tips I learned from the pros stripping wallpaper

by | Jan 24, 2023 | 1970 home renovation, home improvement, My House, Tips and Tricks, Tutorials | 30 comments

I told you I would only write a couple more posts about stripping wallpaper, so let’s just get one out of the way.  This post is prompted by the people asking if I snooped and picked up some tips from the pros who were stripping off our wallpaper and glue.

The bad news is that they didn’t have some magic product or technique that made the paper and glue magically fall off.  It was still messy, laborious, tedious, and challenging just as it has been for me and every other human who has had the misfortune of having to strip wallpaper.  There is just no way around it.  I did pick up a few things, though, that I thought I would pass on.

If you missed it, you can read how my mom and I removed the wallpaper glue in the primary bedroom HERE.  We’ve since been using a steamer and find that works well. Both methods are about wetting the glue so it can be scraped and/or scrubbed off.

In the rooms where the glue was dry, meaning the paper just peeled off leaving the dry glue on the wall, they used an orbital palm sander to remove the glue. Several of my blog readers used this method and I was tempted to try it, but I really didn’t want to kick up that much dust.  An entire crew, though, could pretty quickly seal off a room and knock it all out.  I would just caution you, especially if the wallpaper is on the older side, that the glue could potentially contain hazardous materials like arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and asbestos.  Sanding the glue and sending the particles airborne can be dangerous.

For the paper in Marshall’s room, which didn’t peel off easily, they used spray bottles filled with warm water.  As far as I could tell, they were just using warm water and then scraped off the saturated paper with a putty knife.  The trick to this room seemed to be numbers and experience.  Since they’d stripped a lot of wallpaper, they were all pretty efficient and three of them concentrated their efforts on this one room until it was done.

While they did do a good job, there were still some remnants of wallpaper glue remaining and, to address that, they used a quality primer.  This was the same approach I took when I stripped the wallpaper in our primary bedroom.  We scrubbed and scrubbed but we couldn’t get every bit of glue, so we finally put on a coat of quality primer meant for challenging surfaces and that did the trick.  Remove all of the glue you can, but a good primer will take care of the rest.

I used Cover Stain Primer and that did an excellent job.  I peeked at their cans and they were using Kilz Premium and it seemed to accomplish the same thing.  Both are a high-hiding primer meant to stick and cover surfaces that might otherwise resist paint or have bleed through.  I have yet to paint over their primed surfaces, yet, but I’ll let you know if one performs better than the other.  You know I’m a paint nerd, so I love those kinds of experiments.

I would make two suggestions as far as the primer coat is concerned.  1. ) Allow the walls to completely dry before putting on the primer.  I know it’s exciting to get a fresh coat onto the walls, but it’s best to wait so you don’t cause more problems by putting the primer on damp drywall or plaster.  2.)  Allow the primer to dry/cure for a few days.  I noticed with both of the primers that the surface felt a little tacky for about 24 hours.  I would let the primer sit for 24-48 hours before applying paint to give it a chance to harden a bit more.  Primer is more effective when you let it cure for a while in most cases.

Since I am putting color on all of these walls, I am going to prime the walls one more time with a tinted primer.  This will reduce the number of coats and provide one more layer of insurance over the walls that have been stripped, scrubbed, patched, and sanded.  It’s one more layer to add to the walls of an already long process, but it’ll serve you well when you get to that final coat of beautiful, fresh paint.

So, I’m heading to the paint store to have some primer tinted and I’m getting the paint for Marshall’s room.  I’m getting most of my paint in the Farrow & Ball brand from Dreamy Whites, but Marshall wants the same color he had in his MN room, which was Newburyport Blue by Benjamin Moore.  We don’t have a Benjamin Moore dealer in our area, so I’ll get the color matched.

