Tips for Easier Wallpaper Removal

One night while I was brushing my teeth, I started picking at a corner of the wallpaper in my master bathroom. That’s when I realized how easily it peeled away from the wall. I tore off a little piece, then another one, then a slightly larger one…and it felt so good that I just kept going. When I was about halfway through my husband walked in, saw what was happening, and silently backed up and walked away. But I pulled down all the wallpaper in the bathroom that night.

The thing is, the paper backing stayed stuck to the walls, and only the vinyl front came down. But I decided it was marginally better than before, so it stayed like that. Until one evening after taking a long steamy shower, I picked a bit at the paper up near the ceiling where all the steam had been collecting. It peeled away really easily in large sheets. So what we were left with was a bathroom mostly covered in paper backing, except the areas up high near the shower, which were down to some really ugly paint. And that’s how it stayed for the next 9 months or so. I was a little preoccupied mothering a baby and trying to plan a wedding, in my defense.

In case you’re sitting there wondering what I have against wallpaper, here’s a little peek at what the bathroom looked like when we moved in. Even the light switch and outlet covers were wrapped in this stuff. Such fine attention to detail.

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And as a side note, this little toilet closet is behind the door on the angled wall you see in the photo above. Not really my style, but at least it’s not more wallpaper. Though the light switch plate in here was paper-wrapped, too.

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So here’s how I got this wallpaper down. It was actually pretty easy, just messy and time-consuming. I have to apologize, I didn’t appear to take a single photo of this process. I think the multiple layers of water and glue on my hands deterred me from touching any electronics, and my husband coincidentally stayed far away while I was doing this.

First, I tore off all the vinyl front, which is what the pattern is printed on. I was left with the paper backing, which for the most part was still stuck to the wall with adhesive.

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With a pressure sprayer like this full of plain water, I sprayed sections about 2 feet by 2 feet in size with a LOT of water and let it sit for several minutes to really start dissolving the adhesive. The best technique I found was to spray a moderate amount of water, then wait a little bit until the paper darkened and I could tell it was absorbing water. Then I sprayed it some more, waited a bit, and sprayed once more for good measure. I used old towels rolled up along the baseboards to absorb the water that was streaming down the walls before it all absorbed into the carpet.

Once a section of paper had soaked long enough, I got under an edge with a plastic scraper and started peeling it off in sheets. I went back and scraped off the little stubborn bits that were harder to get off, and then double-checked the area to make sure I didn’t miss anything. At this point I would re-spray the wall and use a clean towel to scrub it really well and clean off any leftover adhesive.  I just worked like this, section by section, all the way around the bathroom. I would spray a section and let it soak while I removed the section that had just been soaking, and this helped things move along a little faster.

Like I said, it wasn’t terribly hard, just time-consuming. It took me several hours one night after my daughter was in bed just to do the small bathroom. Once all the paper was removed, my husband helped me spray and scrub the walls once more, just to make sure all the adhesive was cleaned off. Then I stood back and admired what I had just uncovered.

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Please know that this paint was much pinker in person, and the contrast with whatever those white splotches are was much more pronounced. I never decided which I preferred, the wallpaper or the paint. But I suppose that doesn’t really matter, because the next day I painted over it all with a very pretty and very calming blue. It totally changed the whole feel of the bathroom, and coupled with the new flooring I installed (post to come), it’s actually a really nice space now. Minus the vanity, but I have plans for that. Side note: please don’t mind our messy counters. We obviously don’t.

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This color is so beautiful in person. It’s Behr Oceanic Climate.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the carpet with linoleum accents in these photos, but look out soon for a post about the new flooring I installed after I finished painting!

Signature Blue

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