Q&A / 

Wallpaper Removal

Back when I was in college, I used to work part time for an individual who bought old houses and fixed them up for re-sale. I have clear, crisp memories of stripping wallpaper from countless walls and ceilings. We would do it in the dead of winter with no heat in the houses! It was so cold some days that water would freeze on the walls, so we just used those old fashioned razor wallpaper scrappers on the dry paper. If the conditions and paper were just right, you could really remove some paper. Fatigue would set in after a while, and the razor scrapper would slip and a gouge into the plaster would happen.

During warm weather, we could lightly mist the walls with regular water. After several applications and depending upon how many layers of paper were on the wall, a regular flat-bladed scrapper would allow you to remove the paper very quickly and easily. There were no fancy enzyme additives or removers back then! Fortunately, there were no vinyl papers or vinyl coated papers either. Those can be a real bear to strip from a wall!

Washing Walls

Once the wallpaper was off the walls, we would have to wash them with soap and water. If you didn't do this, the residual glue would react with the paints and cause all sorts of problems.

I found that warm water with a strong solution of Spic & Span would do wonders. Any soap will do, but warm water will more readily soften the hard paste on the walls. You can also buy fancy wall cleaners that actually work faster than my method. Use those once you have the paper off the wall.

You need to have the walls glue-free before you start to patch them or paint. Let's move on.....

Surface Area Attack

Instant gratification is fast becoming the standard in our fast-paced society. The Internet, e-mail, cell phones, etc. don't help much. I love the Jamaicans. They have a word that is the opposite of instant gratification. It is manana. The word translates to tomorrow and is loosely translated as another time. If you ask a Jamaican when something might be done, you get one of two responses: Soon come, Maan or Manana.

The point is that most of us want the wallpaper to soon come off the walls and ceilings. You can do that by using the great enzyme strippers. Want to really get wallpaper off the wall fast? Then you need to increase the surface area of the paste that the enzymes can attack. You increase surface area by creating more pathways and avenues of attack. This is most easily accomplished by scoring the paper. Each tiny slice into the paper creates a new entry point for the enzyme to attack some of the dry paste.

Scraping Paper

The type of scraping tool used and the angle of attack when using the blade determine how well you will remove paper from a surface and how much damage you might inflict upon that part of the wall.

The best angle of attack to remove the most paper and do the least damage to wall surfaces is a low one. My guess - from experience - suggests that you should be in the neighborhood of 15 degrees off the horizontal.

The scraper will jump over the paper and cause you massive frustration if you start the scraping process too early. Remember our discussion of instant gratification? Read the directions on the label of the enzyme wall stripping product and follow those to the letter. See if it doesn't work well. Always try to work ahead. This means get other walls soaking while you are scraping and washing down a different wall - the one you began with.

Washing Walls

Washing the glue residue from walls works best if you use two simple tools. You need a pump sprayer or an old Windex type sprayer bottle and a large tile grout sponge.

Use the sprayer to mist the entire wall you wish to wash. This will once again re-hydrate or soften the residual paste. The large grout sponges I use really work well as washing tools. They easily pick up large amounts of glue before they need to be rinsed.

Speaking of Rinsing....

Washing the walls with soap and water is one thing, but rinsing the walls with clear water is just as important. Failure to rinse the walls immediately after and/or during the washing process will cancel out all of your hard work.

Use a different bucket and a sponge or rag to do the rinsing. As soon as the water begins to get the slightest bit cloudy, dispose of it and get fresh, clean water.

Your walls must be free of all glue to get a great paint job or re-paper job. Take your time and wash and rinse well.

Related Articles:  Stripping Wallpaper - Now it is Easy, Drywall Repair, Enzyme Wallpaper Removal Products


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