Wondering how to remove old wallpaper? With some proper planning, elbow grease and focus, you can remove wallpaper and prep your space for your next painting project.

A homeowner removing wallpaper from a white wall.

Ready to Remove Wallpaper From Your Walls?

Before we get started, keep in mind that substandard wallpaper removal can damage your walls: You may want to consider hiring a professional; your independently owned Benjamin Moore retailer can help you find one.

In addition to showing you how to remove wallpaper in this how-to article, we’ll share how to prep walls for painting after it is removed, so you can ready your walls for a fresh coat of paint!
See our best tips for successfully removing wallpaper from a range of surfaces.

How to Remove Wallpaper

The best way to remove wallpaper is to take off both the wallpaper and the underlying adhesive from the wall. This step-by-step article and video will guide you on what it takes to successfully remove wallpaper from a range of surfaces. Get tips for removing wallpaper, including scoring, choosing the right adhesive remover, peeling wallpaper and adhesive off successfully, and more. Once you follow these steps, you'll be ready to repaint your wall in one of Benjamin Moore's premium interior paints: Consider Ben® Interior, Regal® Interior or Aura® Interior paints. Ask your local Benjamin Moore retailer which one is right for your distinct project.
Step-by-Step: Removing Wallpaper

Step #1: Prep Your Space

Start by removing all wall hangings and nearby furniture. Cover the floor with a drop cloth, and tape off any electrical outlets, molding or baseboards.

Wallpaper typically has two components:

  1. The surface layer: Wallpaper comes in a variety of material types like vinyl, grass cloth and bamboo. It isn’t always “paper.”
  2. An adhesive layer: An adhesive is used to affix the wallpaper to the wall.

You’ll need to remove both layers to properly prep your walls for painting after wallpaper.

Step #2: Score the Wallpaper that Couldn’t Be Peeled Off

Remember, not every wallpaper removal job is the same—the type of wallpaper, the strength of the adhesive underneath, and other variables can play a role in the outcome. Whether your wallpaper is bamboo or vinyl, strippable or peelable, it’s all held up by an adhesive underneath. The best way to remove wallpaper is to release and take off the wallpaper and adhesive from the wall.

To get started, use a wallpaper scoring tool in a circular motion. The teeth of the round scoring tool will make shallow cuts to allow for your adhesive-removal solution to re-activate and soften the adhesive, without causing damage to the wall.

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Helpful Tip

Despite your best efforts, invisible-to-the-eye adhesive may be left behind. Just make sure that the walls are smooth (lightly sand if needed); the recommended primer, INSL-X® Prime Lock Plus, will seal any residual adhesive prior to painting.

Step #3: Choose Your Adhesive Remover

When it comes to removing wallpaper adhesive, you have a few options:

  • Buy a store-brand chemical solution, like DIF liquid or gel wallpaper stripper.
  • Try a homemade solution, like 1/4 fabric softener to 3/4 warm water, or 1/3 household vinegar to 2/3 warm water.
  • You might only need a bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge. Talk to your local Benjamin Moore retailer about selecting the best solution for you.

Gel vs. Liquid: If you are using a store-bought solution like DIF, a gel-based wallpaper stripper is a less messy option than a liquid solution.

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Safety Note

Consider using protective eyewear during the adhesive removal process.

Step #4: Peel the Wallpaper and Remove Adhesive

Now it’s time to remove the paper.

  • Carefully peel the wallpaper up with a rounded putty knife starting in a corner, near the ceiling or under a switch plate. In the best-case scenario, the wallpaper comes off in large sheets. If your wallpaper comes off in tiny pieces at a time, gently pull it downward or slowly scrape it off the wall.
  • Next, apply the wallpaper removal solution to your wall using a pump sprayer, spray bottle or a sponge. If your solution requires warm water, the hotter the water, the better. Just be sure to use gloves for comfort and safety.
  • Allow the solution to sit on the surface for 10 to 15 minutes, making sure to keep the wall damp. Using your putty knife, start at an edge, and gently begin to lift the paper from the wall.
  • Have patience! Depending on the type of paper and adhesive used, you may find that the paper only comes down in small pieces. If this happens, repeat the process to help soften the adhesive.

Final note: You can rent a commercial wallpaper steamer—just know that these can be costly and difficult to find.

Step #5: Tackle Tricky Adhesive Spots

There may be a few pieces of glue left on the wall from removing the wallpaper that are difficult to see. Remove any remaining adhesive spots by going over them again with your cleaning solution and carefully scraping off the leftover wallpaper glue with your putty knife.

You can also sand down any rough spots with fine-grit sandpaper (220-grit) and a sanding sponge. Wipe the wall down with a wet rag as you go. Allow the wall to dry completely.

Step #6: Prime the Wall if You Plan to Paint It

Now you’re ready to prime. After removing wallpaper, we recommend using an oil-based primer like INSL-X® Prime Lock Plus to prep your wall for painting.

For painting, consider Benjamin Moore’s trusted workhorse Regal® Select Interior paint—or any other Benjamin Moore premium paint. Get help on how to paint interior walls, and check out our how-to video.

Ask Your Retailer

Visit your local Benjamin Moore® retailer for help with your wallpaper removal and painting needs. Find more tips in our How-To section, and check out our top 11 painting mistakes to avoid.