How can I remove layers and layers of wallpaper on my walls?

Cindy Rubin
by Cindy Rubin

Let me start off by saying I hate wall paper.

The woman that lived in the house I now live in must have owned stock in wall paper companies, had a love for wall paper or a fetish of some kind. MOST of the walls in my 3 BR 2 BA home have wall paper on them. It it high quality (some textured ) beautiful (to her) paper. I knew I wanted to remove it, room by room and take a considerable amount of time. I decided to start small and do the master bathroom. To see what I was getting in to, I started behind the toilet as we were replacing the old one. What I found brought me to tears. There were at least 3 layers of wall paper of different patterns on the wall.

I have no choice but to do something the top layer -- the one I see every day is beginning to peel in some places. I am at a loss as to what to do. Any suggestions??

  26 answers
  • Rent a steamer, Cindy. It's the most efficient way to remove wallpaper, especially with multiple layers.

  • Recreated Designs Recreated Designs on Jun 18, 2020

    Hi Cindy, Unfortunately, if they are starting to peel (and you have no want to save it) a wallpaper steamer will be a great investment for you. The steam will help the layers peel off much easier. After you steam it, you can use a flat putty knife to run under the edges and release it from the wall. Unfortunately, even with the steamer, it is going to take some elbow grease.

  • Holly Lengner - Lost Mom Holly Lengner - Lost Mom on Jun 18, 2020

    Hi Cindy, check out this post:

  • Robyn Garner Robyn Garner on Jun 18, 2020

    My wallpaper removal has always been DIF concentrate. Mix in a pump sprayer with very hot water. Only mix enough to use while the water is hot. Prior to mixing, score the wallpaper really, really well using a "tiger" wallpaper scorer so the solution gets to the adhesive. Spray small sections at a time, let sit 5 minutes and test. If it does not come off easily, allow to sit longer. It may even need another "spritz".

    I've read that mixing vinegar with HOT water in a pump sprayer also works. Do not use fabric softener as that will create a huge mess to clean up.

    Re steamers:

    "ou can rent a commercial wallpaper steamer as an alternative to solvents. Steamers are especially good at removing stiff, heavy, old-style wallpapers and papers that have been adhered for a very long time.

    Like solvents, steamers are messy in their own way, releasing hot steam and dripping hot water, so wear work gloves or rubber gloves and eye protection with this method as well. Steamers also introduce copious amounts of moisture into a room, so open a window or ventilate with fans to prevent moisture buildup in confined areas.

    To use a wallpaper steamer, place the steamer pad on the surface of the wallpaper and hold it long enough to allow the steam to penetrate the paper and soften the glue. Experience will tell you how long to hold the steamer pad against the wall — if you apply too little steam, the wallpaper will be difficult to remove. If you apply too much steam for too long, however, you can damage the drywall below and even soften a plaster surface.

    Once the wallpaper is loosened, use a scraper to remove it — do not pull it away with your hands because the steam will have superheated the glue and paper and could cause burns. This process can be time-consuming, but the more effort you dedicate to steaming, the less time you'll spend scraping."

    Do just one room at a time so at least you can get satisfaction that you're making headway. Good luck! The home I'm now in had wallpaper even on the doors and door frames, bathroom ceilings, etc.!

    • Cindy Rubin Cindy Rubin on Jun 22, 2020

      OMGoodness; I can't imagine! Might have been a deal breaker for me when purchasing .

  • Gk Gk on Jun 18, 2020

    A steamer works well and so does a wallpaper scorer and a solution of liquid fabric softener and water. Once you get the top vinyl decorative layers of the wallpaper torn off you will see the paper layers underneath. The fabric softener solution will soften the glue and you will have to pull, peel and scrape with a putty knife. You can keep chaning the fabric/water solution as it will get gummy and sticky if you are dipping a sponge or a rag in and out to get the solution on the walls. I like using a metal pancake spatula because it is more flexible. Once you get the paper off you can wash the walls with the same solution and you may have to do it several times. Once you think you have it clean--let your walls dry so you can see if there is any more glue residue. I would use a stand alone primer before you paint. Paint with primer is great but not in this situation. This will be a job but if you have the patience to stick with it it will all come off...eventually!  Good thing you started with the smallest room! I hate it when people wallpaper over wallpaper or paint over wallpaper! My son bought a home that had this same issue! Layers and layers of wallpaper in nearly every room! It took us about a week to get all the wallpaper and glue off before we could prime and paint in all the rooms. In the end it was well worth all the work because it looks a whole lot better!

    • Cindy Rubin Cindy Rubin on Jun 22, 2020

      Thank you for the encouragement! Wish you lived near me for moral support and perhaps labor support .

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Jun 18, 2020

    Peel as much as possible from the walls.

    If you can't get to the backing, you may need to score the paper with a tool. Paper Tiger is easy to find. Light pressure because you don't want to damage the wall behind the paper.

    Mix 50/50 fabric softener & warm water in a spray bottle or garden sprayer. I've read that vinegar is as effective but I have never used it.

    Allow the mixture to sit for 5 - 10 minutes so that it saturates the adhesive on the paper backing.

    Scrape with a plastic scraper.

    Once it is all removed, wash the walls with warm soapy water (blue Dawn is my go-to) and a microfiber cloth.

  • Lifestyles Homes Lifestyles Homes on Jun 18, 2020

    I don’t like the fabric softener mixture’s residue and use vinegar water in a spray bottle and plastic putty knives, after scoring it.

