How to Remove Vinyl Wallpaper

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The dreary vinyl wallpaper installed by the prior homeowner in the master bath had to go! Removal was straightforward, but a bit time consuming and requiring attention to detail.

Here’s the “after” and “before” photos of the now bright and cheery bath. The Akita likes the new look, too!

Master Bath - "After" without Wallpaper and Fresh Paint

Master Bath – After – No Wallpaper and Fresh Paint

Here’s how the master bathroom looked before with the dreary vinyl wallpaper (gag!):

Dreary Vinyl Wallpaper

Dreary Vinyl Wallpaper

How to Remove Vinyl Wallpaper

Required Tools

  • 1-1/4 inch putty knife
  • 4 inch putty knife
  • 8 inch putty knife
  • Water spray bottle
  • Step ladder
  • iPod or Radio – for entertainment

Wallpaper Removal Steps

The steps for removing the vinyl wallpaper are:

  1. Peel off the vinyl top layer.
  2. Soak the paper backing to soften the glue with a spray bottle of water.
  3. Gently scrape off the paper backing with a 4 inch putty knife.

I was pleasantly surprised how easily the paper backing came off the wall after soaking with water. It helped the wall had been painted before the wallpaper was installed.

The wallpaper is removed by peeling off the top layer, one course at a time.

Peeling off the Top Layer Section by Section

Peeling off the Top Layer Section by Section

Use a small putty knife to lift a corner of the paper and with a slow steady motion peel off the top layer. The paper backing remains glued to the wall:

Peeling off the Top Layer

Peeling off the Top Layer

Here’s a partially peeled course of wallpaper in the next photo. The faint “stripes” are delamination of the paper backing. However, there is remains a paper layer and glue attached to the wall that must be dampened with water scraped off.

Peeling Off the Top Layer

Peeling Off the Top Layer

The paper backing after the top layer is peeled off:

Top Layers Removed

Top Layers Removed

Soak the paper backing with water from pump sprayer and wait about 2 minutes. I found that spraying a 3 foot by 6 foot section at a time worked well as I could scrape the area before the paper dried out again. Here the paper backing is removed with putty knife leaving the painted surface underneath showing. Very little force was needed to scrape the paper backing off the wall:

Scraping Off the Paper Backing

Scrape Off the Wallpaper Backing

Ribbons of water-soaked paper backing hang free, exposing the painted wall beneath.

Scraping the Paper Backing

Scraping the Wallpaper Backing

Work in regular rows to scrape off the paper backing. Here an area of is soaked and ready to be scraped off with the putty knife:

Soaking the Wallpaper

Soaking the Wallpaper

The medicine cabinet, light switch and electrical outlet covers must be removed to get at the wallpaper in these areas. Hold a dry rag over the electrical outlets when using the pump sprayer to keep these from getting wet. Water and electricity don’t mix! If you’re uncomfortable around electricity or your skill level, turn off the circuit breakers first.

Medicine Cabinet and Outlet Covers

Medicine Cabinet and Outlet Covers

I took nearly 12 hours to peel and scrape off all the wallpaper in the master bath. The most time consuming part were the small spaces around the doors, window, shower, mirrors, tub and the like.

Prepare the Walls for Painting

After the wallpaper is removed, there were several blemishes to be corrected:

  1. Fill in any pock marks in the sheetrock (wall board) made when scraping off the wallpaper. A few small ones are unavoidable. Use a putty knife and spackling paste.
  2. Fill in any unused mounting holes for shelves, photos and towel racks with spackle.
  3. I had a few small rust areas on the exposed metal corner bead around the shower stall. A dab of Naval Jelly Rust Dissolver applied by a Q-tip took care of the problem. Ospho Rust Treatment also works well.
  4. Lightly sand the wall surfaces with the rough side a drywall sanding sponge to knock down the slight roughness left by the wallpaper glue. It’s important to sand with the sponge dry to avoid redissolving the glue. One or two passes is sufficient.

Naval Jelly and the Drywall Sanding Sponge are available at most home improvement stores.

3M Drywall Sanding Sponge

3M Drywall Sanding Sponge

Painting the Walls

The walls were repainted the original color with a premium kitchen and bath latex paint. Masking off and painting the trim are always time consuming.

The Wagner Paint Mate Plus Roller is a huge time-saver for rolling on paint, easy to use and simple to clean. I’ve painted several rooms with it and wouldn’t go back to the old paint pan and roller method. The Paint Mate Plus is very maneuverable and non-electric so there’s no power cords to get in the way.

My better half is pleased with the master bath facelift. She’s busy accenting the walls with a wrought iron candle holders and a framed painting.

Thanks for reading!

Bob Jackson

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  1. Carol February 16, 2017 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    It seems I’m going to have a nightmare of a job removing the top vinyl wallpaper ! Even though I’ve scored the surface well AND using a commercial wetting agent. Recommend time 10 min left on 20 min!! Any suggestions are welcomed

    • Tracee April 30, 2017 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      Since it’s been a couple of months since Carol left her comment I’m sure she has already completed her wallpaper removal project. For anyone else that is going to remove vinyl wallpaper this article works. I removed vinyl wallpaper in a typical hall bathroom by scoring first and using DIF. This doesn’t work properly on vinyl and I damaged several areas on the drywall. For the current job I am using the method stated in this article, I have removed all of the top layer and am currently working on removing the glued on paper on a much larger bath. This method is working much better. So far no damage and the process in this article is a lot less frustrating than scoring and DIF. It is still time consuming and as stated in article I’m expecting it to be a two day job minus painting.

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