial and error project. Have patience if you have to do a two-step removal. It’s better to take the time and keep your walls intact.

How to Remove Old Wallpaper Changing Old Lightbulbs
How to Remove Old Wallpaper remove light switch faceplate

Protect yourself and your room.

1. Remove. Remove everything from the walls including switch plates, electrical covers and wall sconce plates. Cut the power to that room, if possible. If you do not know how to, use extra care when removing the wallpaper around the areas with electrical wiring. Move furniture to the center of room.

2. Protect Your Floors. Stripping wallpaper is a wet and messy process. Tape plastic drop cloth securely to your baseboard using quality painter’s tape. If there are concerns that the baseboard finish might come off, then you can place old towels tightly along the baseboard. Just be aware of the water dripping when using your sponge. Have a towel in hand to wipe up water as it drips.

3. Protect Yourself. If you are using a stripping agent or want to protect your new manicure, wear gloves.

4. Prep Your Tools. Fill your bucket with hot water. You will want to refill as soon as it starts to feel lukewarm.


How to Remove Old Wallpaper score wallpaper with utility knife

1. Score the Paper. Make a linear cut in the wallpaper using your blade. You want to use light-to-medium pressure to prevent damaging the wall behind the paper but to penetrate the paper enough so that the water can reach the glue. Test one section to gauge how heavy-handed you are (save those guns for the gym). We recommend starting your cut lines at the edge of the wall or vertical wallpaper seam and move in a diagonal motion to the opposite wallpaper seam. Most wallpaper is 36″ wide. Make the score lines approx 6-9″ apart.

How to Remove Old Wallpaper using sponge to wet wallpaper

2. Sponge Bath. Give the the scored areas a nice sponge bath using the hot water. Look for the paper darkening as an indicator that the water is sufficiently penetrating the deeper layers. Let the water do its job for 2-3 minutes.

  • hand pulls edge of wallpaper
  • person wetting wallpaper with sponge
  • person wetting bottom layer of wallpaper
3. Stripping Pass 1. Start peeling back the wallpaper using your hands. It is easier to start at a corner or edge and you might need assistance from a pair of tweezers to get you started. Take a deep breath and pull slowly. The goal is the peel the top layer off in one piece, however, this very rarely happens. Thats ok though! Once you have removed as much as possible without digging into the wall, sponge the area and repeat. The water will creep under the edges.

  • peeling back wallpaper
  • wallpaper scraper removing wallpaper
4. Stripping Pass 2. The peeling of the top layer will expose the glued paper backing layer. Much of this area will need to be given a sponge bath to active the glue. After you let it soak for 2-3 minutes, peel it off. You might need to use a scraper for tricky areas, but I promise you – this part is quite satisfying #diynerdalert.


How to Remove Old Wallpaper wallpaper solution for wallpaper removal

Sticky Pieces

There is a good chance you will be stuck with some troublesome pieces of wallpaper that just don’t want to let go. Here is where wallpaper solution comes in. The process for using a spray wallpaper solution is the same process as for the hot water. Spray. Let it sit. Scrape off. You might ask why we don’t use the solution for everything – water is cheap and free of chemicals.

How to Remove Old Wallpaper tweezers removing wallpaper

Tight Spaces

You might have some hard to reach areas that make you wonder how in the world they ever installed wallpaper in the first place. Well, now it is your turn to remove it – lucky you. Follow the same wetting process as above but use tweezers to slowly peel off the layers. Tweezers are fantastic for these tough spots!

How to Remove Old Wallpaper blade cutting edges of wallpaper

Edges Under Caulk or Silicone

You might encounter wallpaper edges that are under a layer or caulk or silicone near sink and tub edges. You will need to remove the caulk / silicone in order to remove the old wallpaper. To do this, use a utility knife to cut along the edge into the wallpaper using light to medium pressure. You will be cutting through the caulk / silicone and wallpaper, which should come off as one piece. We recommend starting with light pressure and working your way to a harder pressure to insure no damage occurs to the wall.

Now for the fun stuff. Paint or wallpaper? That’s the question.

how to remove old wallpaper wallpaper damage to wall
Drywall damage from moisture in shower area.


how to remove old wallpaper wallpaper removal damage
Drywall damage from scrapping to hard.

Do you want to…Paint? After spending all this time meticulously removing old wallpaper, we recommend you take the time to do proper wall repair, and if you are feeling extra daring, resurface your walls with skim coating. Check out the projects below. However you plan on proceeding, absolutely prime before painting.

Do you want to…Wallpaper? You don’t have to be as precious with wall repair if you are putting up new wallpaper. Gouges should be filled and raised areas sanded down, but no need to skim coat. Definitely prime though!

HOW TO PAINT A ROOM LIKE A PRO- Click to learn more.

LEARN HOW TO SKIM COAT WALLS – Click to learn more.

Constantly refresh your water so it’s hot as can be. Once it cools, it’s not as effective. Again, have patience! Slow and steady wins the race.

Ready to get rid of that old wallpaper?

Time to take the guesswork out of what wallpaper removal products to buy. Purchase our project kit that includes all the tools needed for a successful DIY wallpaper removal job.

remove wallpaper by hand
Price from: $36.52
Price from: $43.28
Economy vs. Premium