Asked on May 02, 2014

Help- wallpaper is not coming off!

by Catherine
I started removing wall paper from a small bathroom. It was originally hung in the early 90's. For most of the room it easily peeled off and where some was left a mixture of warm water and fabric softener made easy work of removing it. Then came the trouble! There was an old shower in the room when we bought the house and we had it removed because it leaked and looks awful to say the least. For some reason the wall paper (which I must have foolishly applied directly to fresh unprepped sheetrock without a wallpaper primer) is not coming off. Some of it came off with great difficulty and the water/softener mix is not helping even though I scored the paper to help it absorb better. I don't know what to do at this point. It is the wall you see as soon as the door is opened. It looks like some of the top layer of the sheetrock covering is coming off in some spots. I've thought about sanding it down as is as smoothly as I can get it then priming and painting as is, but am hoping for some better advice here. Photos of the mess are attached.
Thanking in advance!
  43 answers
  • Kyleigh Gray Kyleigh Gray on May 02, 2014
    We used 1/2 water and 1/2 fabric soft we and a scraper to get ours off. We sprayed a small sectioned and scraped.
  • Hot water in a spray bottle. From my experience that DIFF does not work. however, from the looks of things you will have to fix the walls with light joint compound and some sanding. this is what happens when people do not know that you must prepare the walls for wall paper (sizing was sold for this purpose). From a DIYer I think you may want to just mud the whole wall and start over. I use light joint compound in the 5 gallon bucket. No sense wasting anymore time on this. sanding walls smooth is a talent and so I would think about a professional who can go in and mud the room and sand it baby smooth. If you do not have that in your budget, then work a wall at a time. watch some youtube videos and take your time. I have done many drywall projects in my day and can tell you that it is messy and time consuming for the DIY. the other option, if you like it, is to use the light joint compound and texturize the walls. you can texture like orange peel or any design. Good luck!
  • Unfortunately there is no easy solution, after papering and unpapering for 20 yrs my best way is simply a good spray bottle with super warm water and a touch of dawn dish soap and a good scraper works best for me, only doing small sections at a time . If the paper is peeling and leaving a white paper behind let the water solution sit for a bit so it can soak up the solution , it should come off.
  • Patti Nicholas Patti Nicholas on May 02, 2014
    unfortunately a quality finished job really does depend on the prep work. Anyone can paint, but to make it look truly professional you have to do the prep work, ALL the prep work. based on what you've said has already been done and on how it was hung to begin with, I would recommend a very thin skim coat of joint compound to make the walls smooth then paint with a sealer/stain killer like Kilz. You will have to seal all the walls before painting anyway or glue residue stains will bleed through the finish paint coat. Check with a professional (at the paint store) to determine whether you need the latex or oil base version of stain killer depending on the type of wallpaper glue used and be sure to keep the area well ventilated when using it. That being said, if you really want to remove the wallpaper, do be sure your water is HOT and try using a soap (like Dr Bronner's castile soap, not a detergent) instead of fabric softener, then scrape with a razor type wallpaper stripper, not a putty knife. The heat helps soften the glue and the soap helps dissolve it.
  • Terry's Flooring Terry's Flooring on May 02, 2014
    I have removed paper a few times and scoring it good is the key , so your solution gets to the adhesive ..I have used clorox and hot water and used a sponge ...I scour the paper , then wet it good with sponge and solution ..Let it soak in for about 20 minutes, then wet it down again and then start peeling ...Good luck ..
  • Joedean Small Joedean Small on May 02, 2014
    hot water &a putty knife.drench it,it will come off super fast
    • GG GG on May 03, 2014
      @Joedean Small After trying a lot of products that were messy and expensive, I found out the same thing you did, Joedean. Saturate the wallpaper, give it about 30 seconds or so, and lift it with a fingernail, razor knife, or putty knife. Pull it slowly so it doesn't break, and you can take off huge sections of it at a time. If it dries out, just resoak it.
