If you have ever taken down wallpaper before, you can understand my sentiment right now. Frustration. Exhaustion. Dejection. Forget climbing Everest or doing Bikram yoga every day for 30 days: if you want to find out what you’re made of and push yourself to the limit, take down two layers of wallpaper on the walls and ceiling beams of a room.
There are all sorts of ways to tear down wallpaper, but we opted to go as chemical-free as possible. Our house was built in 1850 and that pretty much ensures there’s some kind of mold growing somewhere in it, plus who knows what kind of asbestos or other stuff we’re inhaling just by being in it. So first we scored the walls using a $8 wallpaper scorer from Lowe’s (see below photo). It has little wheels that help you roll it over the wall, with little pins that live holes in the wallpaper but don’t damage the wall behind it. Then I made my own organic wallpaper removal solution, taking 1 cup of organic white vinegar and 3 cups of water and mixing them in a bucket. I grabbed a nice thick sponge and thoroughly soaked a test section of the wallpaper. I let it sit for a few minutes to soak in before trying to take it off, first by gently pulling and then using a $10 wallpaper scraper from Lowe’s (also in the photo below). I noticed this particular wallpaper had two “layers” to it: the outer, colorful layer and the papery-glue layer behind it. The outer part came off easily but the bottom layer was barely damp. That dictated my style for removing the wallpaper in the room: remove the outer layer first, soak the bottom layer, then remove the bottom layer. (Keep in mind, by the way, there were two wallpapers on the wall– one glued on top of the other.)
My tips for removing wallpaper:
1. Be patient. It is a huge pain, yes, but just keep at it until you want to pull your hair out. When you’re at a nine on the scale of zero to what-the-eff-am-I-doing, take a breather and congratulate yourself on how much you’ve already done.
2. Immediately put the wallpaper you strip in the garbage– don’t let it fall on the floor. It still has glue on it and will stick to the floor if it dries. (Yes, I learned this the hard way.)
3. Don’t soak a larger area than you can scrape off in 15 minutes. Scrape as you go. It’s just annoying to have to re-soak if it’s already drying, and you don’t want to risk damaging your wall.
4. Just assume your fingernail polish will look hideous by the end. Aka: don’t get your nails done the day before you de-wallpaper. (Learned this the hard way: you will end up scraping off bits with your nails and totally ruining the polish.)
Needless to say, it took hours, but I finally got it all off the walls. The ceiling beams are untouched and the walls aren’t perfectly clean yet– that will have to wait for another day– but I am proud of myself and proud of how some elbow grease can make a huge difference!