How to Remove Wallpaper Border
You don't have to live with a wallpaper border you don't like as long as you're ready to do a bit of work.
The good news about wallpaper borders is that they are not permanent. When you move into a new-to-you-home, you may find the previous occupant papered a border on the wall that you don't like. You usually have more than one option to remove it.
When removing a border, first check if it's a strippable border, which doesn't require chemicals or water to remove it. Locate a corner of an edge or a seam and insert a putty knife beneath it. If the border material easily comes away from the wall, simply continue removal with the putty knife -- it's strippable.
When parts of the border come away but other parts stay stuck to the wall, you'll need to use water or chemicals to loosen the adhesive. This method requires a bit more work, but it is still doable. The gummy adhesive on the back of these borders diffuses with water. On vinyl-faced borders, first peel away the vinyl facing using a putty knife and then attack the paper backing or glue.
Scoring Tool Method
Removing a wallpaper border manually doesn’t take too much work, as long as you are prepared with the necessary supplies. Remove all items from the wall.
Lay a dropcloth on the floor next to the wall. If you don't have a dropcloth, you can use old towels to catch any drips.
Pour the liquid wallpaper remover into the spray bottle. As an alternative, use fabric softener mixed with equal parts of water in the spray bottle.
Scrub the surface of the wallpaper border with the scoring tool. The idea is to make enough holes in the surface of the wallpaper that the liquid spray soaks beneath the wallpaper border to loosen the glue.
Spray the liquid onto the wallpaper border, along its edge at the top, and over its surface where you previously scored. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
Cover the wallpaper border again with the liquid after waiting 15 minutes from the first soaking. Gently insert the putty knife between the wall and the wallpaper border along its top edge, peeling away the border. If the whole strip comes away effortlessly, continue removing it. If you hit a stubborn spot or two, soak those areas with more liquid from the spray bottle and wait about 5 minutes.
Repeat spraying and removal of the wallpaper border. Periodically wipe the wall with the sponge or clean cloth to prevent streaking down the wall as you work.
Once you have removed the majority of the wallpaper border, go back over it with the putty knife, spraying and scraping to remove any last bits. Clean the wall and let it dry.
When you don’t have fabric softener or wallpaper remover, warm water can substitute in a pinch. Add warm water to a spray bottle and follow the steps for removal listed. As long as you first scour the wallpaper border, the warm water will seep in and loosen the glue. The amount of time it takes to remove the wallpaper border depends on the age of the glue and the length of time the wallpaper border has been attached to the wall. Any areas along the edge of the border that are already peeling are good places to start.
To remove a vinyl border, first peel away the vinyl part of the border. The vinyl may sit atop a paper backing with glue on it, or it may simply leave glue on the wall after peeling it away. Peel away the vinyl material first by working the putty knife between the vinyl and the wall. Mix a 1-to-1 ratio of vinegar to water in a bottle and saturate the glued area. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before scraping with the putty knife. Use a sponge to wipe up drips down the wall. Repeat spraying and scraping until nothing remains.
Put on goggles and gloves to protect yourself from burns while working with a wallpaper steamer. You can rent a steamer from most paint stores, rental yards or home improvement stores that supply rentals.
Add warm water to the water reservoir of the steamer so you don't have to wait as long for it to heat. Score the surface of vinyl-faced borders first with a scoring tool. Once the appliance has started to produce steam, hold the steamer pad against the paper for about 30 seconds and scrape under the wallpaper border to remove it. Continue steaming while scraping the wet wallpaper border from the wall with the putty knife. Once all the wallpaper is gone, clean the wall as you normally would.
Things You Will Need
- Spray bottle
- Liquid wallpaper remover or fabric softener
- Scoring tool
- Putty knife
- Clean cloth
Pay attention when using the steamer to avoid getting steam into electrical connections. Remove outlet and switch covers and turn off the circuit breakers that power them when using steam near them. Let the wall dry completely before turning circuit breakers back on.
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.