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How To Remove Old Wallpaper

If you have wallpaper on the wall and you plan to put up new wallpaper, you might have to remove the old wallpaper first. If you plan to paint, then you absolutely should remove the old wallpaper. Some types of wallpaper are easier to remove than others, but we have methods for removing them all.

Do I Have To Remove The Old Wallpaper?

New wallpaper can be applied over old wallpaper, but only in certain circumstances. The drawback to putting new paper over old is that increases the chances that it will not adhere well, it will make future wallpaper removal more difficult, and imperfections in the wall are magnified with each layer. Sometimes it is better to remove the old paper and in some cases you must remove it. If the old paper is smooth, well adhered and does not have a foil, vinyl or plastic film you may be able to paper over it.

If there are several layers of wallpaper, if the wallpaper is coming off at the edges, if it has vinyl, foil or plastic film, or if the old paper has texture you should remove the old wall paper first.

The First Step

The old wallpaper, when it comes off, can be a messy. If it doesn't come off in strips, you will have tiny bits of paper sticking to everything. We recommend putting down a disposable drop cloth and using a disposable cardboard box as a trash can. You might want to have a small bucket of warm water to dip your hands for a quick rinse. Not all types of wallpaper are this sticky, the less sticky ones may not require these measures, but they can't hurt.

Types of Wallpaper

Strippable Wallpaper - This type is a newer kind of paper in which the entire paper comes off the wall without chemicals or water. Start at a corner or seam and pull the paper up. If it comes up and leaves little or nothing behind, it is probably strippable wallpaper. Pull until you have two corners free. Then apply even pressure as you pull on both corners; this will help to keep the piece whole as you remove it from the wall. If it comes up but has some difficult patches, you might try cutting strips and pulling those off individually.

Peelable Wallpaper - Peelable paper is similar to strippable except that it leaves behind the light colored paper backing. The backing must be removed in a second step, don't be tempted to leave it. Remove the decorative paper the same way as with strippable paper. To remove the backing, simply spray with a mist of water from a spray bottle or blot it with a sponge. Allow it to soak for a minute up to 10 minutes and then scrape it off with a putty knife or scraper.

Washable Wallpaper - This paper is washable because it has been coated with a plastic or similar film. This film also makes the paper more difficult to remove. Simply soaking it won't work, you will have to score the surface to allow water to penetrate before the paper can be peeled. Thoroughly score the paper, either with a scoring tool or gently with a razor knife. If you use a razor, be careful not to cut the wall. Spray the paper with a mist of water using a spray bottle. The paper should be thoroughly wetted and allowed to soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Scrape the paper using a putty knife or scraper.

Old Wallpaper - Removing old wallpaper can be challenging, but many people have had success with this technique. Soak the paper with a mist from a spray bottle. However, instead of plain water, use a 50/50 mixture of fabric softener and hot water. Wait five minutes and then spray again. Use a putty knife or scraper to remove the paper.

Using a Steamer to remove old wallpaper is a laborious technique that many people find does not work that well. If you have some small sections that won't come off, you could try using the steam setting on a clothes iron. However, most people find that spraying with a fabric softener and hot water mix usually does the trick.

After the Wallpaper is Down

To finish up, you should scrub the wall with a soft bristle brush and a mixture of warm water and TSP (tri sodium phosphate). This is important so that all of the glue is removed before you apply paint or new wallpaper. Some people report that a mixture of fabric softener and water is also effective. Also, repair any gouges, scrapes or imperfections so that they do not telegraph through the new wallpaper.

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