The best way to remove wallpaper without chemicals is steam.
We bought a Wagner steamer about 7 years ago to remove butt ugly wallpaper.
After a few days of work, my wife declared the steamer was her favorite tool ever!!
Yes, it works that well.
You might have a different opinion on what works for wallpaper removal.
After reading this post and watching my video please add your 2 cents to the comments, but I think you’ll be impressed with my methods 🙂
Supply List for Wallpaper Removal
Here’s your supply list
- Wagner 1-Gallon Wallpaper Steamer ($49) http://amzn.to/2qmh60A
- Putty Knife or 6-inch Joint Compound Knife ($7) http://amzn.to/2pg0WpG
- Paper Tiger Scoring Tool ($6) http://amzn.to/2qNMVzd
- Drop Cloth ($20) http://amzn.to/2pZMGjY
- Garbage Bag ($15) http://amzn.to/2pgmPF9
- Grout Sponge ($9 for 2) http://amzn.to/2pXAj7u
- Dawn Dishwashing Soap ($3) http://amzn.to/2pZHwEj
Let’s get started and I’ll show you why my wife loved this method so much.
Make wallpaper removal easy
The first step you should take is to peel sections of wallpaper off the wall.
Pry up a corner with a putty knife and pull off as much of the top vinyl layer as possible.
This leaves behind a soft paper that is turned to mush by the steamer.
If you have a super resistant wallpaper and the vinyl layer won’t come off you can score it.
I used a tool called a Paper Tiger wallpaper scoring tool. Move the Paper Tiger over your wall in circular patterns.
It will create small holes in your wallpaper and allow the steam to fully penetrate.
Unfortunately, the Paper Tiger can put small holes in your drywall, too.
You may want to test a small section of your wall with and without using the Paper Tiger. Then you can get a feel for how it affects your drywall.
Now you’re ready for the steaming part, oh yeah!
Give your wallpaper the spa treatment with steam
Lay down a drop cloth on your floor directly below the wall you’ll be working on.
Drop cloths will protect your carpet, hardwood, or tile from getting wet during the steaming process.
And yes, that is a sock in the wall drain 🙂 (it keeps sewer gas from entering the house while the sink is removed, I knew there was a reason to keep old socks)
Also, it’s much better to have the sticky wallpaper land on the drop cloth versus your flooring, trust me on this one.
The specific steamer we use to remove wallpaper is the Wagner Power Steamer model 705.
As I said, it’s probably the best $49 you’ll spend on wallpaper removal supplies.
I checked Amazon and you can still buy this steamer for $49. Plus, it has over 200 reviews that average out to 4.5 stars out of 5.
Obviously, a lot of people think this is a great tool 😀
Plug the steamer into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) because you are working with water. This little tip protects you from unnecessary shocks that could occur.
Add water to the steamer and allow it to heat up to the point where the steam comes out of the attachment.
Place the steamer onto the wallpaper and allow it to sit for 10-15 seconds.
Then use a 6-inch joint compound knife to scrape off the wallpaper.
Once you get used to the steamer you can scrape with one hand while steaming with the other.
Try to scrape as much of the glue off the wall as possible. Otherwise, it will show through your new paint job.
Use your 6-inch knife to scrape the glue off while it’s still soft.
Make sure you have paper towels because you’ll need them to wipe the old glue off your knife.
Here’s a friendly reminder: STEAM CAN BURN YOUR SKIN.
Please be careful when using a steamer because you don’t want to hurt yourself or someone else. Overall, steamers are very safe to use.
Additional tips to make your life easier after wallpaper removal
Here’s Tip #1: pick up the old wallpaper while it’s still damp and throw it into a garbage bag.
This prevents the wallpaper from sticking to your drop cloth, baseboards, or floor. Keep in mind that the paper still has glue on it and will be sticky.
Thus, it’s a good policy to remove the wallpaper from a small section of your wall then swiftly place it into your garbage bag.
You’ll also cut down on the chance of stepping on a piece of tacky old wallpaper and tracking it into a different room.