  • DeMarie I DeMarie I on May 02, 2014
    I used a spray stripper made specifically for removing wallpaper and one of those round stripper tools that looks like it has lots of little teeth. It really worked well in making lots of little holes in the wallpaper and allowed the stripper solution to get in behind the wallpaper. Then I just took a putty knife to scrape the little pieces off. I suspect that you will have to lightly cover, after your paper removal, with a joint compound since you didn't prime the drywall first. Tedious work for sure.
  • To remove wallpaper try using a mixture of water and vinegar - spray it on and use a plastic putty knife; no soaking, waiting or scouring. Let any leftover glue residue dry and run sandpaper over it to remove the residue. We used this method to remove wallpaper that had been put up in the 70's. However - I'm if the wall wasn't prepped correctly you'll probably have a little extra work after you remove the wall paper.
  • Sherrie Sherrie on May 03, 2014
    Wall paper sizing wasn't used underneath the wall paper so it's harder. You can rent wall paper steamer. The down side is you will probably have to mud it and sand it smooth because of the gauges. The steamer makes it a whole lot easier.
    • See 2 previous
    • Tamara K Tamara K on May 07, 2014
      @Sherrie Gator scorer, can't make enough scores in the wallpaper...Diff and warm water. Lengthy process, but it works on older homes like mine that have that old horsehair plaster...using steam causes cracks/crumbling of the walls. Oh I love and both hate old homes.
  • Joyce Goettler Joyce Goettler on May 03, 2014
    I was in the exact situation as you, and ended up contacting a professional painter to come and remove it through Angie's List. He said there was no way I could have done it myself! Sorry!
  • Patty Smith Patty Smith on May 03, 2014
    I score the wallpaper first with a tool you can get at Lowes,,then spray it with the water & fab softener, then use a wide scraper to knock it off,,I've used this method for 40 plus years and have been very successful with it both in residential and commercial applications. Good luck!!
  • Jean Jean on May 03, 2014
    We just finished removing waterproof wallpaper from a small bedroom. We also tried the softener/water combo spray on scored paper. Well, the whole house smelled like softener,but it really didn't work on the wallpaper. What ended up working was peeling away the top waterproof layer in any small amount we could get from seams, etc. Then, we sprayed with warm water in small sections. We let it sit for 10 minutes or so and then scraped the brown layer underneath with a good scraper. As we slowly worked at the brown underlayer, we were then able to peel away pieces of the outer layer. Once the action stopped, we'd spray again and repeat. It had to be done in very small sections and the process was slow and tedious, but it's done! Being patient with it and walk away once in a while. You'll get there!
  • Tamara K Tamara K on May 03, 2014
    I swear by DIFF and a Gator scorer...I bought a home and in every single room there was 100 years worth of layer upon layer of painted over wallpaper. It literally took me a month of weekends to strip it all off. Diff was my hero! For the really hard areas (former owner must have superglued photocopies of baseball stars over years of painted wallpaper) when it came time to strip the wallpaper? I used a very long razor-edged tool.
  • Lyman Kitchens Lyman Kitchens on May 03, 2014
    You either demo and Sheetrock. Or go with your light sanding to remove any lose pulled up areas. Then prime two coats of good oil bases primer like cover stain from Zinser. After that has dried you can use drywall compound to fill in any areas. Then sand smooth. And paint but prime again with oil. After that use what you would like. That wall paper is not coming off with tearing all the Sheetrock paper off too. And then you will have to go thru one of these plans anyway. It sounds like a lot of work but it's not bad and it works. Good luck.
  • Susan Susan on May 03, 2014
    My daughter and I removed wallpaper in 3 rooms in her house. We tried every method out there. The only thing that worked for us was applying hot water with a spray bottle or wet sponge and letting the paper absorb the water before trying to remove. Our paper came off in 2 layers. The top layer basically peeled off but the bottom layer not so. We had to rewet (saturate) the bottom layer in sections and remove it with a putty knife. Lastly, we cleaned the walls with TSP and rinsed with water in order to remove the paste residue.
