Removing wallpaper can be a difficult task, but we can teach you how to remove it from plaster or drywall. Follow our step-by-step guide and learn how to remove wallpaper.

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What You Need for This Project

Should You Remove Your Wallpaper?

You might be able to avoid stripping old wallpaper if the existing wallpaper is:

  •  Well-adhered to the wall.
  •  Free of bubbles, buckles, and wrinkles.
  • Has smooth texture and is free from any embossing, raised embellishments, or flocking.


Leaving your wallpaper on the wall is not recommended if:

  • You suspect there may be more than a single layer of wallpaper on the surface.
  • The existing wallpaper has a vinyl, foil, or plastic film. Wallpaper adhesive will not adhere well to these surfaces.
  • You are planning to hang vinyl wallpaper. If the previous wallpaper is also vinyl, the glue between the two papers will not dry well. If the old wallpaper is not vinyl, the glue under it may get wet and start to mildew.
  • The existing wallpaper is grass cloth, burlap, or cork.
  • You can hear crinkling sounds when running your hand over the surface of the wall. If you do, the wallpaper has buckled and needs to be removed.
  • If there are tears in the wallpaper at the corners of the walls. When walls settle, wallpaper sometimes tears in a corner.
  • If you are planning to paint, you must remove the wallpaper. Paint will seal the surface and make the wallpaper almost impossible to remove in the future.    

Identify Your Wall Type

It is important to know what kind of walls you have before you begin. The age of the wall usually determines whether it is drywall or plaster.

Plaster: Is found mostly in homes that are more than 50 years old. These walls are solid and sound dull if you knock on them.

Drywall: Has been used in homes for the past 50 years or so. Drywall is more delicate than plaster, so be careful not to damage the cardboard facing when using a wallpaper scraping tool.

Prep Work

Step One

Clear the Walls & Room

Take everything off the walls, including decorative objects and knickknacks. Also remove as much furniture as possible.
Step Two

Protect Remaining Furniture, Floors & Baseboards

Place plastic drop cloths over any remaining furniture and the floors. Tape the plastic drop cloths to the baseboard, this will help you with clean-up once you’re done.

Strippable Wallpaper

Newer wallpapers are strippable, which means they can easily be removed without water or chemicals. If you know the wallpaper you are trying to remove was hung in recent years, you may be in luck.

Find Out if You Have Strippable Wallpaper

Step One

Lift the Corners of the Wallpaper

At a corner or seam near the bottom of the wall, use a putty knife to pry the edge of the wallcovering. If it pulls away easily and keeps coming up as you pull, you have strippable wallpaper and your job should be easy.
Step Two

Strip Wallpaper

To remove the paper, simply grab the lower corner of a strip and pull it away until both corners of the strip are free. Then hold the bottom edge with both hands and pull until the whole strip is off the wall. Repeat all the way around the room.
Step Three

Loosen Stubborn Wallpaper with a Razor Knife

If the paper is stubborn, you can help it along by using a razor knife. Hold the knife perpendicular to the wall and make a series of horizontal strips about 10 inches apart. Then loosen the section of paper and pull it free with your fingers.

If the Paper Surface of Your Drywall Comes Up with the Wallpaper

Stop immediately. When this happens, it generally means that the drywall was not sealed with enough paint. Glue down any loose pieces and seams that have separated. Fill in uneven areas with non-shrinking spackling compound. Sand your repairs and apply an oil-based sealer with an enamel undercoat.

Removing Wallpaper with Water

Step One

Apply Liquid Stripper Concentrate

Mix the liquid stripper concentrate with hot water according to the manufacturer’s directions. Apply the mixture to your walls with a broad brush or a sprayer. Work from top to bottom a section at a time.
Note: Do not try to tackle such a large area that the paper dries before you have a chance to remove it.
Step Two

Strip Wallpaper

Let the paper soak for a few minutes, then start stripping it away with a scraper.
Step Three

Peel-able Wallpaper

Some wallpapers are peel-able, which means that they have a top coat that comes off just like strippable paper. Once you have peeled off the top vinyl coat, you will have the backing left. Follow directions for stripping with water to remove the backing.

Note: Do not leave the backing on, even if it is in good condition.

Is Your Wallpaper Not Absorbing the Water?

When this happens, scuff the surface with coarse sandpaper or a scoring tool to allow the water to soak into the paper. Once it is thoroughly soaked, apply the wetting agent twice more and let it soak for 30 minutes. You will know it is ready when you can scrape off pieces with your fingernail.

Steam Removal

The last resort for removing wallpaper is to steam-strip. This job is strenuous because you must steam and strip at the same time. You might want to ask a friend for help.

A steamer uses boiling water to soften the glue between the wallpaper and the wall. If you are removing vinyl-coated wallpaper with a steamer, you still have to use a scoring tool to punch holes in the paper so the steam can reach the glue. You can purchase or rent a steamer, the choice depends on how frequently you plan on using the steam.

Note: Carefully read the manufacturer's directions, as they may vary from machine to machine.

Removing Wallpaper with Steam

Step One

Fill the Reservoir

Make sure the power is off. Fill the reservoir with warm water. Turn the machine on and wait for the water to boil.
Step Two

Steam Your Walls

With your goggles and gloves on, place the stripper's steam pad firmly on the wallpaper for about 30 seconds. Move the pad and you should see loose paper. Remove the paper with a scraper.

How To Terms

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes, and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors, or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures.

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