How to Remove Tough Wallpaper

Removing wallpaper is usually not that difficult. Every now and then, however, it can refuse to let go. If you've run into this situation, you might think it would be less work to tear down the wall and rebuild it from scratch. Before you go to that extreme, check out a few techniques that have been known to remove even the toughest wallpaper.

You will find a variety of different solutions you can use. Finding the best solution is often trial and error, as wallpaper adhesives can vary depending on the age and manufacturer of the wallpaper.


Wallpaper removal doesn't have to be a chore.
    Prepare the room before starting.
  1. Move all the furniture to the center of the room or into another room.

  2. Remove any switch plates and outlet covers from the wall.

  3. Spread a drop cloth on the floor to protect it. A drop cloth is better than plastic because plastic can cause you to slip.

Testing the Paper

    Some wallpaper can be peeled from the wall.
  1. Test your paper to see if it is dry-strippable by using a knife to peel up one corner. Grasp the paper and slowly peel it back. If it all peels off, then you're done. If it doesn't, or if only the decorative portion of the paper peels off, then you'll need to keep going.

  2. If you paper is not dry-strippable, test the paper's porosity by spraying a small portion with hot water. If the water absorbs quickly, you will not need to score it.

  3. Score paper that is not porous by either using a scoring tool or by making X's on the wallpaper with a utility knife. Scoring cuts through the top layer, allowing the wallpaper remover to penetrate. Use very little pressure or you will risk damaging the wall underneath. An alternative to scoring is to roughen the paper using coarse sandpaper.

Finding a Wallpaper Remover Solution

  1. Mix together 1/3-cup fabric softener with 2/3-cup hot water. Try the solution on a small portion of you wallpaper. If it does not work, try increasing the solution by adding another 1/3-cup fabric softener so you have a 1:1 ration of fabric softener to water. If the solution still does not work, try one of the other solutions below.

  2. Mix 1 cup of white vinegar with 1 gallon of hot water. Test the solution on a small portion of wallpaper by letting it sit for 15 to 30 minutes. If the solution does not work, try one of the other solutions.

  3. Mix 1 cup of ammonia with 2 qt. of hot water. Test the solution on a small portion of wallpaper. If the solution does not work, try one of these other solutions.

  4. Spray enzyme-based commercial wallpaper remover onto the wallpaper according to directions. If the solution does not work, you can modify commercial wallpaper removers that have reactive enzymes by mixing it with 3 gallons of water, 1/4-cup liquid fabric softener and 2 tbsp. baking soda, according to American Blinds Wallpaper. Most wallpaper remover on the market is enzyme-based; however, some are known as "surfactants," which means that they have a chemical similar to soap that helps dissolve the paste.

Removing the Wallpaper

  1. Apply the wallpaper solution to small portions of your wall using either a sponge, a spray bottle or a paint roller. Do not spray more than what you can remove within 15 minutes.

  2. Once the wallpaper remover solution has been allowed to penetrate (between 10 to 30 minutes depending on the solution), try peeling off the wallpaper by hand.

  3. If the paper does not come off by hand, use a wallpaper scraper or a putty knife with a wide blade. Hold the scraper at a low angle to avoid damaging the walls.

  4. Once the wallpaper and its backing are removed, spray the wall with the mixture one last time and scrape off any missed spots. Then, wipe down the wall with a moist sponge and let it dry for a few days.

  5. Remove stubborn strips by reapplying the wallpaper remover solution.

  6. When finished, spray the walls with the remaining solution. Then, wipe off the walls with a sponge to remove any residual wallpaper paste.

  7. Rinse the walls with 1 cup of white vinegar mixed with 1 gallon of water.


  • If multiple layers of wallpaper exist, take down only one layer of wallpaper at a time.

About the Author

Darcy Logan has been a full-time writer since 2004. Before writing, she worked for several years as an English and special education teacher. Logan published her first book, "The Secret of Success is Not a Secret," and several education workbooks under the name Darcy Andries. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Master of Arts in special education from Middle Tennessee State University.