Your wall will have a gunky glue residue on it after all the wallpaper is removed.
Here’s Tip #2: use 1 gallon of warm water with 1 teaspoon of Dawn liquid soap along with a grout sponge to clean off this old residue.
I like using grout sponges that have both a soft side and a rough side.
Dunk your sponge into the water, ring it out and scrub down your wall.
You’ll remove all the chunks of glue. Not all the glue residue will be removed but at least you’ll have a much smoother surface than at the beginning of this cleaning process.
Use a circular motion to do this.
Check out my video to see exactly what I did to remove a small section of wallpaper. I make reference to two, yes two, famous movie characters who believe it or not can help you stay safe and be efficient with your wallpaper removal project 🙂
Our tutorial that discusses how to paint a bathroom fast is great – don’t miss it!
If you’re doing a bathroom remodel and need help, join one of our online courses – they’ll make your bathroom renovation much easier!
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.
Thanks as always for reading, watching, and being part of our awesome community.
dead on tips & techniques Jeff. (including that old sock). My wife just used the Wagner for her latest project – a house full of wallpaper that needed removal … no problem (wish now she sent pics). I’ve used a rented wallpaper steamer for things like removing window glazing and even paint (an invaluable tool). I’ve also done research for readers in the past that seemed to indicate that Dawn was absolutely the hands down choice for removing that pesky residue… cheers my friend and if I can, I’ll enter. ~jb
Thanks jb, glad to hear your wife had great success with a steamer, too. They are fantastic tools.
If you don’t mind me asking, how much was it to rent the steamer?
Wow it could have saved me a fortune of time, frustration and $money$ had I known about this inexpensive tool over the years! Seems every home I’ve purchased was owned by someone who loved ugly (at least to me) wallpaper and almost all of it was very difficult to remove. I tried just about every product and paste out there and scores of “special” tools to try and improve the painstaking process of removing stubborn wallpaper. If I’m not lucky enough to win one I will be in the market very soon for the Wagner Power Steamer, I’m sure it even has other uses which I will find helpful as well.
Wallpaper removal can be very frustrating, arghhh!!
It takes some patience for sure.
Are you going to be working on another wallpaper project soon David?
I love the Wagner products. I wanted to remove the wallpaper from the walls in a home I had just moved into. Unfortunately, the was applied directly to the sheetrock without primer on it. Needless to say, removing it was a nightmare. I sure could have used the Wagner steamer then!
Oh my gosh Carol, that stinks!!!
What did you end up doing?
A steamer for removing wall paper is the safest way to go! After many unsuccessful tries with chemicals-& being sick for 2 days thereafter- the steamer was the best investment. However, I found that when the paper is glued directly to drywall-grrrr!- the stream can also lift the paper part of the drywall too. Which if you know how to texture week enough to cover it no big deal. I’m not a good texturerer, Thus, I left the rest of the paper up and primed & painted right over it. The places where I peeled did not look so great. But, it’s by the door in our master bath so it’s not really seen that much. Also, I used silicone caulking to seal the paper seams first…. If you don’t smooth those out perfectly while wet, they do not sand down, and will show when painted. Needless to say, we’re decorating modern vintage style so i can get away with the funky wall in bathroom. That’s what I keep telling myself. Someday that bathroom will get renovated, including the drywall.
Thank you Jeff!! Your post could not have come at a better time. I am preparing to remove wallpaper from my master bath. I just started by hand and it has been a pain.
I’d love to win the steamer and save a few precious dollars too!! Love your blog! Thanks again.
It sure sounds like you’re in the middle of a project Debbie.
What color are you going to paint your bathroom after all the wallpaper is taken down?
Would this work on wall paper that has been put up on bare drywall with no sizing. When I try to remove the wall paper it’s peeling the drywall paper off too. UGHHH! It’s a mess.
This seems to be a common problem Ski. Previous homeowners not priming or painting the drywall before applying drywall.
Unfortunately removing the wallpaper will be very hard. If you take off the drywall paper or it becomes damaged you’ll either have to skim coat over it with joint compound or replace the drywall.
