The Easiest Way to Remove Wallpaper

Learn the easiest, sanity-saving way to remove wallpaper and wallpaper border with these simple steps.

Woman removing a wallpaper border with a steam machine

Y’all, this post should really be titled “The Machine that Saved My Sanity,” because I was close to going off the deep end on this one.

I recently gave the boys’ bathroom a little refresh. It’s a small room and was a pretty blank canvas, so I didn’t really anticipate any major problems. It started out looking like this:

bathroom with wallpaper border before removing

Do you see what’s there at the top of the walls, trying to blend in so no one will notice? That would be a wallpaper border– a painted-over wallpaper border to be exact. (Seriously, you really needed to paint over the wallpaper? Ugh!)

close up of the wallpaper border pattern

Not the most hideous wallpaper I’ve ever seen, but not exactly my style, so I thought I would just take a few minutes to pull it down before I painted the walls. HA. Oh, how naive I was!

I had only removed a wallpaper border once before and it was one that had been up for just four months. To remove it, I took my iron, shot a few puffs of steam at it, and used a little painting tool to scrape it away.

Hard to Remove Wallpaper

A huge thanks to HomeRight for sponsoring this post. My favorable opinion of amazing machines that keep me sane is 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

It came off super easily, so I thought I could just use the same technique on this one. I tried it, and after 45 minutes, this is what I had accomplished:

a patch of wallpaper border missing after scraping it off

One-third of one wall. In 45 minutes. At this point I was getting frustrated, so I did what any good DIY-er would do in this situation… I put out a desperate plea on Instagram! 🙂

screenshot of instagram post

You all delivered with advice too– so many great tips! Among the responses were HomeRight (who I’ve worked with in the past on our stairwell makeover and Donnie’s dresser transformation) and Jacque from The DIY Village saying I *had* to try HomeRight’s SteamMachine because it would have the wallpaper down in no time.

Now I’ll be honest. After the fight I had just had with the wallpaper border myself, I wasn’t sure that any machine or tool was ever going to get this thing down. But I was desperate, so I decided to give it a try.

Since I was on a little bit of a time crunch, my friends at HomeRight were kind enough to rush off a SteamMachine right away (Hey, I was having a wallpaper emergency, people! 😉 ), and I was so delighted when the postman delivered this:

The steam machine parts and accessories

Isn’t it pretty? Of course my mind immediately started going a mile a minute thinking about everything I could do with all of those attachments: steam clean the floors, clean tile and grout, sanitize everything… but first on to the wallpaper!

How to Remove Wallpaper Border Step-by-Step

types of wallpaper

Before removing wallpaper, it’s nice to know what type you are working with. This is normally why we have such trouble removing it.

Removable wallpaper – This type of wallpaper normally comes down fairly easy. The only real way to determine if this is kind you are working with is to start at one corner and pull. It should easily release as long as the proper prep work was completed prior to installing the wallpaper.

Vinyl wallpaper – We consider this kind the hardest to remove. They often use it in bathrooms because it is water resistant. Normally hot water and a detergent is used to remove it.

Strippable wallpaper – The good news is that because this type is so permeable, it comes off easier than vinyl, but it is a more permanent solution compared to removable. No detergent is required for removal, just hot water.

Step 1. Fill the steamer with water.

Filling the steamer with a cup of water

I filled the SteamMachine with water using the handy dandy pouring cup and funnel provided, put the cap back on, and let it heat up for 8-ish minutes until it was ready to go.

Step 2. Hold the steam plate in place.

Abby holding the steamer on the wallpaper border

To use the SteamMachine, I would hold the steam plate up to the wallpaper for about 15 seconds. This would allow me remove the top layer of wallpaper in one large chunk.

(Note: Since it is steam, there is some water that will drip down the wall due to the condensation, so if you are working above carpet or other area that you do not want to get wet, be sure to cover it up accordingly.)

Step 3. Repeat for the rest of the wallpaper.

Then I would hold the steam plate up to the remaining wallpaper backing for 5-10 seconds, and that would remove easily as well. I could hardly believe it. After spending 45 minutes without the SteamMachine removing about three feet of wallpaper, it only took me another 45 minutes to complete the whole rest of the bathroom! Amazing.

Abby holding a piece of wallpaper after using the steamer to remove it

Me, completely giddy that the wallpaper was in my hands rather than on the wall. Photo by my six-year-old who was oh-so-proud of himself for taking it. 🙂

Lesson learned? If you’re going to do a job, make sure you have the right tools! The HomeRight SteamMachine saved me so much time and so much hassle. I’m thrilled with how easy it made removing the wallpaper, and my family is thrilled that I was able to keep my sanity.

Once the wallpaper was removed, we were able to move onto painting and adding pretty accessories and eventually ended up with this:

the after photo of the updated bathroom

Woohoo! So much better, right?! I had committed to doing this makeover in a week, and for a little while, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen!

Thankfully, it all worked out and we are all so excited about the updated space. That was the last shred of wallpaper in our house, so hopefully I won’t be removing any more for a while. But if I need to, I know it will be easy-peasy next time around!

4 Ways to Remove Wallpaper Without a Machine

While this little machine has stolen our hearts and we will forever use it to remove wallpaper, we also know it’s not always feasible to purchase a machine for a one-time use.

So here are a few other common ways to try to remove that stubborn paper once and for all!

