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August 20th, 2020 Wallpaper removal. How to take it down and when it has got to go?

“My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.” This may have been Oscar Wilde’s last recorded comment before passing away in a hotel in Paris. While it is unknown why the decor got under Mr. Wilde’s skin, it is not an uncommon experience. A beautiful wallpaper that is applied successfully can create a gorgeous transformation. Over time though the paper can feel outdated or tired, it can become stained or damaged, or adhesion may fail. If you are battling your wallpaper and feel it’s time for it to go, we have some suggestions for how to remove it. 

Start preparing the space by removing what you can from the area. Furniture or fixtures that can’t be easily removed can be covered by painter’s plastic. Go to your breaker box and turn the power off to the outlets in the room to err on the side of caution. Remove outlet and lightswitch plates to expose the paper underneath. Cover the outlets with blue tape to keep moisture from getting in. The removal process can be messy so it is best to cover your floor with a drop cloth or tarp. 


Some wallpaper will peel off very easily in whole sheets while others will propose a fight ‘til the death. You may want to test out how easily your paper peels off before gathering supplies and equipment. Try peeling up an edge of the paper with a putty knife or stripping knife. It may peel off in layers or tear off in small pieces. If you experience the latter, a warm 1-16 solution of vinegar and water or a product from your local paint store can help break down the adhesive resulting in a smoother removal. Spray the solution on a section of paper. If the paper repels the solution, a wallpaper scoring tool rolled over the surface will puncture the paper allowing the liquid to reach the adhesive much more easily. Try not to damage the wall with the scoring tool and putty knife by pressing too hard. Any punctures or dings in the wall can be puttied later if they do occur. Avoid spraying water near outlets and instead use a damp cloth held in place to relax the paper in those areas.

As a last resort, a wallpaper steamer can be used to loosen the adhesive, allowing the paper to come off more easily. These may be purchased or rented from stores. Don’t forget to read the instructions for use and to wear suggested safety equipment.
Once you have hit a stride peeling the paper off, you may want to try rolling the paper around a wooden dowel as you peel it off. If used successfully, the dowel will have the removed paper wrapped snugly around it and as you roll it the dowel will evenly pull on the hanging paper. If some adhesive remains on the wall you can use a sponge or cloth soaked in the warm solution to wipe down the walls and follow with the putty knife if needed.

Once the walls are free of paper, adhesive, and moisture they are ready for primer before applying new paint or paper. If you are in the New Orleans area and have any questions about the process, we would love to hear from you! We are also happy to provide a quote if you would like to hire local professionals for the task. Reach us at (504) 239-1302. 

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