How To Remove Stubborn Wallpaper Before Painting?

Once in a while, you may have imagined how your room can look with a different wall colour, but everything seems to turn around with the wallpaper that just won’t go away. You’re not alone. Taking down the wallpaper, especially the kind that is so tenacious that it sticks on for dear life, can be a very exasperating activity. But fear not! By following the right procedures, you can effectively remove stubborn wallpaper and obtain a smooth, unblemished painted surface.

Why should you remove stubborn wallpaper before painting?

Thinking about skipping the wallpaper removal step altogether? Don’t! Here’s why removing stubborn wallpaper is crucial before painting:

  • Better paint adherence: Paint simply won’t stick well to a wallpapered surface. The uneven texture and potential glue residue will cause the paint to peel and crack easily.
  • Smoother finish: The wallpaper can cover up the flaws on the walls, but painting over it will just emphasize them. Taking down the wallpaper allows you to address any hidden damage and make a perfect surface for paint.
  • Moisture issues: The water vapour confined between the wallpaper and the paint may cause mould development and other related issues. Removing the wallpaper ensures proper ventilation and prevents these issues.

What tools do you need to remove stubborn wallpaper?

To optimise your workspace and minimise cleanup, Here’s what you’ll need to gather in your arsenal:

  • Wallpaper steamer: Remove any furniture that can be easily moved. For larger, immovable pieces, group them towards the centre of the room and cover them securely with drop cloths.
  • Putty knife: Think of this as your wallpaper removal workhorse. It’s basically a wide, flat metal spatula that you’ll use to scrape off the softened wallpaper like a pro.
  • Spray bottle: This one will be your partner in crime when you whip up a simple wallpaper removal solution (don’t sweat it, it’s easy!). You’ll use it to mist the solution onto the wallpaper to help loosen the adhesive.
  • Drop cloths: Don’t let drips and debris ruin your day! Plastic drop cloths will shield your floors and furniture.
  • Sponges/rags: You’ll need these for cleaning up any leftover glue and wiping down the walls with solutions.
  • Safety glasses: Safety first! Wearing glasses will protect your eyes from any bits of wallpaper that might come flying off.
  • Scoring tool (optional): If you’re dealing with particularly stubborn wallpaper, a scoring tool with a spiked edge can help make it easier for the steamer or solution to do its job.

How do you prepare your space for wallpaper removal?

Before you unleash the steam and scraping, prep your workspace for a smoother (and less messy) experience:

  1. Clear the field: First things first, remove any furniture you can from the room. For the big guys that can’t be budged, let’s push them to the centre and drape them securely with drop cloths.
  2. Turn off electricity: Safety first! Turn off power to any outlets near the wallpapered area you’ll be working on.
  3. Cover light fixtures and electrical sockets: Use plastic sheeting or tape to prevent water damage.
  4. Lay down drop cloths: Secure drop cloths to the floor and any remaining furniture to catch falling debris and wallpaper scraps.

How can you soften the wallpaper for easier removal?

Now comes the fun part (well, maybe not exactly fun, but definitely the part that makes peeling easier): softening the stubborn wallpaper. Here are two effective methods:

  1. Warm water and fabric softener solution: Mix equal parts warm water and fabric softener in a spray bottle. Generously spray the wallpaper section by section, saturating it thoroughly. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes to allow the solution to work its magic.
  2. Wallpaper steamer: For the wallpaper steamer, follow the manufacturer’s fill recommendations. Then, target the steam plate directly at the wallpaper. Work in manageable sections, steaming each area consistently until the wallpaper looks loose and starts to bubble. This indicates the adhesive is softening and ready for removal.

What techniques should you use to remove stubborn wallpaper?

Once the wallpaper is softened, it’s time to get peeling! Here are some techniques to tackle stubborn wallpaper:

  • Peeling by hand (if possible): For pre-pasted or vinyl wallpapers that come loose easily after softening, start at a corner or seam and gently peel the wallpaper away from the wall.
  • Using a scrape: If the wallpaper isn’t budging with your hands, use the putty knife to carefully scrape it off the wall. Hold the blade at a low angle and avoid gouging the wall surface.
  • Scoring tool (optional): For particularly stubborn wallpaper, a scoring tool can be helpful. Use it to lightly create lines or holes in the wallpaper surface, allowing the softening solution or steam to penetrate deeper.

How do you deal with wallpaper residue?

Alright, the wallpaper’s gone, but you might still be seeing some sticky patches. Here’s how to handle those:

  • Warm water warriors: For minor glue residue, a simple mix of warm water and dish soap can be your knight in shining armour.
  • Commercial cavalry: Stuck-on situations might call for some backup from a store-bought wallpaper removal solution. These are readily available at hardware stores. Just follow the instructions closely – you’ll usually apply it with a sponge and then scrape the softened gunk away.
  • Sanding showdown (use with caution!): If nothing else seems to work, fine-grit sandpaper can be your last resort for super stubborn bits. But be super careful – too much sanding can leave your walls worse for wear.

What should you do if you encounter damaged walls?

The removal process might reveal some underlying damage to the walls, such as holes or gouges. Don’t fret! Here’s how to fix them up:

  • Filling holes: Grab a patching compound suited for the hole size. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application, making sure the compound sits flush with the wall. Once it’s completely dry, sand it down for a smooth, invisible finish.
  • Smoothing rough spots: For those minor bumps or uneven areas, a light touch with fine-grit sandpaper will do the trick. Sand gently until the surface feels smooth and even.

How can you prepare the walls for painting after wallpaper removal?

With the wallpaper vanquished and any imperfections addressed, you can now focus on prepping the walls for their paint transformation. Here’s what to tackle:

  • Cleaning crew: Grab a damp sponge and give the walls a thorough scrub. We want to eliminate any dust, grime, or lingering cleaning solution.  Let the walls dry completely before proceeding.
  • Prime time: Primer acts like a magic potion, creating a smooth, even canvas for the paint to adhere to. Apply a coat of high-quality primer suited to your specific wall surface.
  • Sanding (optional): If you previously patched holes or sanded the walls use fine-grit sandpaper to lightly scuff the primed surface. This extra step ensures an exceptionally smooth, flawless finish.


Staring down stubborn wallpaper? It can be a pain. But don’t fret! With the right tools and approach, conquering it is absolutely achievable. Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving smooth, clean walls – the ideal foundation for a stunning paint job. Remember, a little effort now will translate into a beautiful, long-lasting finish later.

Congratulations! You’ve completed the wall prep and prepped your space for a beautiful transformation. With a clean surface now in place, you’re ready to unleash your creativity with a fresh coat of paint. However, if the prospect of colour selection, painting techniques, or working at heights is a bit overwhelming, fear not! We can help you navigate this process.

Djari Group offer a wide range of interior painting services, from selecting the perfect colour palette to meticulously applying top-quality paint for a flawless finish. With our expertise and dedication, we’ll transform your space into a beautiful and inviting haven. Contact us today for a free consultation and quote, and let’s turn your freshly prepped walls into a masterpiece!