The Best Way to Remove Wallpaper | 3 Methods Tried & Tested

Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but I hardcore nerded out over a wallpaper removal experiment yesterday.

If I have to fight some wallpaper, I like to know that my arsenal of DIY supplies is fully equipped to handle the job, right? So I took one for the team to find out the easiest, best way to remove wallpaper.

pasted wallpaper on a wall in a bedroom

It’s hard to believe it’s already been 5 years since my mom and I put up this pasted wallpaper in Olivia’s room, and now here I am preparing for her “preteen” bedroom. What?! How?!

Finding the Best Way to Remove Wallpaper

For this experiment, I tested 3 different wallpaper stripping methods to find which one worked the best:

  1. Store Bought Wallpaper Remover (Piranha Brand)
  2. DIY Vinegar Wallpaper Stripping Solution
  3. DIY Fabric Softener Wallpaper Stripping Solution

*I didn’t use a wallpaper steamer because I wanted this to be straightforward without the need for any specialty tools, but buying or renting a steamer does help if you have very old, stubborn wallpaper that likely wasn’t installed correctly.

wallpaper remover solutions using store bought, vinegar, and fabric softener

How to Remove Wallpaper

Supplies

  • Wallpaper remover solution of your choice (I’ll get into the best one to use in a second but several are effective)
  • Putty knife
  • Painters tape
  • Waterproof drop cloth
  • Wallpaper scoring tool
  • Spray Bottle (optional – only if using a DIY wallpaper stripping solution)
  • Electric Kettle (optional – only if using a DIY wallpaper stripping solution, and not absolutely necessary but it does help)
  • Rags/sponges
  • Step stool
  • Trash can

Step 1 – Protect Floors

Lay down a protective drop cloth as wallpaper removal does get messy, and you will end up with pasty water all over your floor. Secure drop cloths with painters tape.

putting down drop cloth to protect floors from wallpaper removal

Step 2 – Remove Electrical Covers & Cut Power

You have to remove switch plates and electrical outlet covers to pull wallpaper away from behind the plates, but since this is a wet job, you definitely want to protect any electrical from water exposure. Cut the power and cover switches and outlets with painters tape until you’re ready to work around them.

covering outlets before wallpaper removal to protect wires

Step 3 – Score

With the scoring tool, score the entire wall in a circular motion with light pressure. Don’t press too hard or you could puncture through the drywall.

The scoring tool perforates the top layer of the wallpaper so that the wallpaper remover solution can penetrate and reactivate the adhesive.

scoring wallpaper for removal
scoring tool used on wallpaper for removal

3 Ways to Strip Wallpaper

After all of the prep work was done, I tested the 3 wallpaper stripping methods, starting with the store bought Piranha brand.

There are other brands out there that are probably just as effective. This is just what I randomly grabbed on my trip to Lowe’s.

However, before trying ANY wallpaper solution, use a putty knife to pull up the wallpaper at a corner or seam to see if you can peel the wallpaper away without damaging the wall or without the need for any liquids or steam. You just might get lucky and it will peel right off (then go buy a lottery ticket because the odds of easy removal are slim).

using a putty knife to loosen edges for wallpaper removal

Store Bought Wallpaper Stripper

Work in sections. I like to remove 2 wallpaper panels at a time.

I followed the manufacturer’s directions spraying the Piranha wallpaper remover all over 2 wallpaper panels until fully saturated and waited 15 minutes for the adhesive to activate.

how to remove wallpaper with store bought wallpaper stripper

Use a putty knife to loosen any corners or edges and pull away the wallpaper.

I have to admit this wallpaper stripper worked incredibly well! I had two panels completely removed with barely a fight at all in 4 minutes and 38 seconds.

I didn’t have to reapply it since it had a long open window that kept the adhesive wet.

If you have stubborn wallpaper, it might only remove the top layer, and you’ll need to repeat the solution application process to remove the second paper layer.

Piranha Brand Wallpaper Stripper

Pros:

  • Works the fastest
  • No need for reapplication
  • No need for premixing

Cons:

  • More expensive than DIY-methods
  • Chemical based
removing wallpaper with store bought wallpaper stripper Piranha brand

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DIY Vinegar Wallpaper Stripper

You can make your own DIY wallpaper stripper using just white vinegar and hot water! On the plus side, it’s super inexpensive and eco-friendly.

Recipe

  • 1/3 white vinegar
  • 2/3 hot water
  • spray bottle

Fill a spray bottle with 1/3 white vinegar and 2/3 hot water. I used an electric kettle to add hot water because the hotter the better to activate the wallpaper glue.

It’s a good idea to only do a small section of the removal process at a time so that your water doesn’t get too cold. Keep mixing every few panels with hot water.

Activation Time: 2 Minutes

how to remove wallpaper with DIY vinegar wallpaper stripper

I sprayed two wallpaper panels with the DIY vinegar wallpaper remover solution and waited for 2 minutes so the adhesive could activate.

