While wallpaper has become less of a design pariah in recent years, all homeowners know the pain of dealing with cracked, yellowed wallpaper that was installed decades before they ever bought their home. Simply painting over it isn’t an option, because the paper breaks down eventually, leaving you with crumbling paint. Unfortunately, getting rid of the wallpaper is the only way to change the appearance.
There are dozens of ways to get rid of outdated wallpaper. Most people know the “wet scrape” method, where homeowners use some liquid (warm water and fabric softener is a popular mixture) to moisten the wallpaper, and then scrape it off with a large, flat wallpaper scraper. However, before you can begin, some preparation steps must be taken.
Prepare the Wallpaper
To give your wallpaper a proper send-off, the area must be cleared of curtains, artwork, pictures, outlet covers, and anything else that isn’t wallpaper or wall. Most advice says to give the walls a quick wipe down at this point because dust and dirt can make it harder to get a clean scrape later on. If you will be scraping around outlets or switches, you may want to shut off the power to that particular element for safety.
Put a drop cloth or painter’s plastic under the area where you’ll be scraping. Often the glue on the back of wallpaper can get stuck to the floor, so you’ll end up doing twice the scraping.
Prepare the Solution
The next thing you’ll need to do is prepare the mixture you plan to use to moisten the wallpaper. Fabric softener is used because it helps break down wallpaper fibers, making it softer and easier to manipulate. If you choose this product, make a 1:1 mixture of hot water with fabric softener.
Most homeowners simply wipe the mixture on over the wallpaper. However, if you’re ambitious, or happen to have the right tools handy, a pump sprayer can be used to coat the wallpaper evenly with the mixture.
Before You Begin
Before you moisten the wallpaper, you may want to use the sharp corner of your scraper, or a knife, to carefully score the wallpaper. This is commonly done on wallpaper that has been applied over other layers of wallpaper, or paper that is newer and less willing to come off. You must be careful with this step – if you score too deeply, you’ll harm the wall material beneath.
Now you can add the mixture, in whatever method you choose. The mixture needs to soak into the wallpaper for at least 15 minutes before you can begin scraping.
Time to Work
Finally, you can begin the scraping. A wallpaper scraper looks like a broad putty knife, and should be used carefully so as not to harm the wall underneath. Most homeowners find it easiest to begin with a bubbled or cracked area to get an opening created. From there, it’s just a matter of scraping carefully until it’s finished.
Be careful to watch that the scraps of wallpaper fall all on your drop cloth, or don’t get stuck to the floor. It’s very likely that you’ll have to remoisten as you go, adding more mixture as the area dries.
When all the wallpaper has been removed, use plain water or a gentle cleaning solution to wipe down the walls and remove any residue. The walls need to dry completely before you paint or apply any other treatment, which can take up to two days.
If you are having trouble getting stubborn wallpaper removed, you may have to rent a steamer to do the job; but most homeowners find that with some determined elbow grease, that outdated wallpaper can be eliminated in no time.
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