I’m ready to wear some paint-splattered clothes for a few days later this week to get some of these rooms painted…

30 Comments

  1. Betsy

    I just had wallpaper removed. They sprayed a mixture of water and vinegar and after letting it sit they scraped. It was amazing that most of the paper and glue scraped right off. They said that spraying with water keeps dust and contaminants from flying around. For tough to remove types of paper they scored it with a wallpaper scoring tool in a circular motion and then sprayed. No doubt the contractor made quick work of it.

    Reply
    • Carolyn Frazer

      Ace Hardware has Benjamin Moore paint, in case you have one of those nearby.

      Reply
    • Wall Glueman

      Next time you decide to hang wallpaper use a wallcovering primer with a “strippable” adhesive. You can literally just grab the corners of the wallcovering and pull it off in full sheets without using any remover. Also a wallpaper remover is only going to work on a clear or clay based adhesive, best on the clear. The moisture and enzymes In a remover help eat the starches that form the bond. If a “universal” resin based adhesive was used, moisture won’t touch the adhesive; you’ll be scraping and sanding.

      Reply
  2. Terry

    I am so excited for you (and us) to see more progress with this exciting journey. I am so grateful I have no wallpaper in my house that I never plan on leaving. Will use your primer recommendations if I ever tire of some of the stenciling I did 30 years ago lol.

    Reply
  3. Monica from Littlestown

    I’ve also learned the hard way that sometimes people put wallpaper up over plain drywall without priming it first. Always prime your walls – it also makes a difference what gloss the primer is. Anything with a slight gloss, like an eggshell finish, will make it so much easier down the road to remove the wallpaper. I can’t wait to see your paint colors now that the messiest work is done! McCormick Paints in your area is a Benjamin Moore dealer 🙂

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      They actually aren’t! I went there already and they do not carry BM paints.

      Reply
    • Wall Glueman

      Great point. Use a wallcovering primer, which are designed for wallcoverings. There are different primers designed to prep different substrates, those with added adhesion, and those that promote strippability. Check with a manufacturer like Roman.

      Reply
  4. Babs

    Thanks for all the tips and suggestions. I can only imagine how excited you will be to get the rooms painted and arranged how you want them. Accomplishing goals is a wonderful feeling.

    Reply
  5. Mona

    I’m so glad you took your husbands comments to heart and had the wallpaper removed by professionals. Did you ever consider applying peel and stick wall coverings? They look so easy to apply but haven’t heard from people who used it if was easy to remove and how did it hold up to the wear and tear of living with it. Have you? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Melody

      I highly recommend peel and stick for small areas!!! After total destroying a bathroom peeling paper with no primer, I ordered peel and stick for the foyer and two baths. 8 months later, they have held up beautifully. I ordered from Spoonflower.

      Reply
  6. linda twichell

    Spray bottle of Downy fabric softener and warm water. It works and it smells nice. Spray, spray, spray and let it sit for a few minutes; then scrape with a plastic scraper. Worked for me.

    Reply
    • Teri

      That’s what I’ve used, warm water and fabric softener.

      Reply
    • Mary S

      I was just getting ready to type that. While I’ve never used fabric softener, my brother’s neighbor sprayed her kitchen with fabric softener and hot water, walked away for about an hour and the paper just “fell” off…. Can anyone image that??? Surely, she used wallpaper “sizing” before she applied her wallpaper. Sizing makes a world’s difference. Can’t hurt to give it a try — fabric softener is pretty inexpensive.
      Mary S

      Reply
  7. Gail

    Can one just prime and paint right over top of wallpaper? Why does it have to be removed?

    Reply
    • Nicole

      In an earlier post she mentioned that a lot of the wallpaper was peeling at the edges. That would definitely telegraph through the paint. As for painting over wallpaper in good condition, I have no idea!

      Reply
    • Margery

      In one apartment I lived in we were painting over the wallpaper and huge strips of it started coming off the wall. Do not recommend!