    Yes, since you’ve layers and layers, by the time you get to the drywall or button board,

    its craft-paper surface will be saturated and easily damaged.

    Yes, monolithic paint may not be easily done after all this work and you’ll have time to think about what you’ll do after the wall paper is gone.

  • Vimarhonor Vimarhonor on Jun 18, 2020

    Hello have you tried the paper tiger and they spray remover’s? That’s what I’ve used in the past.

  • Patty Patty on Jun 18, 2020

    I've been there. Wallpaper with paint and another layer and more paint. It came off in tiny pieces. Back then, I did not know about steamers. Can you rent a steamer?

  • DP DP on Jun 18, 2020

    I just sprayed warm water on the wall paper and used a putty knife. Messy but it does work

  • William William on Jun 18, 2020

    I use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and hot water in a spray bottle and paint tray. I first spray to wet the paper then use a foam roller to wet it down more. Check every so often if you can peel it with a putty knife. Sometimes just spraying it with the mixture is enough. I also lay down some on the floor to catch drips.

  • Dee Dee on Jun 18, 2020

    I had two layers of wallpaper in a house I moved into. I got a paper tiger and scored it as much as I could. Then I used a mixture of Downy Fabric softener and sprayed the walls. Let it sit about 15 minutes. I was able to then take the paper off in sheets. The problems come when the person did not use sizer on the walls before papering. I got 2 layers off in 45 minutes. Then I used Dawn and vinegar solution half vinegar 2 tbls of Dawn and water to get the glue off. There was not much glue because the Downy took it off with the paper. On the plus side the Downy makes the room smell great.

  • Janice Janice on Jun 18, 2020

    You are in for a messy but rewarding job! Purchase one of the scoring devices and score an entire wall at a time. Good arm exercise :).. Then a steamer will help you a lot to get the layers off as the steam will now absorb into the "scored" paper. Pull off the wallpaper in sections if possible. Use of a putty knife as you get closer to the bottom layer can be used, but be careful so as not to damage the drywall or plaster beneath all of it. Good luck with your project, it is worth the ffort, believe me. Been there, done that many years ago. Be patient with the work and yourself!

  • Teri Smith Teri Smith on Jun 19, 2020

    The last time I removed wallpaper I used a steamer on the first approximately one third of the job. It was extremely difficult. I then switched to the cheap fabric softener and water in a spray bottle trick and the last two thirds were a breeze. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

  • Joy Elizabeth Joy Elizabeth on Jun 19, 2020

    We had a similar situation in our house when we moved in. I used a paper tiger, along with lots of hot water and vinegar. I scraped with a plastic scraper to prevent nicking the walls. I wish I would have tried a steamer, I can see that working better. However, the hot vinegar water did do the job! I sprayed it on after perforating it thoroughly with the paper tiger.

  • Catherine Deirdre Rodden Catherine Deirdre Rodden on Jun 22, 2020

    Am I the only person who thinks it would be less work to gut the room and put up new drywall?

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Sep 12, 2021

    Use an Electric Steamer to do the job!

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Mar 07, 2023

    If too much of a problem to remove to remove 3 layers evenly, I would consider new drywall.

  • Mogie Mogie on Mar 07, 2023

    Steam machines can be rented to “steam off” the layers. These entail a rental charge and often result in steam burns for the person using them. Previously quite common, this method has lost favor in recent years.

    Sponge mops can be dipped in water, or a wallpaper removal solution, and applied to the walls. This method is effective on walls that can handle the excess moisture, but it also means the solution runs down the handle and down the arms of the person applying it.

    A hand-held spray bottle can be filled with hot water and wallpaper removal solution. This method works and works well, but it’s much slower. It may be perfect for removing a border, because it will reduce the mess of excess water and will be easier to direct. For large walls and whole rooms of wallpaper, you need a better method.

    A garden “pump” style sprayer is probably the best way to get water onto the paper. You can control the stream, the strength of the spray, and the walls of the pressurized container will retain the heat of the hot water/remover solution better than a spray bottle or an open bucket, using the sponge mop method.

  • Deb K Deb K on Jun 05, 2023

    Hi Cindy, hope this helps you out. Here are three ways for you to try, they are all pretty labor intensive but will work.

    1. Steam machines can be rented to “steam off” the layers. ...
    2. Sponge mops can be dipped in water, or a wallpaper removal solution, and applied to the walls. ...
    3. A hand-held spray bottle can be filled with hot water and wallpaper removal solution.

  • Mogie Mogie on Jun 07, 2023

    The most straight-forward, efficient, and economical method for removing old wallpaper is with a liquid remover. The remover does the hard work and eliminates much of the hard scraping – even when removing multiple layers of wallpaper.

  • Dee Dee on Dec 11, 2023

    Buy a paper tiger to score the wallpaper. Use Downey Fabric softener, spray on the walls. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Get a plastic scraper from the auto store. They are strong. Scrape the layers off. You will be amazed of how easily the paper will come off with the fabric softener. It will also make the room smell amazing.

  • Deb K Deb K on Feb 04, 2024

    Hi Cindy, hope this helps you. The most straight-forward, efficient, and economical method for removing old wallpaper is with a liquid remover. The remover does the hard work and eliminates much of the hard scraping – even when removing multiple layers of wallpaper