How to Remove Wallpaper Paste

Preparing a Room for Wallpaper Removal

How to Remove Wallpaper

How to Remove Wallpaper Paste

How to Avoid Major Drywall Damage Removing Wallpaper.

Installing New Wallpaper.

Fixing Flaking and Peeling Paint  Problems.

Painting Tools and Strategies. 

How to Fix Drywall




Before You Start

If you plan to hang wallpaper again, you might be able to hang your new wallpaper over the existing wallpaper paste. To see whether this situation applies to you, read Installing New Wallpaper.

If you're planning to paint instead, you'll want to thoroughly remove all of your wallpaper paste first since any residual wallpaper paste that is painted over will eventually cause the paint to flake. If you have already encountered this problem, you can read  Fixing Flaking and Peeling Paint Paint Problems.

Step 1

The first step in the process of removing wallpaper paste is to protect all of your outlets, floors, furniture and other items of the home in order to prevent water damage and avoid electrical danger. To see how to do this, read Preparing a Room for Wallpaper and Wallpaper Paste Removal.



Step 2

Next, you'll want to gather all of the tools you'll need to remove the wallpaper paste from your walls. The following is a list of tools that I use when removing wallpaper and wallpaper paste;

  • a flat five inch mud or finishing knife
  • a putty knife
  • a grill cleaner
  • a bucket
  • a quality absorbent sponge or old towel
  • painters tape
  • plastic drop clothes and drop clothes
  • a pump up garden sprayer

See pictures of these tools.

Step 3

At this point fill your pump sprayer with warm water and add about 1-2 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap. The soap provides enzyme action which helps break down the wallpaper paste. Never add any product containing bleach, as this may ruin carpets, rugs, and other items that might accidently come into contact with the solution. 

Commercial products are also available to remove wallpaper and wallpaper paste and these can also be added to the water used the pump up garden sprayer.  These products can usually be found at local paint or hardware stores. The products are formulated to essentially work the same way, using enzymes to help soften the wallpaper paste for easier removal.

You'll want to adjust the spray pattern on your pump sprayer to so that it disperses a soft and feathered spray instead of coarse spray which will leave too much water running down the wall and on the floor.

Step 4

During the next step you'll applying water to the wallpaper paste. To prevent shock or serious injury while removing the wallpaper paste, turn off all electricity to the room being worked on. To do this, remove the fuse or switch offall electrical breakers to the room. If you are unfamiliar with or feel uncomfortable doing this, please consult a knowledgable person or liscenced electrician for help. Always excercise extreme caution when working around any electrical outlets or switches. To learn more read, Preparing a Room for Wallpaper and Wallpaper Paste Removal.

Step 5

At this point you'll want to pump up your sprayer to pressurize the water/cleaner solution inside. Once pressurized, use the sprayer to apply water to the wallpaper paste. Always work from the top of the walls to the bottom to avoid cleaning areas more than once. 

The wallpaper paste will usually start to soften after allowing the water/detergent mix to work its way into the paste for approximately 3-5 minutes. You may want to spray an area of wall space ahead of where you'll be working, in order to give the solution time to work.Once the wallpaper paste has softened, the 5" mud or putty knife (for smaller areas) can be used to scrape and remove the wallpaper paste.  If the wallpaper paste hasn't softened to the point where it can easily be removed, re-spray the area and wait another 3-5 minutes. Continue to repeat this process until the wallpaper paste is soft enough to be removed.

To remove any residual wallpaper paste or glue, respray the walls and aggressively scrub the pasted area using the grill cleaner. Once the wallpaper paste is loose, clean the walls using the sponge or towel.

Step 6

After cleaning all of the main wall areas you'll want to remove the painters tape from around any vents, outlets, baseboards and other trim to unmask any additional wallpaper paste.  

Use a slighly damp towel and/or sponge to remove the remaining wallpaper paste exposed after removing the tape. Be careful not to touch anything inside of any outlet or light switch boxes and never spray water in or around the unsealed or exposed electrical outlets or switches since doing so is unsafe and may result in serious injury or death. 

Once all of your wallpaper paste is removed, allow the walls to dry before turning your electricity back on. You can use a box fan with an extension cord from another room to speed up this process, if necessary. After successfully removing  your wallpaper paste, you'll be ready to start painting your room. Make your painting job easier by reading Choosing the right painting tools and strategies. 


More Important advice

  1. There are different types of wallpaper paste that may have been used to install your wallpaper. Many wallpapers are prepasted and use a lighter glue while other wallpapers such as solid vinyl fabric backed papers have wallpaper paste applied to them. The heavier of these wallpapers generally use heavier and stronger wallpaper paste such as clay based adhesives. To remove the heavier wallpaper pastes you'll need work more aggressively and spend more time.
  1. There's a fine balance between applying enough water and too much water in order to remove the wallpaper adhesive. Unsealed walls allow too much water to penetrate the drywall facing, leaving it spongy and susceptible to gauging.   The chance of drywall damage occurring during the wallpaper removal or wallpaper paste removal process greatly depends on whether the walls were previously sealed with a quality pre-wall covering primer. When using the mud or putty knifes to remove wallpaper paste, you'll want to work carefully in order to avoid gauging the drywall surface.
  1. Inevitably some minor drywall damage may occur. In situations where no pre-wallpaper primer was used,  the damage may end up being significant. If you encounter drywall damage that needs to be repaired before painting or wallpapering, you can read How to Fix Drywall. Also, If you haven't yet begun to remove your wallpaper or wallpaper paste and you expect or are encountering significant drywall damage, you can save yourself  lots of time by reading How to Avoid Major Drywall Damage When Removing Wallpaper.
  1. Removing wallpaper paste can get messy as you'll potentially beremoving buckets of the wallpaper paste from your walls. You can remove the wallpaper paste you'll be scraping from your mud or putty knife by shaking the knife into a bucket of water. This will cause the paste to fall off of the knife and into the bucket.
  1. Remember to change you water and rinse your sponge or towel frequently in order to get a really clean wall surface. You can tell when all of the wallpaper paste has been removed if running your hand over the wall surface gives you a squeaky clean feel. If you get a slimy feel instead, there's still more wallpaper paste that needs to be removed.
  1. After awhile, you'll want to dispose of the wallpaper paste that starts to build in the bucket. You can usually dispose of it into a toilet, since it is biodegradable. If you're on a well and septic system however, you'll want to check to make sure that the wallpaper paste won't damage your septic field. If the removed wallpaper paste does present a problem with your septic system, the water portion from your bucket can be drained outside and the scraped wallpapper paste can be transfered to an open container and then left out to dry, Once dry, you can place your used wallpaper paste out for pick-up with your regular waste.
  1. Finally, numerous applications of water will leave puddles on plastic protection you've prepared. This water should  frequently be soaked up and squeezed into a bucket. Also, exercise caution when working on or aound wet plasticsince the plastic can become slippery from the water run off and wallpaper paste. As a final note,  I'll often use canvas drop clothes or other absorbant clothes to absorb any water and wallpaper paste run off from the walls.  Once these become fully absorbed, I lay them out to dry out, and replace them with new ones.