How to Remove Wallpaper Without Chemicals

There are four ways to deal with wallpaper: chemical removal, painting over it, steaming, and burning the house down. I don’t recommend that last one.

How to remove wallpaper without chemicals

Actually, I’m a huge advocate for painting over wallpaper. Most people don’t realize that in some cases, that is absolutely the best option. Most of my own houses have had wallpaper that was painted over. I still remember the house I insisted that the painter remove the wallpaper, only to reveal 2 more layers beneath, neither of which was coming off. In every single room. Uhg.

how to remove wallpaper

I’ll spare you another horror story about spending 2 weeks removing wallpaper from one wall- ONE WALL!

Well, for this redesign project for my daughter’s room makeover, I was totally going to paint over the wallpaper, which was stuck securely to the wall and was a pretty innocuous stripe-on-white pattern, but I had heard that my awesome little HomeRight Steam Machine could also remove wallpaper. No way! I was finally ready to try it out.

No suspense here: IT WAS AWESOME!

I will not lie. It was not nearly as quick as painting over the wallpaper, but the results are SO MUCH BETTER!

If I were an awesome blogger, there would be really snazzy demo videos of how this worked. Or maybe I should have Periscoped it. HA! But trust me, you did not really want to see me during this point of the project. I was ugly. The walls were ugly. The floors were ugly.

Oh, did I mention that I was really skeptical, so I actually bought a bottle of wallpaper remover and started on one wall? I don’t know why. I hate this stuff. It hasn’t worked for me yet, and it’s messy, messy, messy. After I had screwed around with one wall, I got cranking with the Little Steamer That Could.

Here’s the process for removing wallpaper without chemicals:

First, before ever turning on your steamer, peel off the top layer of your wallpaper, if possible. Given the age of my house, I was surprised that this was a modern wallpaper. With a little practice, you should be able to remove an entire sheet, floor-to-ceiling, in one go. My 6 year old had a lot of fun ripping up the wall. She might have thought mommy had gone a little wackadoodle.

How to remove the top coat of wallpaper

After removing the pretty top layer of wallpaper, you end up with the underlayer, which will look like this.Those vertical lines are the wallpaper seams. There is still a layer of wallpaper on the wall.

remove the second layer of wallpaper

Turn on the steamer and let it warm up, with the wallpaper attachment (shown below) already in place. Hold the attachment flat against the wall, give it a burst or two of steam, and hold the attachment on the wall for a few seconds longer. Working one section at a time, gently separate the back layer of the paper from the wall. With a little practice, this back layer can also be removed in sheets. This would really go quickly with two people, but I was working alone and still did OK. You position the steamer on the wall like this. I actually forgot to take a picture of actual wallpaper removal, so this is a re-enactment.

using a steamer attachment to remove wallpaper


Before you leave that section, and before the underlayer dries, go back over the same area with steam one more time, and have a second person scrape off the remaining wallpaper glue with a wide putty knife. You’ll end up with a very, very clean wall, ready for patching.

wall ready for patching

I was working on plaster, and the wall held up beautifully. Just be sure to protect the floor and baseboards with a plastic drop cloth and towels. There will be some drips and mess as you peel back the layers, but there was not nearly as much mess as when I was using the chemical solution, which didn’t work half as well anyway.

Once both layers of wallpaper and the final layer of glue is removed, then you can spackle all the holes, dings and cracks, then smooth down the rough edges. Three walls only needed minor repair but, lucky me, I had an entire wall that needed a skim coat of spackle. Apparently, there had been an even more evil layer of wallpaper on this back wall that had really done some damage. In fact, that’s probably why the previous owners put up the more recent wallpaper. They might have felt like that wall was so damaged that their only option was to cover it in wallpaper.

How to remove wallpaper without chemicals (16)

But with a skim coat, prime, and paint, these walls turned out beautifully!

painted wall after wallpaper removal

In the middle of my project, I may have sworn at myself for not just painting over the stupid wallpaper, but I am so glad I chose to remove it. Now there will never be peeling edges, funky seams, lumpy bubbles, or any other regret. I just have smooth, clean walls, properly primed and freshly painted.

Pink, of course. But that’s for the next part of the story.

Have you fallen in love with my HomeRight SteamMachine Steamer for Steam Cleaning and Wallpaper Removal yet? Click to see how to buy on Amazon.



This Post Has 3 Comments

    1. Darla

      It’s amazing the power that water has. Just water.

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