Off With the Wallpaper!

Last Thursday, I went to my mother’s to help strip her kitchen of all its wallpaper.  It’s not that she doesn’t like wallpaper, she loves it, but the existing green and pink stripes left by the previous owners just weren’t her bag.

When I arrived, she had already started, and had completed about a 3′ section, and begun around a window.  It looked like this…

While the rest of the “breakfast nook,” as she likes to call it, looked like this…

We had lots of work to do, but luckily, Mamma had already discovered a few things that did, and didn’t work.

First thing that didn’t work?  The steamer.  Mamma actually owns a steamer, and since that is what they used to use to take down wallpaper, it was a no-brainer to try it out.  It just didn’t cut the mustard.

A special spray made for the task…

didn’t work so well either.  She said that once you put it on, you had to wait 15 minutes, and even then the wallpaper just didn’t come off as easily as she thought it should have.

So what did work?  A magic solution of 3 parts water to 1 part fabric softener — Mamma chose Great Value orange scented, and the Piranha wallpaper scraper, which looks like this…

It has a blade on one end, and a roller on the other.  My only suggestion regarding this tool is to get one for each person in the room, including any three year olds that might be helping.  The blade isn’t sharp enough to be dangerous, and you will spend all your time teaching a lesson in sharing instead of scraping off paper, if you don’t.

Now Mamma also picked up a tool we liked to call the Tooth-Monster.  It’s also made by Piranha, and looks like this…

The purpose of this tool is to score the paper so that any sprays can penetrate.  Mamma used this thing all the time, but I found it easier to simply pull the vinyl layer of the wallpaper off by hand.  The Monster put tiny holes in the paper, keeping it from coming off in large sheets (like those awful slitted price stickers) and could damage the wall if you pressed too hard.

So how did we actually do it?

First, I’d find a lifted corner of the wallpaper, and peel the vinyl layer off.  This is a perfect job for a three year old, since they’re going to insist on helping anyway.  The paper didn’t always come off in big sheets, but it would usually come off enough to get under the next strip and peel some more.

Once the vinyl layer was removed, I’d spray the paper with the fabric softener solution (3 parts water, 1 part softener).  I learned quickly to spray only the area I could remove before the spray dried.  For me, this was about 12 inches wide, and 3-4 feet down.   Then I’d start at the top with the scraper, get the paper started, and then peel gently by hand.  When I was lucky, it would come off in large sections, when I wasn’t it would come in shreds.

Spraying the paper only once helped it to hold together when removing it.  You want it to feel like grade-school paper towels, you know the ones, they were brown, hard to tear, and really didn’t soak up much.  If you spray the paper more than once, it begins to disintegrate.  Trust me, this is not fun.  You want it to come off in sheets, not shreds.

Continuing in this process, by the end of day 1, which was really only half a day, we were here…

Ok, that makes it look better than it really was.  Here’s the other side…

And the floor looked like this…

We were wiped, but the truth is, there is something a bit satisfying about peeling wallpaper.  Like peeling at an old sunburn — you know you do it, it’s just something you can’t stop.  Even once you’ve committed to putting down your tools, and taking a break, you find yourself wandering over and picking at the paper a little more.

So the next day, we decided to complete the rest of the kitchen.  We got everything above the wall cabinets, and Son even peeled the stripes off the backsplash area on the wall opposite Mamma’s sink — she plans to tile the sink-side backsplash.

Her kitchen now looks like this…

In the end, it really wasn’t so bad.  The paper came off pretty smoothly, and hey, at least it wasn’t Yellow.



Do you have any wallpaper tips?









Filed under Home Design, Musings

3 responses to “Off With the Wallpaper!

  1. Pamela

    Looks good so far. Next, PAINT!

    • caedwin

      actually, the next step is repair the wall, texture the wall, and THEN paint! HOPING to get it done BEFORE the “colonel” returns from AFG!!

  2. Cherrie Platt

    Wow, a job well done. As I have taken 5 room of paper down (did not like the circus stripes in the living room, or yellow edges in the kitchen and bath) I know the size of that room made it seem and never ending task. Best of luck with the texturing, anything thing will be a good change and make the kitchen the room you WANT to visit. Hugs

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