Have you started yet?
I have started but I’m very discouraged by the drywall paper coming off too. Perhaps a video on how to skim coat will be in your future. 😉
Don’t be discouraged Ski, you can do it. And even if you need to replace the drywall I know you can figure that out no problem.
Skim coating is more like an art project than anything else. I actually have to do it in the bathroom where this wallpaper was removed. So you might just see a video 🙂
Great video as always! I have a couple of suggestions. Placing a few layers of newspaper over your drop cloths (I know it sounds redundant) makes collecting sticky wallpaper remnants easy and keep your drop cloths from becoming overly crunchy from the glue. Also, the addition of a bit of white vinegar to the Dawn & water mixture really cuts through the glue residue. I hope you finds these ideas helpful.
Great ideas Mike. I don’t know why I never thought of adding the vinegar.
Have you used both the Dawn and vinegar yourself?
Thank you!! This is so timely for me. We are not the handiest people on the planet but we’ve been considering taking down the wallpaper in our bathrooms. I posted a picture of our master bath woes on your FB page. Our hall bath is not as bad but the paper has been up since 1995 and we’d like to remove it and paint. Your video gives me hope that we can actually do this 🙂
Oh my gosh Janet, you can totally do this yourself. It seems like a lot of us have not so nice wallpaper in the bathroom. I don’t even want to tell how long I’ve wanted to take down our floral walls, haha.
Have you tried to take off the wallpaper yet?
This looks like it works like a charm! I purchased a house about 6 months ago that has several rooms with layers upon layers of wallpaper. I did one room that had 3 layers with DIF wallpaper remover and it was brutal. Would love to try out the steamer on the next room!
Congrats Sarah on you new home.
How many rooms have wallpaper?
Do they have multiple layers?
I’m am older lady who would like to remove some outdated flowered wallpaper from my bathroom so that it can then be painted. I could do it myself, since I am still healthy, if I had a nice steamer like this. It would look more up-to-date and also have more resale value.
Sounds like you have a good plan for how you want your bathroom to look Madra.
What else would you like to update in the bathroom?
I have 3 bathrooms with wallpaper that I’d love to take down. This steamer would be a godsend for me. Thanks for the chance to win.
You’ve got your hands full Andrea with 3 bathrooms. But it’s manageable.
Are you looking to redo all 3 bathrooms as well (e.g. new sinks, faucets, floors, etc.)?
The steamer idea sounds like a winner. I stripped the wallpaper off my kitchen and along with it came the top layer of paper. I had to re-skim 1/2 of the total surface. What a mess!
Oh boy, that sounds like quite the job Warren. Well, at least the wallpaper is gone 🙂
Did you have any issues applying the skim coat?
Thanks for another great video!
Thank you Linda for watching. Do you have any DIY projects you’re working on this weekend?
We love Wagner but have never tried the steamer. I had given up on wall paper and resisted the urge to wallpaper when we bought our current house….has it really been over 20 years? The reason I gave up on it was because I could never get it off well enough to satisfy me. I have been itching to wallpaper our dining room and den, but held off because I knew the day would come when I would want it gone….Might scratch that itch. Sorry I don’t have pics after all this time!
Time flies Barbara, I feel the same way about our home.
Have you tried to remove wallpaper in the past and run into problems?
I don’t have tons of wallpaper to remove, but, I do have some wallpaper border my daughter put up years ago (must have been with superglue) because all my regular methods haven’t worked very well.
Well at least it’s just a border Cindi. What methods have you tried so far?
I should have gotten this years ago when trying to remove wallpaper during a renovation of a house. One small bathroom alone took me over two weeks to remove. I wish I had pictures; but at that time I was not thinking of recording my struggles for posterity. This was a great video and a great product too. Thanks for sharing.
Whew, two weeks!! That wasn’t fun. What methods of removal did you use for that project?
I bet you were so relieved when it was done and over.
