Fix-it Chick: Keys to stripping wallpaper without leaving giant mess

Removing old wallpaper can dramatically improve the look and feel of any room. With the right tools and some hot water, stripping wallpaper can be a fun and rewarding project.

Step 1: Peeling wallpaper is messy. Move furniture to the center of the room and cover it with dropcloths. Take down pictures, pull out nails and remove any hardware on the walls. Remove electrical cover plates and use blue painter’s tape to cover switches and outlets. Protect floors and woodwork with plastic dropcloths. Secure the dropcloths in place with blue painter’s tape.

Step 2: Properly applied wallpaper should peel off the wall in full sheets. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case. Try peeling the wallpaper off the wall in full sheets by grabbing the bottom two corners of each strip and walking backward away from the wall. Peel away as much paper as possible. The top layer of the paper may peel away, leaving its paper backing stuck to the wall. If this happens, peel away. Paper backing is much easier to remove than a full sheet of wallpaper.

Step 3: Paper that does not peel off easily will need to be perforated before applying chemical stripper. Scoring is easily done with the small wheels of a paper-scoring tool or with a wire brush. The special scoring tool is less likely to damage the wall below. Either way, perforate the paper to be stripped from top to bottom by running the wire brush over the entire surface. The more holes, the better.

Step 4: Fill a 2-gallon bucket with hot water and add a bottle of wallpaper stripper. Use a sponge to apply the stripping solution to the wall. For large jobs, use an inexpensive garden tank sprayer to apply the solution. Always wear safety goggles and rubber gloves when working with chemicals.

Step 5: Allow the solution to soak in for 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 6: Wet a small section of wallpaper, making sure the water is still hot before applying the solution.

Step 7: Use a stiff putty knife or a wallpaper scraper to scrape away the loose wallpaper. Work in small patches and wet the paper again as necessary.

Step 8: Once the paper has been completely stripped away from the wall, use a nonresidual cleaner such as TSP or Dirtex to remove the remaining adhesive.

— Have a home improvement question for Fix-It Chick? Email it to Linda Cottin at


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.