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How to remove wallpaper with a steamer

Person removing wallpaper from wall with scraper

WordsMaha Elley

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One of the best things about wallpaper? It doesn’t have to be there forever (unless you want it to, of course). Whether you’re sick of the sight of your current wallpaper or just fancy a bit of a change, it’s easy to remove wallpaper and get something new up all by yourself. Want to to have a go at DIY? Read on to learn everything you need to know about removing wallpaper with a steamer.

What is the best wallpaper removal solution?

There are different wallpaper removal methods depending on the type of wallpaper you have up, and just how stubbornly attached it is. Determine what kind of wallpaper you have by using a putty or stripping knife to try to pry the seam or corner of the wallpaper loose.  If it comes right off effortlessly, then you have strippable wallpaper, which can be removed easily with your stripping knife only. If it comes away but leaves a paper backing, then you’ll most likely have peel-able wallpaper. If, however, the wallpaper is stubbonly attached, you’ll most likely have traditional, paste-the-wall wallpaper. This type of wallpaper is attached to the wall with adhesive. You’ll have to loosen the adhesive with a chemical wallpaper stripper, or hot water and steam.

Can you use a steamer to remove wallpaper?

Yes, you can. A wallpaper steamer works by using hot water to soften the wallpaper adhesive/ paste between the wallpaper and the wall.

Is a steamer the best way to remove wallpaper?

One of the most popular methods of removing wallpaper is with a wallpaper steamer. Why? Because steamers are especially good at removing stubborn, old wallpapers that have been adhered for a very long time. It’s quick, it’s effective and, let’s face it, it’s kinda fun. 

(Tip: Rent a steamer instead of going all out and buying one. Unless you’re planning frequent wallpaper removal, that is.)

How to prepare your room for wallpaper stripping

Wallpaper removal can be messy, so it’s important to gather your prepping tools and follow these steps to get your working space ready for steaming:

  • Take all your pictures, hangings, nails and hooks off the walls. 
  • Protect your furnishings and knick-knacks by removing them from the room. If any furniture pieces are too heavy to lug around, cover them up with dust sheets and move to the centre of the room.
  • Protect your flooring (and yourselves from a time-consuming clean) by covering it up with decorators canvas.
  • Safety first - put on protective gloves and glasses before starting.

How to use a wallpaper removal steamer

Never used a wallpaper steamer before? Here is how to use a wallpaper steamer:

Do you put hot or cold water in a wallpaper steamer?

Put cold water in a wallpaper steamer. You can fill the steamer with warm water if you want to reduce heating time.

How long does it take for a wallpaper steamer to warm up?

Wallpaper steamers take 10 to 15 minutes to heat up. 

Do you leave a wallpaper steamer plugged in?

Yes. However, be mindful to not refill your steamer with fresh water when it’s on; it's best to unplug it for a minute or two before topping up the water tank to avoid any mess.

How to remove wallpaper with a steamer

Ready to steam it all off? Here’s how: 

Step 1:

Once your steamer has heated up, it’s time to start steaming. Starting from the bottom of the wall, hold the steamer’s plate against the wallpaper. Wait for a minute or until you start to see signs of dampness on the paper 

Step 2: 

Gently start to scrape the wallpaper away from the wall using a wide scraper. Work with extra care as the plaster surface behind can be fragile and easily damaged. 

Step 3: 

Start to move the wallpaper steamer in an upward direction, softening sections and carefully removing them with your scraper as you go. 

Step 4: 

Work on one wallpaper strip at a time, always steaming from bottom to top. Once you’ve removed all the strips and scraps are off, dispose of them in an eco-friendly way. 

(Tip: Consult your wallpaper steamer’s manual for any specific instructions, as they may vary by machine.)

Person peeling off wallpaper from wall after using steamer

How do you clean walls after removing wallpaper?

Clean off any residue with a soap and warm water mixture.

How do you remove old wallpaper without damaging drywall?

Working with drywall? Drywall can be damaged if it gets too wet, so be careful not to over soak or over-steam it. If any drywall comes off along with your wallpaper, stop immediately. This could be a result of the drywall not being properly sealed with paint. Rectify the issue with glue, filler and sealer before steaming on.

What is the best homemade wallpaper remover?

If wallpaper steaming isn’t for you, chemicals also help to break down the wallpaper adhesive. There are specialised chemical wallpaper removal products on the market, but sometimes home remedies work best. In which case, first you need to score the wallpaper. Then you simply mix in equal parts vinegar and warm water. The acetic acid in the vinegar helps to break down most traditional wallpaper adhesives.

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