How to remove wallpaper - step-by-step guide

Removing old wallpaper can be a really tough gig. Especially old wallpaper. Lots of renovators have horror stories about stripping old wallpaper off walls and it puts them off wallpapering ever again. However, the glues and wallpaper paste they used decades ago are not like the modern glues, which are kinder to your walls and easier to remove. Hopefully this guide for how to remove wallpaper will help you find your way to fresh walls you can wallpaper again.

What type of wallpaper do you have?

The type of wall covering you have determines the best way to remove it. Your wallpaper may:

  • be peelable or …
  • need to be moistened and scraped.


You can usually peel off modern wallpaper with a vinyl or PVC coating with minimal effort. Loosen a corner and start peeling it off. A standard putty knife will help you pry it off the wall. Peelable wallpaper (like many of the designs in our Silk Interiors Collection) leaves a thin, porous backing glued to the wall that requires some effort to remove. However, if the backing is porous and glue will soak into it, you can also wallpaper directly over the top of the backing.


You need to loosen the glue by moistening the paper with water and a little vinegar. You can also use a prepackaged wallpaper remover solution mixed with water. You can try applying water with a paint roller, sponge or brush to the wall or using a steam cleaner. If the wallpaper has a thin vinyl coating to make it waterproof, you won’t be able to moisten the paper and glue using these methods. Instead, sand away as much of the vinyl coating as possible to expose the paper below. You can also try lightly perforating the surface to allow the moisture to soak through. There are special tools available to perforate the vinyl coating without damaging the wall behind the paper. Speak to your local hardware store about the best tool to use for your circumstance. Apply enough water so it doesn’t dry out.


Once the moistened glue has had a chance to loosen, you can pry the old paper up with a wide-bladed tool such as a standard putty knife. Hopefully the paper will come off cleanly and easily. However, chances are some parts of the paper will come off easily while other parts will be stubborn and difficult to remove. Remove all the wallpaper you can and then repeat the moistening process with the remaining wallpaper. It may take several attempts to remove all the wallpaper, especially if there are unexpected layers underneath.

Wallpapering over wallpaper

The best option is to always remove the old wallpaper before hanging the new wallpaper. However, in some circumstances such as when the wallpaper has been glued directly onto a drywall, it will be almost impossible to remove without damaging the wall behind it. In this situation, it’s probably best to simply sand the old wallpaper and hang the new wallpaper directly over the top. It also helps to add a coat of primer before hanging the wallpaper.


The information provided on this website is for use of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific professional advice. No responsibility for loss occasioned to any persons acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material in this publication can be accepted.

The instructions above for how to remove wallpaper is provided as a guide only. Silk Interiors accepts no responsibility for any problems that may occur while removing wallpaper.

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