Some wallpapers, particularly the foil and water-resistant types, are strong and made with glues that easily release when they are pulled away from the wall. Before you begin the more difficult processes described below, start at a corner or seam and try peeling the wallpaper away from the surface. If it releases without tearing the underlying drywall paper or leaving swaths of backing behind, you may not have to steam or use a solvent. And even if remnants cling to the walls, after most of the paper is pulled down, you may be able to simply scrape them off without resorting to more drastic removal measures.
Some chemical strippers work as wetting agents that prevent the water from evaporating while you remove the paste. Others have enzymes (check the label) that actually break down the molecular structure of the paste, making it easier to remove. You can buy premixed liquid, powdered or gel chemical wallpaper removers at home centers and paint stores. Strippers can get pricey on big jobs. To save money, use hot water to remove most of the paper and glue and then apply a small amount of the gel at the end to remove the most stubborn paste and backing.
Lightly scoring the surface with a utility knife or the edge of a putty knife will work, but it's easy to cut too deeply and actually cut the paper surface on the underlying drywall. A better option is a wallpaper-piercing tool available at your home store. This little tool fits into one hand and you roll it all over the wall. Inside the tool are a series of spiked wheels that pierce the wallpaper, making lots of little holes so moisture can get through the surface and down to the glue.
Once you've scored the wallpaper, wet the walls with a solution of warm water and vinegar using a spray bottle or bucket and sponge, and leave it for 30 minutes. You can also get wallpaper remover at your home or hardware store. This is a non-toxic chemical that you mix with water and put onto the wallpaper, and some people think it works better than vinegar.
After about 30 minutes, pick a corner or a seam and gently peel back on the wallpaper. If you're lucky it will peel off, but you are probably going to need to use a wallpaper scraper (or a wide blade putty knife) held at a low angle to scrape the paper off in sections. Keep a spray bottle of wallpaper remover handy to spray stubborn areas as you work your way across the first section. It will take time, but work your way around the entire wall spraying, peeling and scraping the wallpaper.
Clean Up and Repairing the Walls
Once the wallpaper is off, you've still got a couple of jobs to do. First you need to get rid of any glue that is left on the walls. Tri sodium phosphate (TSP) mixed with warm water should wash the glue off the walls, leaving a smooth surface. Rinse the new cleaned walls with clear water to remove any traces of the TSP.
Finally you need to repair any holes that your scraper made in the drywall. If there are just small holes, fill them with drywall or spackling compound and smooth them out. Let them dry overnight, sand the repair, apply a primer and you're ready to paint.
However, if your scraper has made some large holes in the drywall, or removed sections of its paper surface, you need to do an extra step. Before patching the holes with drywall compound, paint the exposed Gyproc with white shellac. The shellac will stop the moisture in the drywall compound from soaking into the interior of the drywall itself and causing bulges. Any large holes should actually be sealed with the shellac before washing the wall to remove the glue. Once the shellac has dried, just patch the hole, then sand and prime it.
Stripping wallpaper isn't fun, but the good news is it's not hard, just time consuming and sometimes frustrating. Take your time and keep reminding yourself how nice that new wall is going to look once you get all that ugly wallpaper off.
Learn how to paint your newly un-papered wall .