  • Brooke @ Putter Home Brooke @ Putter Home on May 03, 2014
    LIGHTLY scour the paper and the spray with a mixture of 2 parts hot water, 1 part fabric softener. Let it soak thru. Then scrape off. Repeat on each layer. House will smell good. We've done this on 4 homes. Last one was entirely wallpapered and 3200 SF. Works very well. Be careful with the scouring roller - it can damage drywall if you push too hard
  • Louis Lieberman Louis Lieberman on May 03, 2014
    try a steam iron or spray boiling water. also u can use spackle or plaster &sand it down
  • Wanda.ll Wanda.ll on May 03, 2014
    well ladies here is the deal. If wall paper in good shape and not peeling most DIYers say leave it alone and do just paint over it. That you really do more damage getting sheetrock wet with all that water. Can cause it to mildew and then you really have a mess.So leave it alone just texture over it and paint.HTH
    • Shari Veater Shari Veater on May 03, 2014
      thats what I did to the kitchen and dining room in my daughters house in GA....primed and painted over the wallpaper...looked beautiful!
  • Judith O Judith O on May 03, 2014
    Call Bernie Decorating!
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on May 03, 2014
    When our wall board was wrecked, I did not want the sanding dust in my house so we used texture paint...special paint/special roller. I LOVE IT! We added molding and corner accents (cut them off shorter because the half bath was so small) and put beadboard on the bottom. This was a small room. We did not even patch the wall and some spots we never got the paper off completely. I did not take before pictures.
  • Gerry Cardwell Gerry Cardwell on May 03, 2014
    Steamer. Be sure to prime walls with oil base primer before repairing walls. Then prime again.
  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on May 03, 2014
    Hi Catherine I have dealt with wallpaper issues before too, and I think Jeanette has the best solution. Take out the wallpaper the best you can without damaging the sheetrock, and do a textured paint effect with or without a bead board. Years ago in my dining room I had four large Ikea mirrors on the wall held by large screws and plugs. I wanted to replace the mirrors with a hanging antique mirror instead. We took the mirrors down with the attachments, screws and plugs. We pressed in each hole with the round end of a screwdriver, and then applied drywall compound and let it dry overnight. No matter how much smooth sanding and reapplying of drywall compound we put on, we could not make that area completely bump free. It sucked big time. Then at that time, I remembered a product I saw at the Home depot called Ralph Lauren suede paint. I rolled it on in sections as per the directions, and then went over it with and angled 3-4" paint brush in long criss cross strokes. I did two coats. The whole wall turned out so well that I did the whole dining room. You could not see any signs of where the mirrors were attached on the wall at all. Also the suede paint absorbed the light and made the dining room very calming. I loved the effect so much that I used this type of paint in other areas of my home where the walls were a bit damaged. When you are sick of the colour, you just paint over it with regular paint. There might still be a suede effect to it, but it is still beautiful and still absorbs the light. I don't know if you can still find this product at the Home Depot in your area. I can't find it anymore in Canada for some reason. Anyway this is just an alternative to cover up damaged walls, and have a beautiful calming finish at the same time. There are also other texture paint effects out there. I hope all goes well.
  • Catherine Catherine on May 03, 2014
    Thanks to everyone who offered such good advice. The wallpaper is finally off. I really appreciate the advice I received here. Cathy
    • Carla Larson Carla Larson on May 04, 2014
      @Catherine Since you're done want to come to Iowa and take the wall paper off my kitchen?? lol
  • Shari Veater Shari Veater on May 03, 2014
    My daughter had the same problem, previous owners papered on drywall. My daughter had to sand and fill in the drywall before she could paint....Sorry you have to go through with the big mess but the outcome will be lovely!
  • Dorothy W Dorothy W on May 03, 2014
    i used a heat gun,worked great!
  • Janet koons Janet koons on May 04, 2014
    Do you have a clothes' steamer? I used that once. It was a handheld steamer, and it worked pretty well.
