How To Remove Wallpaper + Prepare Walls For Painting

Removing wallpaper can be a chore even if you’ve done it before. This article is based on personal experience, with months of trial and error. During our extreme home makeover, (which took months and involved shifting an entire house load of wall paper- literally!) I learned how to remove wall paper fast, how to remove wall paper borders, how to remove wall paper the wrong way, and how to remove wallpaper easily and with the minimum of stress. This article will not only show you the easy way to remove wall paper, it will show you the entire process of this diy project from start to finish. Remove your wallpaper, remove your wallpaper lining, fill holes and cracks in the wall, sand your wall, then prepare your walls for painting. How To Paint Walls is coming soon. 


Removing wallpaper

As with all diy projects, you can choose expensive stuff that do the same thing as everyday products you can find in your home. This article concentrates on cheap things that work well. You don’t need wall-paper remover products available from diy shops. I tried several of them and none of them worked as well as the stuff I stuck with through the projects, and to the end.


What you need to remove wallpaper

A wall-paper removal knife. The sharper it is, the better it is at removing wall paper. However, you have to be careful with it when it’s new because it can actually scrape the old plaster from the wall if you dig in too hard. Be careful. Moderation is key here.

A spray bottle. Any type will do. However, the bigger, the better.

A small bucket or bowl

Cotton scrap cloths or rags

Lots of old newspaper

Method of removing wallpaper

1. Spread old newspaper on the floor as thickly as possible. You’ll be using water, so you need to protect your floor. If possible, use old sheets or dust cloths under the paper. The reason for using the paper is because when the wet wallpaper is lying on the floor, it’s easy to roll them up into the newspapers and recycle them properly. Cleaning up is easy if you don’t have to pick tiny pieces of sticky paper off your dust sheets.

2. Check the wallpaper to see if the top layer will come off by just pulling it off dry. If you can do this, you’re lucky. Your project will be a lot easier than you think. It’s important to check first before wetting the paper because if you wet the paper, the wall paper glue may become activated and stick to the wall – you don’t want this to happen.

3. Fill up your spray bottle and small bucket with hot water (from your hot tap). Add some fabric softener to the spray bottle – nothing else. Put nothing into the water in the bucket. Hot water + fabric softener!

4. So you’ve now checked that the wallpaper can’t just be torn off dry. We have to use the wet option. Spray the water from your spray bottle generously over the wallpaper. Work from one corner and wet the wall from top to bottom in a 2-foot increment. Don’t do much more than this.

5. Leave wallpaper to soak for 10 minutes. This is a very important step.

6. After 10 minutes (at least) apply step 4 to another 2-foot increment and leave this to soak while you do step 6 below.

6. Start from the edge (usually at the top because less wallpaper glue was administered at the very tip). Peel off wallpaper. If you also have wall-paper lining do steps 4 and 5 on this lining and continue on.

7. Soon you’ll get into the rhythm of all this. Do 2-foot increment wetting of the wall-paper while you peel the 2-foot area you did previously. Remember that if your wall paper is difficult to get off, just keep wetting the wall paper while you’re peeling (and leaving to soak). This works. Wetting the paper releases the glue hold on it. This is from personal experience.

8. Once you’ve removed the wall paper (and/or lining), use your cotton rag and hot water from the small bucket and wash your wall. I found doing this all at the same time makes the job easier because the glue is ready to come off the wall once the paper has been removed. Leaving it to dry on again creates additional work. If the glue holds on to the wall strongly, use your sharp blade to carefully scrape it off while it’s wet. Be careful not to scrape the plaster off the wall.

9. Once all the glue has been washed off, wipe over with your cotton rag and leave to dry. (You’ll have time to do this while your wallpaper soaks). Next step: fill holes and gaps, then sand filler.

How to fill holes and gaps in your wall

Once you remove the wallpaper (and lining if applicable) off your wall, you may notice some holes and/or cracks in your plaster. These have to be taken care of before you paint your walls, or else your finished paint job will look unfinished and horribly amateur. The temptation will be strong to just paint once the old wallpaper has been removed off the walls, but as with any other diy project, good preparation is required for your home makeover to be truly stunning.

