New paint or wallpaper just won’t look its best unless you first remove the old wallpaper. But don’t worry; it is an easy job.

The bad news: If you’re planning to paint or apply new wallpaper, you should remove the old wallpaper first. Your project simply won’t turn out as well if you leave the existing wallpaper in place.

The good news: Removing old wallpaper is usually a reasonably easy, straightforward job. Begin by first protecting baseboards, floors, carpets and furnishings by covering with either a plastic or canvas drop cloth.

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    Remove the Facing

    The first step is to remove the facing of the old wallpaper. Some types of wallpaper are designed to be “strippable.” If you’re fortunate enough to be removing that type of paper, you’ll probably be able to just work up a corner of a strip, and then peel away the entire piece. You’ll soon have all the old paper removed, an entire strip at a time.

    But if you’re not quite that lucky and the paper is not so cooperative, the process will be a little more time-consuming.

    Start by dampening the surface of the paper with a wallpaper remover product, following label instructions. You can run a scoring tool over the old paper first to help the product penetrate more thoroughly.

    After a good soaking and a few minutes’ wait, the old paper will likely come off very readily. You’ll probably be able to peel away large chunks at a time, but you might need to use a putty knife to worry away stubborn spots. If you do need to use a putty knife, be careful not to gouge into the underlying surface. Consider dulling the corners of the knife with some sandpaper.

    Particularly stubborn spots might need a second coating of wallpaper remover

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    Remove the Undercoat

    Now you need to remove the undercoating of glue. This job isn’t difficult, but it may be a bit tedious.

    Start by spraying roughly a 3-foot swath with wallpaper remover (you can also try using a gel or liquid-concentrate solvent stripper). Gently scrape away the glue residue using a putty knife or a spatula. Again, take care not to lay gouges in the underlying surface.

    You can double-check that you’ve removed all of the glue residue by doing the following: mix 1 quart of water with 1 ounce of povidone-iodine (available at any pharmacy). Spray the mixture on the wall. Any glue residue that’s left will be revealed as a purplish splotch, which you can then sand away.

    Once all the glue residue has been removed, wash down the wall with hot water using a sponge or sponge mop. Allow to dry, sand the walls smooth and you’ll be ready to retexture, prime, and paint.

Your Shopping List

  • Zinsser Diff Wallpaper Remover or Savogran Wallpaper Remover
  • Zinsser Paper Tiger for scoring
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