Here’s How to Remove Old Wallpaper That Won’t Come Off

Make old wallpaper removal less tedious using these effective techniques.

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Peeling dated wallpaper with a vinegar and putty knife icon in the corner

This incredibly simple tutorial will explain how to remove old wallpaper, and it’s perfect for homeowners who want to use stuff they already have. If you’re faced with dated, peeling wallpaper or want to update your walls with some historical paint colors, our step-by-step tutorial has got you covered.

If this method doesn’t complete the job, we’re also sharing several practical techniques to remove stubborn paper and adhesive with ease. Hopefully, you’ll be able to tackle this project with confidence and ease. (But we completely understand if you’re still dreading the process.)

Preparation and Considerations

Before beginning this wallpaper removal project, plan adequately to ensure a smooth and successful process. With thorough preparation, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle the project and achieve excellent results. Here’s how to get started.

  • Start by assessing the size of the area and the type of wallpaper you’re dealing with, as this will help you determine the tools and materials you’ll need.
  • If you’re unsure about the wallpaper type, try peeling back a small section from an inconspicuous area to gauge how easily it comes off.
  • Remember to gather all the necessary tools and materials in advance and clear out any furniture or obstacles from the room. Protecting the floors and other surfaces with drop cloths or plastic sheeting is crucial to avoid any damage.
  • Finally, set aside ample time to complete the project, keeping in mind that you may need to allocate more than one day, especially if you need to wait for walls to dry or repairs to be made.

How to Remove Stuck On Wallpaper With Vinegar

Follow these step-by-step instructions to efficiently remove old wallpaper and create a fresh canvas for your walls, whether you plan to repaint or install new wallpaper.

Peeling dated wallpaper with a vinegar and putty knife icon in the corner

Total Time Needed :





Total Cost:

$50 – $125



• Ladder or step stool
• Utility knife
• Wallpaper scorer or perforation tool
• Spray bottle
• Wallpaper scraper or putty knife
• Bucket
• Fine-grit sandpaper


• Drop cloth or plastic sheeting
• Wallpaper removal solution or white vinegar
• Warm water
• Sponge
• Clean rags or towels
• Wall repair compound (if necessary)
• Primer (optional)


Step 1: Prepare the room.

• Remove furniture, wall decorations, and outlet covers
• Lay down drop cloths or plastic sheeting to protect floors
• Set up a ladder or step stool for easy access to higher areas

Step 2: Score the wallpaper.

• Use a utility knife to cut along the edges of the wallpaper
• Use a wallpaper scorer or perforation tool to create small holes in the wallpaper without damaging the wall underneath

Step 3: Apply the wallpaper removal solution.

• Mix the wallpaper removal solution or prepare a mixture of white vinegar and warm water (1:1 ratio)
• Fill a spray bottle with the solution and generously spray it onto the wallpaper, focusing on the scored areas
• Allow the solution to soak for 15-20 minutes

Step 4: Start scraping.

• Use a wallpaper scraper or putty knife to gently lift the wallpaper edges
• Slowly peel back the wallpaper, using the scraper to help loosen stubborn areas
• Use a sponge soaked in the wallpaper removal solution to dampen areas that are difficult to remove

Step 5: Clean and repair the walls.

• Fill a bucket with warm water and use a sponge to wipe down the walls, removing any residual adhesive or wallpaper
• Allow the walls to dry completely
• Use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth any rough spots
• If necessary, apply wall repair compound to fix any holes or imperfections, and sand smooth once dry

Step 6: Prime and prepare for new wall treatment.

• Optional: Apply a coat of primer to the walls to ensure a smooth, even surface for new paint or wallpaper
• Allow primer to dry according to manufacturer’s instructions
• Your walls are now ready for a fresh new look!

Additional Removal Tips and Techniques

If the original wallpaper removal DIY doesn’t work, try these alternative solutions to remove old wallpaper that just won’t come off. These lesser-known methods can make the removal process smoother and more efficient, ensuring your project’s success.


