When your wallpaper comes down in sheets, thank fabric softener.

How to Remove Wallpaper With Fabric Softener

by M.T. Wroblewski

If you've ever taken stock of the number and varieties of wallpaper removal products available at your local home improvement store, it's understandable if you left somewhat confused. Removing wallpaper is sometimes hyped to be akin to combat duty when in reality it's not that tough. Turn to a kinder, gentler technique -- and one that smells good, too -- and remove the “enemy” that stands between you and a clear wall.

1 Spread a drop cloth or old blanket on the floor to absorb the drips that accompany this project. Remove outlet covers and cover the openings with masking or painters tape.

2 Move and rotate the wallpaper scorer over the wall, exerting enough pressure so that you hear small popping noises. This means that the scorer is punching tiny holes in the paper, which allows the solution to dissolve the wallpaper glue underneath. When you're done, there should be a consistent pattern of holes across the wallpaper. Alternatively, you may wish to score only one-half or one-quarter of the wall at a time because if the paper is difficult to remove, then it may be because you haven’t “popped” enough holes in the paper.

3 Fill the spray bottle halfway with fabric softener; fill the other half with hot water. The hotter the water, the more effectively the solution can remove the wallpaper. Wrap a small towel around the spray bottle if it's too hot to handle. Shake the bottle until the two elements are combined.

4 Spray no more than a 3-foot section of the scored wall at a time with the hot solution. Adjust the sprayer to the mid-point so that the solution is emitted somewhere between a faint mist and a hard stream. Let the solution sit on the wall for about 15 minutes.

5 Scrape the wallpaper from the wall with a putty knife, loosening pieces of a 3-foot section from end to end -- at at places in between -- and then lifting the paper from the wall.

6 Evaluate your progress after working on the first section of wall. If the wallpaper does not come off easily, you either need to make more holes with the scorer or use hotter water along with the fabric softener.

7 Make a sudsy wall wash with a mild detergent or dish soap and warm water in a bucket. Clean the wall and remove any leftover wallpaper glue splotches with a sponge. Rinse the wall with a wet sponge and let it dry before moving on to your next “mission.”

Items you will need

  • Drop cloth or old blanket
  • Masking or painters tape
  • Wallpaper scoring tool
  • Spray bottle
  • Fabric softener
  • Small towel (optional)
  • Putty knife
  • Mild detergent or dish soap
  • Bucket
  • Sponge

Tips

  • Some people prefer mixing the fabric softener and hot water in a painting tray, then applying the solution to the wall with a small roller. Try this method, if you wish, but keep in mind that the solution will cool off faster in the tray than in the spray bottle, which will make the removal more time-consuming.
  • When removing wallpaper you can work from the top of the wall down or the bottom up. Working from the top down offers the advantage of allowing some of solution to slide down the wall, possibly making the removal process go faster as you work your way down the wall. Working from the bottom up should allow you to consistently lift and remove the paper from the wall in a sheet. Try it both ways and decide which strategy you prefer.

Photo Credits

  • Gary Houlder/Lifesize/Getty Images