Stripping wallpaper

It is always best to strip the existing wallpaper before repapering as it is often difficult to guarantee that the old wallpaper surface is sufficiently sound to accept a new layer. A steam stripper is the most efficient way of removing old wallcoverings. However, you can just use a bucket of warm water and a sponge to soak the paper before scraping it off. Take great care when using a steam stripper as you are effectively working with boiling water and steam. You must wear gloves and goggles, and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for use precisely.

removing wallpaper 1. Remove any loose paper by hand first. It is surprising how much will come away ‘dry’ with ease. Use a scraper or filling knife along the skirting to lift up the edges.
scoring wallpaper 2. Score the surface of the remaining paper with a purpose made wallpaper scorer or the edge of a scraper, to help steam penetrate beneath the paper surface.
wallpaper stripper 3. Fill the steam stripper with water as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. Continue to follow the guidelines precisely when using the machine.
how to use a wallpaper stripper 4. Once the water in the wallpaper stripper is boiling, hold the steam plate against the wallpaper surface. Check under the plate after 10-15 seconds.
scraping wallpaper 5. Move the plate to the next area while scraping away the previously steamed area. Resteam any area of paper that is still sticking.
using wallpaper steamer 6. If the paper doesn’t come away easily, you can also leave the plate in place for a few seconds longer before moving to the next position.

Stripping wallpaper tips

  • The time required to hold a steam stripper plate on the wall surface will vary considerably. It is therefore important to experiment early in the task to see if a few seconds or much longer is required to loosen the paper. Too short a time and the paper will remain stuck. Too long a time and you can risk damaging (blowing) the plaster, which will lead to more preparation work before redecorating.
  • Do not allow the steam stripper to boil dry. Keep it topped up as directed, again taking all necessary precautions.
  • Use plenty of dust sheets when stripping wallpaper as it can be a messy job. Also remove paper from the dust sheets regularly as once the paper dries it often sticks to the sheets making it difficult to remove later.
  • Once a wall is stripped of paper, ideally wash down the wall surface to remove any old paste residues. This is essential if you are now planning to paint rather than repaper the wall.
  • Scrapers are the traditional tool for removing old coverings like wallpaper, but you may find it easier to use a filling knife, which is similar but with a much more flexible blade. Scrapers can often lead to creating more damage to the wall surface.
  • Wallpaper strippers may be hired, although because their price has reduced so much in recent years, you may prefer to buy. For more information, see my guide ‘Buying a wallpaper stripper’.


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