  • Jean M Jean M on May 04, 2014
    1/2 fabric softener 1/2 hot water in spray bottle I have used this many times andmakes the job easy
  • There are tons of methods of wall paper removal and many use the fabric softener mix method. All that does is provide stickiness to the water. Which is the key to removal. If the water dries out to fast the glue that adheres the paper to the wall becomes harder to remove. So regardless if you use the commercial method or the home made recipe for wetting the wall down, you must follow a few simple rules if you want to become successful in removal of the paper. Rule 1. It takes time. If you attempt to rush you will end up taking longer and become frustrated with results. Rule 2. Keep it wet. This is where everyone that has issues fails. The glue needs to become wet. It assuming the glue used was the correct type for wall paper will become soft again much like it was when the paper was installed. But if it dries out it becomes much harder to soften again and remove. Rule 3, Keep it wet. Yes redundant, but cannot express enough. Rule 4. Use a paper tiger or some sort of tool that will put tiny cuts into the paper. This is extremely important in papers that are "washable or bath friendly" . the surface of these papers have a vinyl coating of various means that prevents moisture from getting behind the surface causing peeling in damp warm environments such as those found in a bath. Unless you sufficiently score the surface the moisture that your applying never makes it to the glue in sufficient quantities to soften the adhesive. So go overboard with the scoring tool. There are better quality ones that you can purchase that are adjustable for those thicker papers and will do a much better job at tearing the surface of the paper. The idea is to create little wicks of sorts that will drawl the wetting agent behind the paper to soften the glue. Not enough scores, it will take much longer to wet. Rule 4. Did I say wet it well? The trick is to score a few strips of the wall really well. Then using the hottest water and stripping chemical you can handle, Use a garden sprayer with the pump handle. and spray the wall down and get it wet. Be sure to put down several towels on the floor to pick up the excessive dripps. Once you have wet down the few first strips, start on another few strips of wall with the paper tiger. Then again re-wet the first part again and then the 2nd part you just nicked up. Then repeat the process again, with the wetting of the first, 2nd third etc sections down. Even if it appears to be wet, re-spray it. After a while you should be completely around the entire area that your attempting to remove. Now the fun starts, Take a break and eat lunch. While your doing that, keep going back are re-wetting the walls. You will need less and less water as the paper begins to soak up the chemical mix. Eventually you will begin to see the first area become loose on the wall and you will be able to remove it easily. Rule 5. Do not rush the peeling process. Do only one or two strips at the most at a time. Use a plastic putty knife. A 4 inch blade works really well. Also have a bucket of the stripping chemical that is warm with several scrubbing sponges. Once each strip is removed quickly use the putty knife to scrape the extra softened glue off of wall. then follow by washing again with the clean chemical in the bucket. Rinse the wall with clear clean water before you start the next section. Do only one or two strips at a time. Do not use a metal putty knife as the wall itself may be soft and the metal edge will easily dig into the surface. It can happen as well with the plastic one, but it does prevent a lot of damage. Rule 5. Keep wetting the remaining areas down. Once you remove a few sections, re-spray the remaining wall area again. If you do it right it will come down as easy as it went up. Rule 6. If you take off to much at a time you will not be able to remove the adhesive fast enough and it will begin to dry. Once dry its a dog to remove. One trick is to get some cheese cloth and wet it and stick it to the wall. This will keep the wall damp enough so the glue will re-soften again enough to be removed. As far as heat guns, Not going to work unless your perhaps using boarders that have a glue that is softened by heat. Steam machines do also work, but you need to work fast and carefully as they can burn you. They are fine for small areas but on a larger wall surface the best method is what I described above.
    • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on May 06, 2014
      @Woodbridge Environmental Excellent advice as usual! Have a house 100+ yrs. old. Scoring and steamer worked well on wallpaper, paint, paint, wallpaper layers until I got to the original paper. It had glue from hell that was meant to keep the seams tight for 100 years - and it had. Had to hold the steamer against the paper so long that you couldn't put your hand on the plaster. Some tiny flecks of paper somehow landed on a window frame. I ended up having to strip and refinish it.
  • Nancy Block Nancy Block on May 04, 2014
    Steamer has always worked for me. One house had over four layers. Key is to leave it on long enough to let steam work. I bought mine at Walmart I think. It was well worth the $40.
  • Terry's Flooring Terry's Flooring on May 05, 2014
    I always have to laugh at posts like this ...Close your eyes and just point one out of all the advice you are getting ... :)
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on May 06, 2014
    Would not go the texture route. Just paint over with oil based paint, and have a drywaller or yourself feather out any height differences, prime, and paint.