Be aware, that you’ll probably need to mix new vinegar solution in the spray bottle frequently as you want to keep the water hot for optimal effectiveness.

spraying vinegar on wallpaper for removal

This method did work, but it definitely took some extra effort on my part to yank the paper away from the wall. It ripped, came off in tiny shreds, and it was by far the least effective of the 3 methods I tried.

Still, it’s very inexpensive to make and a non-toxic homemade wallpaper remover, so that’s a perk.

DIY Vinegar Wallpaper Stripper

Pros:

  • Inexpensive to make
  • Non-toxic

Cons:

  • Premixing required
  • Reapplication required
  • Least effective of the 3 methods
using a putty knife to loosen wallpaper

DIY Fabric Softener Wallpaper Stripper

You can make your own DIY wallpaper stripper using just fabric softener and hot water. It’s very inexpensive to make and (bonus points) it smells amazing.

Recipe

  • 1/4 fabric softener
  • 3/4 hot water
  • spray bottle

Fill a spray bottle with 1/4 white vinegar and 3/4 hot water to make this simple DIY wallpaper remover. I used an electric kettle to add hot water because the hotter the better to activate the adhesive in the wallpaper.

Activation Time: 2 Minutes

how to remove wallpaper with DIY fabric softener wallpaper stripper

I sprayed two wallpaper panels with the DIY fabric softener wallpaper remover solution and waited for 2 minutes so the adhesive could activate.

Be aware, that you’ll probably need to mix new fabric softener solution in the spray bottle frequently as you want to keep the water hot for optimal effectiveness.

removing wallpaper sprayed with fabric softener

This method worked surprisingly well, but it did take a bit more effort than the store bought remover. And I did have to spray more wallpaper remover on the wallpaper a few times throughout the process as it seemed to try really fast.

Still, it’s very inexpensive to make, and if you don’t have the store bought type, this is the next best thing.

DIY Vinegar Wallpaper Stripper

Pros:

  • Works fairly quickly
  • Inexpensive to make
  • Smells great

Cons:

  • Requires reapplication
  • Requires premixing

Once you’re finished, spray the wall with the solution one more time and wipe away any excess adhesive with a rag or sponge.

cleaning adhesive off of wall after wallpaper stripping

These 3 wallpaper remover methods also work on plaster walls. When applying new wallpaper, it’s best to apply a size primer so that you’ll have strippable wallpaper when you want to change it again in the future.

That’s it! I’d been putting off this job for a while, but it really wasn’t bad at all. It’s almost therapeutic to get your frustrations out by ripping paper… almost, I said almost. 😉

I can’t wait to get started painting and adding the new wallpaper in this bedroom! It’s going to be so sweet!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to use wallpaper stripper on peel and stick wallpaper?

No, you only need to use a wallpaper stripper removal method on pasted types of wallpaper. Peel and stick should pull right away from the wall without problems.

How do you remove wallpaper without damaging walls?

Keep your stripping knife as flat against the wall as possible when loosening the wallpaper. Be careful not to dig the corners of the stripping knife into the wall. For very stubborn wallpaper, try using a wallpaper steamer.

Does painting over wallpaper make it harder to remove?

Painting over wallpaper will make it much harder to remove later. If you want to remove the wallpaper eventually, it’s best to just do it now and get it over with.

Is it better to remove wallpaper or wallpaper over it?

It’s always best to remove wallpaper rather than applying wallpaper or paint on top. Removing the old wallpaper ensures better adhesion of new wallpaper or a smooth, durable paint job that won’t fail later.

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12 Comments

  1. It does help that we “sized” the wall before we put up the wallpaper. To keep the solution hot, I used to pop it in the microwave whenever it cooled too much. I also mixed it in a medium sized bowl and used a sponge to apply it. You are right about some wallpaper that comes off easily. You removed a big chunk of (hideous) wallpaper from our powder room when you were three years old – our little decorator even them! 🙂

  2. The wallpaper in my guest bathroom is outdated and needs to be removed. It’s been there for 22 years! It’s a fairly large bathroom. Do you recommend wallpaper or paint? I’ve looked at some that resemble grass cloth if I go with wallpaper.
    Thanks.

    1. I have paint and wallpaper through out our home. Paint is beautiful and timeless. But wallpaper gives great character and can be classic as well.

  3. Room looks good…but I have to say you look great too. Can you give us an update on what you are doing to get into great shape…exercise , diet , tips. I’m struggling over here 🙁

    1. I cut out dairy and gluten since October. Drink a gallon of water a day. Don’t overindulge (staying around 1200 calories per day). Meals/snacks consist of mainly lean meats and veggies. Breakfasts are usually eggs or a protein shake made with almond milk and fruit.

  4. Help, my walls were not sized before they put up the wallpaper in my parent’s home.
    What am I to do?

  5. I loved that wallpaper when you posted on yr blog about Olivia ‘s room 5 years ago!! Gasp…Has it been 5 years already?? Olivia is a lucky girl to have her Mother and Grandmother helping her design her “preteen room”.🥰 Have fun.. special times indeed!