10 simple steps to stripping wallpaper

One of the best ways to transform your home is by freshening up your walls. But don't rush in – before you can start painting or wallpapering it’s essential you remove any existing wallpaper first.

Stripping wallpaper might sound like a tedious task, but not only will it make redecorating much easier, it’ll also ensure your walls get the smoothest finish possible.

To help you remove wallpaper as effortlessly as possible, here’s our easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to stripping your walls.

1. Collect everything you’ll need

There are several ways to remove wallpaper (we’ll talk about these in the next section), but whichever way you go, you’ll need the following:

 Masking tape

 Plastic bags



 Wallpaper scraper

 Broom or dustpan and brush

 Cloth or rag

 Old or protective clothing

 Dust sheets (you may prefer polythene sheets if you have carpeted floors to provide more protection from moisture)


2. Choose the right removal method

Before going to the trouble of preparing yourself and your room, you should know exactly what you’re working with. Using a scraper (or old spatula), scrape away a corner of wallpaper and pull it off the wall. Do this on every wall, as each one may be different. 

This quick test will tell you how difficult it’ll be to strip your walls – and which method you’re going to need:

Soapy water/Chemical solution

If your wallpaper comes off easily – even if it’s only the top layer – you should be able to use hot water to remove most of it, before finishing off with a chemical stripping solution for any harder-to-remove bits, including adhesive. For this method, you’ll also need:

  • Chemical wallpaper stripper
  • Protective gloves


Electric steamer

If the wallpaper doesn’t come off easily, you might want to get hold of an electric steamer. Steamers are useful for removing stubborn wallpaper, but must be used carefully to avoid steam-related injuries or damage to the wall. New steamers start at around £20. For this method, you'll need:

  • Electric steamer
  • Goggles
  • Wooden board (to sit steamer on when not in use)
  • Jug (to fill the steamer)

3. Prepare the room

Next up, you need to prepare the room. Use dust sheets to cover the flooring, using tape to safely secure the sheets in place. Move all furniture away from the walls being stripped, placing them in another room or covering them with dust sheets for protection.

Remove all fixtures from the walls – light fittings, vents, picture hooks – and tape up any electrical sockets or openings with plastic.

4. Take the right safety precautions

Before stripping any walls, turn off the power in the room you’re working in to avoid any water getting into electric sockets.

You should also wear protective clothing (including gloves) and safety goggles, particularly if you’re using an electric steamer that could cause scalding and burns.

5. Peel off the wallpaper

Using a scraper to lift it from the wall, start peeling each piece of wallpaper. It’s likely this will only remove the top layer of the paper, revealing the backing underneath. That’s fine.

Don’t try and remove the backing unless it comes off easily, as this could cause damage to the plaster beneath.

6. Wet the walls

If the top layer has peeled off easily, use a sponge and bowl of hot water to saturate the backing – the hotter the water, the more effective it will be. Leave the backing to get fully saturated.

Work in sections to ensure the wall doesn’t dry out before you have the chance to scrape.

If the top layer doesn’t peel off easily, apply a liberal coat of wallpaper stripping solution, leaving for 15-20 minutes to soak in.

If scraping still proves fruitless, you’ll need to use a steam cleaner. Be sure to follow all safety instructions and wear protective gloves throughout.

7. Scrape the walls

Once the wallpaper has been saturated, carefully scrape the backing paper off the wall, keeping the scraper as flat as possible to avoid damaging the plaster beneath.

Take your time and reapply water as needed. Remember, there may well be bits of paper and adhesive that can’t be removed with scraper and water alone. When this is the case, use the chemical wallpaper stripper to have a better chance at disrupting with the scraper, but be sure to wear protective gloves.

Try to avoid excessive force at all costs, as this can seriously damage the wall. Instead, simply keep reapplying the chemical solution and hot water.

If using a steamer...

Place the steam plate on the wallpaper for about 10 seconds, working from bottom to top. Once damp, scrape off the paper, keeping the tool as flat as possible to avoid damage.

Avoid steaming and scraping simultaneously due to the danger of scalding yourself, and don’t leave the steam plate in place for too long as this could crack the plaster underneath.

8. Remove the glue

Once you've removed the paper, some glue (adhesive) may remain on the wall. It’s important you don’t simply leave this, as it will  cause problems when you re-wallpaper or paint.

Use a chemical spray on any remaining problem areas, leaving for the instructed time before carefully scraping off.

9. Clean up

Once the paper is removed, use a damp cloth to clean the walls before leaving them to dry. This will also let you know if you’ve missed any bits of paper, or if there’s any damage to the wall that needs fixing.

Make sure the walls are completely dry before turning the room’s power points back on.

10. Repair and smooth

Apply filler to any areas of damage on the wall – like holes or cracks – before leaving to dry and sanding smooth. Filler and sandpaper should cost just a few pounds each.

Once you’ve repaired and smoothed the walls down, you’ll be ready to start thinking about what to do next.

Insuring your home

Now you've got your walls looking good, gain peace of mind by making sure your home is insured.

Insure your home with John Lewis Home Insurance by calling us on 0345 608 9001 or get a quote online.

John Lewis Finance, John Lewis Home Insurance and John Lewis & Partners are all trading names of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England and Wales (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative of Munich Re Digital Partners Limited, a company authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to carry on insurance distribution activities.

John Lewis Finance, John Lewis Insurance and John Lewis & Partners are all trading names of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England and Wales (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative (Financial Conduct Authority no. 416011) of Covea Insurance plc which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (registration no. 202277). John Lewis Specialist Home Insurance is underwritten by Covea Insurance plc. Registered Office: A&B Mills, Dean Clough, Halifax, HX3 5AX. Registered in England and Wales (registration no. 613259).

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