  • Fabric softener solution. Mix equal parts fabric softener and warm water in a spray bottle, then apply it to the stuck-on wallpaper to help loosen the adhesive.
  • Baking soda paste. Create a paste using equal parts baking soda and water, then apply it to the stuck-on wallpaper, allowing it to sit for 10-15 minutes before gently scraping off the wallpaper.
  • Dish soap solution. Combine dish soap with warm water in a spray bottle and apply it to the stuck-on wallpaper to help break down the adhesive for easier removal.
  • Petroleum jelly. Spread a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the stubborn wallpaper, allowing it to sit for a few hours or overnight to help soften the adhesive for easier removal.
  • Vinegar and cornstarch paste. Mix equal parts white vinegar and cornstarch to create a paste, then apply it to the stuck-on wallpaper, allowing it to sit for 10-15 minutes before gently scraping off the wallpaper.


  • Use a hairdryer. Apply heat using a hairdryer on a low setting to help soften the adhesive, making it easier to peel or scrape off the stuck-on wallpaper.
  • Try an iron on low heat. Place a clean cloth or towel over the stubborn wallpaper and apply a warm iron on low heat, moving it slowly over the area. The gentle heat can help soften the adhesive, making it easier to remove the wallpaper.
  • Use a flexible spatula. Opt for a flexible silicone spatula to gently scrape away stubborn wallpaper without causing damage to the underlying wall surface.
  • Try the plastic wrap technique. After applying your preferred wallpaper removal solution, cover the treated area with plastic wrap to help retain moisture and prevent the solution from evaporating too quickly. This will give the solution more time to work on the adhesive.
  • Use a steamer. Rent or purchase a wallpaper steamer to help soften the adhesive, making it easier to scrape off stubborn wallpaper.

Old Wallpaper Disposal

Proper disposal of old wallpaper is crucial for maintaining an eco-friendly approach to your home improvement project. Follow these simple steps to ensure you’re disposing of the removed wallpaper responsibly:

  1. Sort and separate. As you remove the wallpaper, separate the dry, clean paper from the wet, adhesive-coated pieces. Remember that many recycling centers do not accept wallpaper with adhesive residue.
  2. Recycle dry wallpaper. If the removed wallpaper is free of adhesive residue, you can typically recycle it with your regular paper waste. However, check with your local recycling center for specific guidelines, as some facilities may have restrictions on recycling wallpaper.
  3. Dispose of adhesive-coated wallpaper. For wallpaper with adhesive residue, it’s best to dispose of it in your regular household waste. However, if you’ve used chemical solvents or have a large amount of waste, consult your local waste disposal facility for proper disposal instructions.
  4. Reuse or repurpose. Consider creative ways to reuse or repurpose small amounts of removed wallpaper, such as crafting, scrapbooking, or even creating unique gift wrapping.
  5. Clean up responsibly. If you’ve used chemical solvents or solutions during removal, ensure you dispose of them according to your local hazardous waste regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I paint over vintage wallpaper instead of removing it?

While painting over wallpaper is possible, it’s not always the best option. If the wallpaper is in good condition with no peeling or bubbling, you can prime and paint over it. However, if the wallpaper is damaged or has multiple layers, it’s better to remove it to ensure a smooth, long-lasting paint job.

How can I remove wallpaper without damaging the underlying wall surface?

To avoid damaging the wall surface during wallpaper removal, follow these steps:
1. Use a scoring tool to create small perforations in the wallpaper, allowing the removal solution to penetrate the adhesive.
2. Apply a wallpaper removal solution or a homemade mixture (like warm water and fabric softener) to soften the adhesive.
3. Gently scrape the wallpaper with a plastic scraper or a flexible spatula, taking care not to gouge the wall.
4. If the wall is damaged during the process, repair any imperfections with a patching compound before applying new paint or wallpaper.

How can I determine if my vintage wallpaper contains asbestos?

To determine if your vintage wallpaper contains asbestos, it’s best to hire a professional asbestos inspector or send a small sample to an accredited laboratory for testing. Asbestos was sometimes used in wallpaper adhesives and backing materials until the 1980s, so take precautions before starting the removal process.

If you suspect the adhesive on your vintage wallpaper contains asbestos, keep the wallpaper wet during the removal process. This helps minimize the release of asbestos fibers into the air and reduces potential health risks. If you confirm that your vintage wallpaper contains asbestos, hire a licensed asbestos abatement professional for safe removal. They are equipped to handle and dispose of hazardous materials properly.

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