This article, How To Repair A Hole In The Wall is a  detailed tutorial, telling you exactly what you need to do to repair holes and gaps in your wall. It can definitely be done as you can see in these pictures.


cracks and holes filled and sanded


the transformation after wallpaper was removed, holes were filled, and paint was applied

The above article I linked for you (How to Repair A Hole In Your Wall) shows you how to:

Fill holes in walls

Sand the filler (then dust the wall lightly)

Prime the surface


All of the above are vital steps to prepare your wall for painting, after removing the wallpaper. You can prime your walls with a mixture of cheap white, matt paint and water. Don’t buy the expensive stuff because the cheap stuff works just as well. The above linked article also gives you the exact measurements where this mixture is concerned.

Extra tip to prepare walls for painting: it’s important to prime the surface because the paint may not stick onto the filler readily. If you have walls that have been wallpapered (on old paint) it’ll be a great idea to still prime the surface. Our walls were never painted before the original wall paper was applied. Old paint, covered for years in wall paper will still need priming in my opinion. 

Once you’ve primed the wall there is one last step before you paint – it’s sealing the corners, top and bottom of wall and around the door frame. Look at the image below:


rough edges

Once you remove the wallpaper, there will be rough edges between each corner, between the ceiling and the wall, and around door frames. They should look smooth (without gaps). You need a flexible sealant – in a sealant gun is easiest. Apply this according to the manufacturers’ recommendations.


use a sealant gun to apply flexible sealant


smooth edges should look like this after sealant is applied

Okay, now you’ve learned how to remove wallpaper and prepare walls for painting. Stay tuned for the next article on how to actually paint your walls from start to finish. Always keep in mind that a well-prepared surface is vital for a professional-looking finished job. For more diy tutorial ideas, check out this page on this site.

As always, thanks for joining us and taking part in the discussion.

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About Anne

Anne Lyken-Garner, the owner of DIY Projects is the published author of the inspirational memoir, Sunday's Child (available on Amazon). She's also a freelance writer, blogger and editor. She writes for, and manages 4 blogs. See how Anne can help you with editing your site at the Hire an Editor page above.

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10 Responses to How To Remove Wallpaper + Prepare Walls For Painting

  1. Kristie October 11, 2014 at 2:03 am #

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a
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    Kristie recommends you read..KristieMy Profile

  2. Labeling Machine March 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Thanks for this Anne! With the help of this article, I now fully realized that using wallpaper could not be the best option to put colors and beautify your house.

  3. Danica Green from ShoppingBags April 10, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    It’s really hard removing the wallpaper in every corner of the house. Lots of things to consider and to remember but this post is very helpful.

  4. Jacqueline March 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    Hi Anne! Love your post. I’ve been browsing a bunch of sites of how to remove wallpaper. I eventually want to do this to my bathroom. Could I link to your post from my site? I love showing how folks have accomplished their DIY projects!
    Jacqueline recommends you read..Glass Half FullMy Profile

    • Anne March 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      Hi Jacqueline,

      Welcome to DIY Projects. I’m glad you found the post useful. Of course, you can link to the post. I’d be honoured.

  5. Cliff - Carpet Cleaning San Diego December 3, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    Thankis for this very detailed article on how to remove wall paper. This helped me through the job. Happy Hollidays!

    • Anne December 3, 2011 at 9:09 am #

      Glad I could help.

  6. Anne October 30, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    Thanks, Icy. Next article is about actually putting paint on the wall. Nice to keep handy for when you need it 🙂

  7. Wandering Thought October 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    We removed the border in our living room, and it wasn’t fun at all. Having this article as a guide line will make it so much easier!


  1. Tutorial Tuesday – How to prep your walls for painting from Dreaming a home - May 29, 2012

    […] If, heaven forbid, you are forced to remove wallpaper, DIY Projects has information that will make the job easier.   You can find it all here. […]

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