We have flocked pink wallpaper that must be over 30 years old. When we bought the house 10 years ago, we were told by optimistic friends that flocked wallpaper was coming back. The thing is that it is in the master bath and dressing area and we have not been kind to it. When we moved in we removed three rooms of half wall wallpaper and matching ceiling borders and it was such a pain. We have been putting off doing the master bath but it sure needs to be done! What a great idea to use the steamer. Thanks for the giveaway!
Good job Mary removing the three rooms with the wallpaper.
What method did you use to get that job done?
We pulled off what we could using the perforating tool, hot water in a spray bottle and a flat scraper type tool. I also tried a kit I got online which included a lightweight fabric that you dampened and pressed against the perforated wallpaper. It was suppose to hold the moisture against the wallpaper until the paste underneath got damp enough to pull the wall paper off the wall. In the end it was just a lot of hard work.
Love your tutorials.
Thanks Mary for loving the tutorials. Sorry to hear the kit didn’t work as expected. Sometimes that happens with new products.
I do think you’d have better luck with a steamer. It’s still requires work but has always been a fantastic wallpaper removal tool for me.
Did you eventually get all your wallpaper removed?
We have two bathrooms, one kitchen, one dining room, and one sunroom all covered in wallpaper from the early 80’s. Oh… and their ceilings are wallpapered as well. Previous owner did nothing to the decor in over 20 years. We have managed to remove wallpaper in our master bedroom and our daughters’ shared bedroom. They had wallpaper on the ceiling too. It’s a joy!
Wallpaper on the ceiling!!!
Oh my word Dana, how on earth did you get if off without a visit to the chiropractor?
It was a chore! Our bedroom came right off. The girls’ wallpaper front came off, then we had to re-wet the backing, then scrape off the adhesive. It took us 3 days of 3″ by 3″ removal. It was horrible!
Whewee!! That sounds horrible.
Are you all done or do you have more rooms to do?
Hey Jeff, I really enjoyed the video. It was very informative. I wish I would have known about the steamer at my old house. I took down a lot of wallpaper.I just moved into a brand new house a couple years ago and not one piece of wallpaper. Yeaaah. I love all your videos keep up the good work
I hear ya Steve, no wallpaper is a great thing!!! Sorry to hear you had to suffer through the labor intensive process of paper removal. Hope you had a few beers or did something to reward yourself.
Thanks for watching all the videos, I love making them and talking with other awesome DIYers like yourself.
Cool tool. I sure could have used it years ago, on our first house. It was a funhouse of late 60’s wallpaper horror. This time, in this little house of horrible workmanship by our predissesors, we have managed to be blessed without a single scrap of wallpaper. The only thing we could use the steamer for would be vegetables. I assume the broccoli steaming instructions will be in your part 2 video?
Haha, okay this is just for you John.
Supplies: knife, cutting board, one medium sauce pan, steaming insert for sauce pan, lid, measuring cup, 1 cup of water 2 cups of broccoli trimmed
Directions: Place 1 cup of water in the bottom of a medium sauce pan, add trimmed broccoli to steaming insert, place lid on sauce pan. Bring water to a boil and steam broccoli for 9-10 minutes. Serve broccoli with sprinkled cheese on top. Voila!!
Lol, thanks buddy for dropping in 🙂
We have tried steam, dif, fabric softener with very little luck. Wallpaper only comes off in very tiny pieces. The walls were painted before putting up wallpaper and I sized the walls too. Any suggestions?
Pam, did you score the wallpaper? If you do that and use the steamer the wallpaper should come off. But who knows what kind of adhesive is lurking under it!!!!
Sincerely, thank you for the clear and concise step by step process along with photos. I am in the beginning stages of ripping wallpaper off (nearly) every wall of our new house to prep for paint and this article will be invaluable.
I bought a house full of old, ugly wallpaper–then I bought a Wagner steamer! My mother has used one of these forever–they are indeed the greatest thing ever!
This is great! It is such a lovely article. It’s just amazing how you put all these together on “DIY Guide on How to Start a Home Improvement Blog” with such great tips Removing Old Wallpaper !