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How to Strip Wallpaper

Updated 8th December 2023

Knowing how to remove wallpaper will help you tackle one of the first steps when redecorating. It can be time consuming, and you may hit some unexpected snags along the way, but if a job is worth doing its worth doing properly; and this is one of those jobs. In doing so you will be left with a smoother, clean wall that will leave no blemishes, ready for wallpapering or applying paint. In general, stripping the current wallpaper also means the new paint or paper will last a lot longer.

Perhaps the spare room could be brightened up and transformed in to a study? Or maybe you have decided on a new colour scheme for the bedroom? Regardless of your objectives, removing wallpaper needn’t be stressful. We’ve put together a number of tips to help make the process as painless as possible, so you can be applying some lovely fresh paint or wallpaper and enjoying your new look in no time.


The most important thing when stripping wallpaper is safety. Make sure to keep chemicals and adhesives away from children first of all, and for your own safety it is important you always use a suitable ladder to prevent injuries from working at height. You should also wear safety goggles to protect your eyes.

As always, preparation is key. Before you think about the tools you’re going to need to do the job, or even look at a tin of paint, there are a number of important things to address.

  1. Get some dust sheets and cover any exposed areas. Picking up small strips of wallpaper from your carpet is never fun!
  2. Work out what kind of wall you have – plaster or drywall. Drywall, as the name suggests, needs to be kept dry, so go easy on any detergent, water or steam treatment you may decide to use. To tell if you have drywall as opposed to plaster, simply tap the wall. If it sounds hollow, it’s probably drywall – time to proceed with caution. Drywall consists of the commonly-used mineral gypsum, whereas plaster consists of sand, cement, lime and water – resulting in a much denser, colder finish.
  3. Work out what kind of wallpaper you have. Some, more modern wallpaper can be easily peeled off by hand. Simply loosen a strip, and if it comes off easily by hand you’re in business! If, however, you have dry walls, you still need to be careful. Use a putty knife to carefully loosen the paper and slowly peel it back; if you tear it straight off you risk damaging the drywall.
  4. More traditional, non-strippable wallpaper will require a vigorous approach – soaking and scraping, or steaming.

Wallpaper Stripping Equipment

There are generally two options for wallpaper stripping; chemical or steamer. Steaming works best for tougher jobs and is perfect for large surfaces so ideal if you have an entire room to strip.

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Wallpaper Stripping Equipment

There are generally two options for wallpaper stripping; chemical or steamer. Steaming works best for tougher jobs and is perfect for large surfaces so ideal if you have an entire room to strip.

How To Remove Wallpaper

There are a couple of methods for removing wallpaper easily, choose from the below to guide you through it.

Soak and Scrape

One way to remove wallpaper is to use a ready-mixed solvent, or hot water and fabric softener. Either will work well. Firstly, it’s a good idea to score the wallpaper, to ensure the solution or water is absorbed properly.

To apply the solution, using a painter roller can be an effective method. Once the paper has been suitably dampened, simply use a scraper to remove it. It should come off easily.

If you don’t fancy using a paint roller, a large spray bottle will suffice, but it may not penetrate the paper in the same way.

Steam Treatment

For drywalls, steam treatments can be highly effective, as the paper slides off very easily, and quickly. It reduces the need to scrape your drywall and risk damaging it (and having to spend more money on repairing it).

Wallpaper strippers can be ready to use in 15 minutes – simply fill the water tank and wait for it to heat up. Once it’s up and running you’ll fly through the paper in no time! Happy steaming!

How To Use A Wallpaper Steamer

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1. Fill the steamer with water and wait for steam to be released before beginning work.

2. Starting at the bottom, hold the steamer to the wallpaper for around 10 seconds to allow the steam to soften the wallpaper and adhesive.

3. As you move the steamer upwards pull the below dampened paper off as you go; use a stripping knife for the tougher bits.

4. Make sure to keep removing the paper from collecting on the dust sheets as it can stick to the sheets the longer you leave it.

Once the wallpaper is gone, brush the wall with a stiff broom and remove remaining debris with the stripping knife. Make sure to score the top edge of the paper to stop the ceiling being damaged and remove the last of the paper. If you’re left with any wallpaper paste on the wall use a stripping solution to be able to remove it using the stripping knife. Wipe the walls clean with water and leave them until completely dry before turning the power back on.


One thing that gets commonly overlooked is the need to clean the walls thoroughly after the paper has been removed. Again, don’t scrub – keep it gentle. A bucket containing a mixture of washing up liquid and warm water should suffice, applied with a large sponge. Once the residual pieces of paper have been removed, simply rub down with a towel. You should be left with a smooth, dry finish – ready for that paint or paper to be applied!

Image of blog writer Lauren King

About the Author

Lauren King

Lauren works in our Ecommerce Team, with over 6 years of experience at HSS. She brings product knowledge and is able to give her advice on the right tool for the job no matter how big or small.

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