Removing Wallpaper the Green Way

Once Monday hit home improvement came to an almost hault. After a long day at work we weren't up for intensive tasks. We spent most of the week removing the wallpaper. Like any Gen-Y person with limited home improvement experience, the first step was Googling "diy wallpaper removal." Next we made a visit to our friendly people at Lowes and asked for their advice. We came home armed with wallpaper removal spray, squirt bottles, a wallpaper scorer and putty knives. In the end we used a combined approach. We initially thought that we should follow the Lowes instructions to the letter:

"Before using any method to dissolve the glue holding the paper in place, you must score the paper. Vinyl or other non-porous paper will not absorb any removal product, so you must make tiny cuts in the paper to let the product soak in. Even porous paper will remove easier when it is scored.

Specialty scoring tools are available to make the process faster. Though it might be tempting to use a knife or saw, those tools are more likely to damage the wall underneath the paper. Score all over the paper to be removed, paying attention to the corners and edges of the wall."

So we scored one section of wall, put the remover on and tried to scrape. We followed all the instructions to the letter, and...we made a mess! I also had a huge allergic reaction to the wallpaper remover and glue gunk and had rash all up and down my arms. I also felt decidedly un-green.

So we developed our own method of green wallpaper removal that requires just as much work, but only requires hard work and water, no nasty chemicals. While this method might not work for every type of wallpaper, we at least recommend that you try this first before buying the nasty wallpaper remover. We actually had two different types of wallpaper in our kitchen which required slightly different approaches, and one was easier than the other.

Removing wallpaper the green way:
  1. Find a corner from which you can peel the paper, try removing a wallplate from an outlet as a good starting point if edges are hard to find. Turn power to the outlet off while working with a screwdriver to remove the plate.

  2. Begin peeling back the paper from this point. (On half of our kitchen the top shiny layer of wallpaper just peeled right off).

  3. If the wallpaper won't peel back at all then you'll have to use the scoring technique to get at the glue underneath.

  4. Once you have either scored the paper or removed the top layer off, you'll need to get out your spray bottles. Fill these with boiling hot water. Spray the walls to the point where they start to drip water. (Other options to water include 1 part water to 3 parts vinegar or a 50-50 mixture of water and fabric softener.)

  5. Get out your putty knifes and start scraping. Make sure to work in small enough sections that the water doesn't dry or else you'll have a sticky mess on your hands.

  6. Once the paper is off you'll still need to do some prep work before painting. Wash the walls thoroughly to remove any remaining glue, then sand and wash again, prime and paint.

This takes no chemicals, no remover and it worked. One of our walls we just peeled, sprayed and scraped, and the other we had to score, spray and scrape. If, after trying the water you still can't get the paper off, we'd recommend renting a steamer before going with the harsh chemicals. Even after removing the paper, we tried using the remover gel on the bare walls to get the little bits of glue off again and still did nothing but make me break out and gum up the walls.

All in all this was a messy project which consumed the better part of our evenings for a week and all day Saturday. It was nasty, messy and I wouldn't wish it on anyone else. I hope to never hang wallpaper. Paint is way easier, easily changeable and better looking in my opinion.

Now I've just got to decide whether or not to try and use putty to get rid of the orange peel texture (taking the chance that the walls won't look perfectly flat) or leave the orange peel and go ahead and paint.