  • Laura Laura on May 06, 2014
    I had the same problem. Mine was papered direct to drywall, which was an awful mess. I used the fabric softener method which worked pretty well. My last room I did I used a weed sprayer with 1/2 white distilled vinegar and 1/2 hot water. Sprayed about three rows at a time and let it sit for about 3 min. It was a little stinky but cleaned everything it touched as well. The smell dissipated in about 2 days. Worked really well. Did not have to do much sanding afterwards like with the fabric softener.
  • Mary Mary on May 06, 2014
    I use white vinegar and water in spray bottle about a 30:70 ratio. I perforated the top of the wallpaper with a perferator tool that you can get at Lowe's. Then spray the vinegar water and let it sit for a few minutes and then use a putty knife or such and peel it off. The vinegar helps dissolve the glue. Hope this helps.
  • Terry's Flooring Terry's Flooring on May 07, 2014
    Use Clorox and water with 2/3 being water , the clorox serves 2 purposes ..Helps to get the paper off if scored / perforated , " REAL WELL " , and destroys any mold you might have and don't know it ...Just have ventilation ..
  • All due respect Terry, do not use bleach. It does not kill all molds, it only bleaches them clear so you do no see them its dangerous to use, even in ventilation as the fumes are still present long enough to breath and offers nothing to soften or remove the glue. However the scoring is very important particularly with the new more washable types of papers that are sold.
  • Sherrie Sherrie on May 07, 2014
    I understand! I had a very old rental house with horse hair plaster walls! Months and months of hard work! Almost done when a neighbors tree knocked a hole in the roof and it rained in on those plaster walls! That was it for me it went up for sale after that.
    • Tracey T Tracey T on May 11, 2014
      @Sherrie Oh no, that's horrible! I think I would have been screaming!
  • Robin H Robin H on May 07, 2014
    Rent a steamer specifically for removing wall paper! It's a pain in the butt, but it should help get the wall paper off a little easier. We had an old house (built in 1910) and when we tried to remove the wallpaper found about 7 layers underneath the top layer. The fabric softener technique, and even the store bought "wash" did NOTHING, except give me a headache! The only thing that finally worked was renting the steamer from a local equipment rental company. We ended up having to block off one room with plastic taped over the doorways and windows, and let the steamer run on the floor, just venting the steam into the room, THEN use it with the wall paper removing appliance on the walls and the stuff just came right off - all 8 layers. Hope that helps . . .
  • Deborah Eilert Deborah Eilert on Jun 08, 2015
    I used a car wash sponge and warm soapy water. Wet down a potion of the wall and what 15 minutes. Wet it again and use a plastic scraper to edge it off. It's the soak in time that counts.
  • Alexa Alexa on Jun 12, 2015
    we had a similar problem in an entire room. We decided to just paint over the wallpaper. As we painted, the paper began to lift off the walls. I have often wondered if a coat of paint would work as a wallpaper remover when it had been applied over new wallboard. We were using a water based paint, and if you do try it, work fast and in small areas as once dry the paper went flat again and apparently re-stuck to the wall.
  • Sally-Charles Evans Sally-Charles Evans on Jul 15, 2015
    I agree with Robin a steamer, but to help it along get a 'paper tiger' Walmart and wallpaper places sell them for about ten dollars. It punches tiny holes in the paper and lets the moisture from the steam or spray under the paper finish and REALLY helps loosen the paper!
  • Karen Abbott Karen Abbott on Aug 31, 2016
    Use commercial Wallpaper remover, can be found at Home Depot or Lowes.
  • Michelle Leslie Michelle Leslie on Oct 04, 2020

    Hi Catherine, You can buy a really inexpensive tool at the home improvement stores called a wallpaper shark. Its a handheld disk that has rolling cutters in it. Scrape the wall paper with the shark and spray on cheap window cleaner. The stuff you buy for cars. Wait a few minutes thing. It should easily peel off once it is soaked into the paper.

  • Agnes Chrzanowska Agnes Chrzanowska on May 31, 2021

    There is a chemical at home improvemnt stores that you spray to remove wall paper but it is not easy job even with that .. there is also a glue problem that is left behind