There are various methods of stripping wallpaper: will outline the different methods available, as well as giving advice on the selection and use of a steam wallpaper stripper, chemical wallpaper strippers, as well as some useful tips to make the job of wallpaper stripping much easier.

Traditional Method

The traditional method of wallpaper stripping is to wet wallpaper with a cloth or sponge and then scrape it off with a wallpaper scraper or similar tool. This is a time-consuming and laborious task, but it can be made easier by using a few simple techniques.

It is useful to score or perforate the wallpaper before dampening. This allows any water applied to penetrate the wallpaper more easily, thus reducing the effort needed to remove it. Specialist tools are available for this (such as the mini and maxi Stanley Orbital Wallpaper Scorers), but a craft knife or Stanley knife can be used if necessary, though this should be done with care to prevent damage to the plaster underneath.

When applying water to the paper it is best to use warm soapy water, and to dampen from the top of the wall down, as the dry paper underneath can absorb any excess liquid. It is also advisable to wet the wallpaper to be stripped twice. An initial all-over coat of water starts the dampening process, and then another coat can be applied as each section of wall is stripped. This lessens the chance of any stubborn dry patches remaining.

Vinyl wallpaper should be able to be removed more easily, simply peeling away from a corner. It is likely that adhesive will be left on the wall, so this should be removed using soapy water or an appropriate detergent.

Steam Wallpaper Strippers

Wallpaper steamers save much of the time and trouble involved in stripping wallpaper, not to mention much of the mess resulting from the use of a sponge and bucket of soapy water. They are simple in design and operation, consisting of a water tank linked to a steam plate via a hose. When the water in tank is heated to a sufficient temperature steam goes through the hose to the steam plate, which is pressed to the wallpaper. Using a steam wallpaper stripper is a much more efficient and less labour intensive method of wallpaper stripping than using a sponge or cloth and soap and water, but it should be remembered to take care when using wallpaper steamers as the hot steam can cause burns if the steam plate is held near or on the skin. In addition, it is recommended that safety goggles should be worn to reduce the possibility of eye injury.

What To Look For In A Steam Stripper

Depending on their level of expertise and the amount of times they will use a steam wallpaper stripper, users should look for different things when purchasing them. For the occasional user a basic model is quite acceptable, perhaps even preferable: such models are often very simple in design, and have the benefit of being lightweight and more easily carried. For the professional or more serious amateur user, a number of questions should be asked to ascertain the suitability of the steam stripper being assessed. How big a water tank is needed? Generally, a bigger water tank will mean less need to refill during big jobs, but it can mean the steam wallpaper stripper is cumbersome. How long is the hose? If work is being done on high-ceilinged rooms, the hose will need to accommodate this or the steamer will have to be raised on a platform: this can cause accidents. Is a stripper needed with additional features such as the ability to remove Artex as well as wallpaper? If so this should be checked before purchase. The professional user is advised to purchase one of the recognised brands of steam wallpaper stripper (such as Earlex, Draper, Black and Decker, Bosch or Wagner), as these are much more likely to have the capacity for heavy duty usage and additional features required.

Chemical Wallpaper Strippers

There is also a chemical treatment that can be used to speed along the traditional method of wallpaper stripping. Liquids and foams provided by companies such as Polycell and Solvite are applied to the wallpaper and have the action of destroying the adhesive that bonds the wallpaper to the wall, allowing it to be removed easier than with soap and water.

Extreme care should be taken if chemical agents are used to strip wallpaper: the manufacturer’s instructions and safety advice should always be read before use to prevent the possibility of injury.

Wallwik Simple Strip Method

Last but not least, Wallwik Simple Strip is quick & easy, and doesn't cause damage to the plaster. It uses large highly absorbent fabric cloths called a HydroSheet to rehydrate the wallpaper and dissolve the adhesive. First, the wallpaper is scored with a perforator tool. Next the HydroSheets are soaked in an enzyme based solution paste-dissolving solution. The sheets are then applied to the wallpaper surface. Cleverly, the system relies on capillary action -- the surface tension of the water to prevent the Simple Strip sheets from falling down. The solution then slowly soaks through the perforated wallpaper to dissolve the adhesive, releasing the wallpaper.

Simple Strip is unusual as the paste dissolving solution is enzyme and soap-based, and doesn't contain any harmful chemicals. This is great for environment, but also means that it safe to use around children and pets. The special fabric sheets are reusable and we successfully put ours in the washing machine after the job, before storing them for another day.

For the best results we recommend scoring the wallpaper surface thoroughly with a scoring tool. Wallwik do provide one in their Simple Strip wallpaper removal kits, but if you already have a wallpaper scorer, this can be used instead and you can buy the individual items.

When applying the sheets we do recommend that you spray the walls first with a garden sprayer as this help with the adhesion of the sheets. Once the sheets have been applied spray them again every 5-10 minutes to prevent them from drying out. After approximately 30 minutes the sheets can be removed. The wallpaper can normally be removed in large pieces or whole sheets. The sheets are reusable too, so you can hold on to these for the next section or room.

For further information on Wallwik Simple Strip you can visit The Wallwik Simple Strip kit is also available from Amazon.

Useful Tips

When using a wallpaper stripper, make sure all floors and furniture left in the room are suitably covered. If using a chemical or steamer, adequate ventilation should be provided by the opening of all windows, and internal doors should be closed to ensure any debris is kept inside the room being worked on. Protective clothing should be worn (i.e. protective goggles, cap and overalls), and non-professionals should make time to rest every so often. The traditional method of wallpaper stripping especially is hard work, more so when a large room has to be stripped.