Remove Wallpaper With Household Solvents

Let paper soften before you start scraping it away.

You don’t always have to use pricey chemical solvents to remove wallpaper and get the glue off your walls. Basic household cleaners can often do the job just fine. Removing wallpaper is a two-step process. First you have to remove the wallpaper itself. Then the paste residue has to be cleaned from the walls. It is not always the easiest job, but using the right solvents and lots of water can speed it up. Does this Spark an idea?


1. Test whether your wallpaper is vinyl coated. Many newer wallpapers are vinyl coated and can be stripped off without any water at all, leaving the paper backing and glue for the second step. Remove the switch plates and starting from one of the loose areas behind a switchplate, pull the paper from the wall. It may come off quite easily.

2. Put down drop cloths to protect your floors. If you have concern about water damaging wood floors, tape plastic sheeting to the baseboards then lay drop cloths over the plastic. Turn off the electrical power to the room, as water can go everywhere — even into electric outlets..

3. Mix about 1/2 gallon of hot water to half a cap of fabric softener. Use a sponge or pump sprayer to saturate an area of wall. Give it five to 10 minutes, then find an edge with a putty knife and start scraping. It should come off much more easily. Use smooth strokes that don’t gouge the walls. Only work in small sections at a time and let the hot water and softener solution do the job of loosening the paper. Re-wet the area if you need to.

4. Mix 1/2 cup of ammonia with 1/2 gallon of hot water and apply to non-vinyl coated paper. Some of the older non-vinyl coated papers remove easier with ammonia and water. Use the same technique for application and stripping as in Step 3.

5. Score the paper first to let the water mixture better penetrate the paper if the first section you’ve worked proves stubborn. Scoring tools, like Paper Tigers, leave small perforations in the top layer of paper as you run them across the wall. You can also try scuffing the surface with 50-grit sandpaper. The scoring can mar the underlying wall so be careful with it and realize you may have to do some drywall repair before you paint.

6. Mix up an additional batch of the solution you found most effective in removing the paper, to remove the paste and any remaining paper backing. Clean the paste with a sponge, squeezing it out into a bucket before reloading the sponge with solution from the other bucket. If the paste is thick you may need to use the scraper to remove the worst of it. Keep cleaning and rinsing until all the backing and residue is cleaned off.

7. Now mix up a solution of equal parts water and vinegar and do a final sponging down. Now, you’re ready to do any necessary wall repair and painting.