      Reply
    • Wall Glueman

      Definitely best to remove the wallpaper. Unless it’s an “anaglypta” (paintable wallcovering), there are several issues with painting wallpaper. First, the moisture from the paint can actually soak through the face of the wallcovering and re-wet the adhesive causing the adhesive holding the wallcovering to fail. Even if its an impermeable vinyl, the moisture will get through at the seams or edges causing them to loosen. Secondly, the extra weight of the paint may increase the likelihood of the adhesive failing. Finally, wallpaper usually lasts for years, so you should consider the amount of dust, dirt and grime that will need to be cleaned off for your paint to adhere. Not worth it.

      Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yeah, I would not recommend painting over wallpaper unless it’s an absolute last resort because the paper can’t be removed (maybe it was applied improperly.) There are some cases where it wouldn’t be noticeable, but in most cases, seams, wrinkles, and peeling paper would haunt you. It’ will also make the paper even more difficult to remove in the future. Basically, it’s a short cut not worth taking.

      Reply
  8. Irene Kelly

    Oh Marian you are so “cute” about the snooping part. Luckily we have only one room with wallpaper and that is our laundry room. And I chose a really pretty floral that is neutral ! You and Jeff should have a party to celebrate the end of stripping wallpaper ! So glad you went the “Let someone else do it route” ! !

    Reply
  9. Karen

    So happy for you that this tedious task is complete in the larger, more important areas of the house! Now you get to do you favorite thing and paint, paint, paint! Can’t wait to see the final product! I know it will look great!

    Reply
  10. Cheryl

    I’m very relieved, for you. It all sounded so overwhelming. We are getting ready to paint our LR,DR & Hallway and I’m not sure I’m up for the task at my age. Hubs thinks we can do it so…

    Reply
  11. Ramona J

    Our basement bedroom has a navy color and I think it’s perfect for a boy’s room.
    Cover Stain is my go to primer. I love it as the first coat on refinishing furniture even if the directions say no priming necessary.
    Won’t be long before those walls are finished!

    Reply
  12. Judith A Karlson

    Thanks for taking us along on your home adventures! I can’t wait to see the paint colors. Your blog is a favorite part of my day!

    Reply
  13. Julie Olmstead

    I said it on Instagram, but I will say it again, good for you for hiring out part of the job!! I know we ALL love a DIY project, but sometimes, the project is best left to the professionals. Our time is our most precious commodity!

    Reply
  14. Teresa

    Marian,
    There is a Ace Hardware in Greencastle, PA which isn’t that far from you in MD. Ace carries Ben Moore and I believe they might carry Farrow & Ball as well. If you do go to Greencastle, try to stop by that Amish country store and deli right of I-81. They have some amazing bakery and meat products!

    Reply
  15. LauraT

    We are the third generation in a 90 year old house. The walls are lath and plaster, although many walls didn’t get beyond the brown coat. All walls and ceilings were wall papered, layer upon layer, with paint in between. I think the dining room had 6 layers of paper, 3 layers of paint. In addition, all the ceilings got a thick layer of texture. I have spent 15 years doing a room at a time, using a steamer and a wide flexible putty knife. I turn on an audio book and make a mess! The living room and one small bedroom remain to be done. I’m thankful that glue hasn’t been a big issue for me, and a quality primer has been all that’s needed. Happy painting!

    Reply
  16. Linda Scott

    It’s the worst job ever but I found lightly scoring the paper (just so the mixture can saturate the glue) and spraying with a mixture of hot water and Downey did the trick. You really need to saturate sections then the glue wipes right off and the room smells clean like Downey Fabric Softener. Looking forward to seeing the finished rooms! Happy Decorating!! You owe your husband his favorite dinner for encouraging you to hire workers to remove wallpaper!! Great idea!!

    Reply
  17. Nicole

    I can’t wait to see your color palette come to life!! I love F&B paint colors. They never fail me.

    Reply
  18. Pat

    I have used the fabric softner & water to remove wallpaper. I have also used dryer sheets in a water bath to soak off burnt on grease on oven racks.

    Reply
  19. Lynne

    I have also always used fabric softener mixed with warm water and that worked well for me. I love your stories they are always inspiring. Thank you.

    Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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