  1. Water and fabric softener: Mix equal parts warm water and fabric softener in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto the wallpaper and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to soften the glue.
  2. Wallpaper stripping solution: Purchase a commercial wallpaper stripping solution, which can be found at most home improvement stores. Apply the solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions and let it sit for the recommended time.
  3. Wallpaper scoring: Use a scoring tool to make small holes in the wallpaper. This will allow the water and fabric softener solution or wallpaper stripping solution to penetrate the wallpaper more easily.
  4. Heat gun: Use a heat gun to gently heat the wallpaper, being careful not to overheat or scorch the drywall underneath.

With these techniques, a putty knife or scraper will be needed to remove the pieces as they loosen.

Just a heads up– these methods may not be as effective as a steamer and may take longer. Also, be ready to remove the wallpaper as soon as it loosens, as the glue will re-adhere to the wall if it cools or dries too quickly!

Let us know which technique you try, and how it turns out!

Removing Wallpaper: Frequently Asked Questions

Fabric softener can remove wallpaper because it contains ingredients that can break down the adhesive that is used to stick the wallpaper to the wall. As it breaks down the glue, it causes the wallpaper to become loose and peel off.

Just remember, we don’t want to damage the wall in the process, which is why I recommend using a steamer and only water.

It is possible to paint over wallpaper glue, but there are a few things to consider before doing so.

First, make sure that the glue is completely dry and not tacky to the touch. If the glue is still wet, the paint may have a hard time sticking, which could lead to bubbling and peeling.

We also recommend to prime the wall with a sealer or primer specifically designed for covering wallpaper glue before painting. This will help create a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to and will also help to prevent any potential peeling issues.

It’s also important to note that painting over wallpaper glue will not completely hide the texture, especially if the glue layer is thick.

Yes, it is possible to sand wallpaper glue off, but it can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process (especially in large rooms).

It may be more effective to soften the glue before sanding (with steam or glue remover).

When sanding, avoid damaging the wall or sanding through the drywall.

Not all steamers are powerful enough to remove wallpaper. This steam machine worked great for us, but there are also commercial wallpaper steamers that can be found at your local home improvement store.

Want to save this post to revisit later? Be sure to pin the image below so you can find it easily!

The Easiest Way to Remove Wallpaper

Have you ever tried to remove wallpaper that didn’t want to budge? What techniques worked for you?

Thanks so much for following along! Have a wonderful day!

abby signoff

 A huge thanks to HomeRight for sponsoring this post. My favorable opinion of amazing machines that keep me sane is 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.


  1. Abby, you’re so productive! Always love seeing your posts and seeing what you’ve been up to lately. You did a fantastic job as well, really nice! It looks gorgeous. Xoxo


  2. Rebekah @ Charming Imperfections says:

    I’m glad to have seen this! If we ever need to take down wallpaper, I’ll go straight to HomeRight! Your boy’s bathroom turned out so nice, I love it!

  3. Susan the farm quilter says:

    Wow that worked like a charm!! My solution was a bit more radical…I moved!! Love your “new” bathroom!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thank you so much, Cat!! I’m honored!

      ~Abby =)

  4. Meaghan | Cook. Craft. Love. says:

    Sometimes I think I could do room makeovers and then I think “nah, better not.” I’ll just joyfully live vicariously through the gorgeous room makeovers of others! I L.O.V.E. that shower curtain!

  5. I’m wondering if anyone has an idea for wallpaper removal that doesnt require buying a machine? Our new house has only one small room that’s papered, and since I’m never ever going to wallpaper, ever, I’d rather not spend money to buy a machine I’m only going to use once.
    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Hi, Melinda! I know you can rent a machine at some of the home improvement stores if you’re only going to need it once. I’ve removed a wallpaper border using the steam from an iron before, so you could try that. (Though if you’re wallpaper is stubborn like mine was in this project, it still may take a little while.) There are also wallpaper scoring tools you can buy, which put holes in the wallpaper, and then I’ve heard of people using a solution of water and fabric softener to wipe down the wall, which loosens the wallpaper glue. The machine would definitely be the easiest, though, if you can find somewhere to rent one. I hope this helps!

      ~Abby =)

    2. I have removed a great amount of wallpaper using white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray it on, wait 15-20 minutes, depending on how thick the paper is; and then use a putty knife or similar tool to loosen it. Sometimes it comes off in big sheets, other times you have to spray it again, but overall a pretty easy way to do it.

  6. After you removed the wallpaper? Did you have to sand the walls before painting? What do you have to do between removing the wallpaper and painting it?? Just bought a house and the bathroom has ugly blue tile wallpaper (not actual blue tile… Just wallpaper that looks like blue tile. really?) and it has got to go! It’s very slick/soft unlike regular wallpaper. Do you think it will come off the same way as regular wallpaper?

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Hi Taylor! I’ve never worked with that typ of wallpaper before so I’m not totally sure, but the steamer is excellent at removing wallpaper so it’s worth a try! ~Abby =)

  7. DIANNE FISHEL says:

    It’s really hard for me to remove my wallpaper in my bathroom,but I want to do it myself! I’m going on 71 years old in April 2018 and would like to know the easiest way to accomplish this task! Thank you for any good suggestions!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Hi, Dianne! If you can rent or buy a steamer, that is what did the trick for me! It peeled right off with the steam! Best of luck with your project!

      ~Abby =)

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