Upgrading from your old, dingy wallpaper is a significant home improvement step. Removing old wallpaper might seem like a daunting and overwhelming task at first, but once you learn how to remove wallpaper with a steamer, your remodel project will be a breeze.
Remodeling your home is expensive enough already. Chemical wallpaper strippers are costly, and they release toxic fumes in your home.
Removing wallpaper with a steamer is not only more cost-effective, but it is also safer for both your family and the environment.
You can even use the clothes steamer you have at home or borrow one from a friend if you don’t want to pay for renting a commercial wallpaper steamer.
Hot steam naturally dissolves the wallpaper adhesive and allows you to peel away a layer of wallpaper. Avoid using harsh solvents in your home by employing our tips and tricks to strip wallpaper with a steamer.
- Can I Use a Steamer to Remove Wallpaper?
- Lay the Groundwork for Wallpaper Removal
- How to Remove Wallpaper with a Steamer
- How to Clean the Walls after You Strip Wallpaper with a Steamer
Can I Use a Steamer to Remove Wallpaper?
The short answer is: yes. There are numerous schools of thought on how to remove wallpaper with a steamer.
Here, you will learn what kind of steamer to use, what other tools are required, how to protect your floors and baseboards, and the best ways to strip wallpaper with a steamer and avoid damaging the drywall or plaster underneath.
Lay the Groundwork for Wallpaper Removal
The first thing to do before beginning this project is to determine what kind of wallpaper you have. Most newer homes have strippable wallpaper, which doesn’t require water or chemicals to remove.
To check if your wallpaper is strippable, use a putty knife to pry the bottom seam or corner of a panel of wallpaper loose and try pulling it up. If the wall covering comes away effortlessly, you’re in luck.
Pull the bottom corner away from the wall until the wallpaper panel’s lower seam is free, then hold the bottom edge at either corner and pull upwards until the whole strip is off the wall.
Otherwise, you’ll have to loosen the wallpaper glue with warm water and steam before removing it. Before you begin, gather these supplies.
How to Prepare a Room for Wallpaper Removal
There are several preliminary steps to prepare a room for wallpaper removal to prevent damage to your electric wiring, furniture, carpets, wood flooring, and baseboards.
Before you attempt the best way to take off old wallpaper, remove all furniture and area rugs from the room. To protect your floors and baseboards from dripping water, spread out a drop cloth and cover the baseboards with old towels.
Remove the faceplates from light switches and sockets. If possible, switch off the electricity to the room and cover all electrical outlets with waterproof tape.
A wallpaper steamer puts out a large amount of moisture, so it’s advisable to open a window or run circulation fans to prevent condensation.
After applying the steamer, the wallpaper is very hot. Wear rubber gloves and use eye protection to safeguard against steam burns.
Use a Perforation Tool
Before operating the steamer, use a perforation tool to create small holes in the wallpaper so that the steam can penetrate and loosen the wallpaper adhesive. This step is imperative for washable wallpaper, which has a vinyl top layer to make it easy to clean.
The HGTV website recommends the Paper Tiger tool, which features rollers with small metal spikes to perforate the wallpaper and is ideal for vinyl wallpaper removal.
What Kind of Steamer to Use
The type of steamer you use depends on several factors. In most cases, a clothes steamer is adequate.
However, if you have a large amount of wallpaper to remove, or if your ceilings are exceptionally high, it’s probably best to rent a commercial wallpaper steamer like the Wagner Spraytech Power Steamer.
How to Remove Wallpaper with a Steamer
Using a steamer to remove wallpaper has numerous advantages. You don’t need to use harsh chemical solvents in your home, steaming is faster and easier than using a spray bottle and warm water to loosen wallpaper, and it is less expensive than hiring a contractor.
Read on to answer the DIY remodeling question, “Can I use a steamer to remove wallpaper?”
Applying the Steam to Your Wallpaper
If you’re using a clothes steamer instead of a commercial power steamer, make sure that the machine’s hose is long enough to reach all the way to the top of the wall. Depending on how high your walls are, using a step stool to reach the top might be beneficial.
Fill the steamer’s water reservoir with warm water. Turn the machine on and wait for the water to boil. Steam comes out of the pad when the device is ready to use.
Apply steam directly to the wallpaper, starting at a corner or seam. The amount of time to leave the steamer pad on the wall varies depending on how long the wallpaper has been on and how strong the adhesive bond is. Start with about 30 seconds.
If you apply the steam too long, you risk damaging the drywall or plaster underneath the wallpaper. If the wallpaper does not separate easily, apply the steam for another 30 seconds.
Starting at a corner or seam, use your wallpaper stripper to detach the layer of wallpaper. A thin scorer can be useful for hard-to-reach areas.
Depending on how easily the wallpaper glue loosens, you may be able to pull the wallpaper off as you steam. Some people find this method more manageable because the adhesive detaches more easily if it doesn’t have a chance to cool.
However, if someone applied the wallpaper more recently, it may take several passes with the steamer before the glue releases, and you can take care of removing wallpaper from drywall. Again, be careful not to saturate it too much and damage the drywall.
Add Fabric Softener to the Steamer Water
For stubborn wallpaper adhesives, try adding a bit of fabric softener to the water in the steamer’s reservoir.
Apply this homemade wallpaper solvent to the wallpaper following the instructions above, then let it sit for 15-20 minutes to allow the fabric softener to loosen the wallpaper glue.
If necessary, reapply steam once more before you strip away the wallpaper and clean wallpaper glue from wall surfaces.
How to Remove Wallpaper Borders
If there are wallpaper borders applied on top of the main wallpaper, spray them with warm water to remove the borders first before applying steam to the entire wall. Remove the whole border before trying to peel away the rest of the wallpaper.
How to Remove Painted Wallpaper
Sometimes homeowners resort to painting over wallpaper that they have trouble removing. If there are only one or two layers of paint, you will most likely be able to use the DIY wallpaper removal methods listed here.
If someone painted over the wallpaper many times, however, you may have to hire a contractor. Removing painted wallpaper does add extra time and effort to the process, but unfortunately, there’s no way around it.
Work with a perforator or scoring tool to penetrate the layers of paint, and fill your steamer with this DIY recipe using vinegar and fabric softener to remove painted wallpaper.
Use a sharp corner of your scorer or stripper to get underneath the painted wallpaper and start removing the wall covering. If you are having trouble with an incredibly stubborn section, try scraping in alternating directions.
Vinegar is also incredibly useful to clean nicotine smoke off walls and eliminate the odor that accompanies it.
How to Clean the Walls after You Strip Wallpaper with a Steamer
After taking wallpaper off plaster walls but before the next step of your remodel, it’s essential to clean the stripped walls first. There may be leftover adhesive, bits of paper, or other debris clinging to the walls after removing the old wallpaper.
Use vinegar to clean walls before painting or applying new wallpaper to ensure that you’re starting with a smooth canvas that’s free of imperfections.
Blend equal parts vinegar and water in a clean spray bottle. Spray the walls with the cleaning solution to remove any remaining glue or debris.
Adding lemon essential oil to your sprayer helps to loosen any stubborn glue spots. This is also the best way to get wax off wall coverings.
Removing old wallpaper is a big home improvement job, but upgrading your walls is a great way to add value to your home and give it a fresh look. Using a wallpaper steamer makes this project faster, easier, and less expensive.
Try our tips and tricks to strip wallpaper with a steamer and check another item off your “honey-do” list.
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