Recently I was working away at removing wallpaper in a 1950′s home. It was one of those wallpaper jobs where nothing wanted to come off the wall. I was getting paper off in 1″ chunks and starting to get frustrated.
If you have ever removed wallpaper you probably know what I am talking about. You probably also know that there are numerous gimmicks and gadgets at the home store to supposedly help you remove wallpaper. Some of these things are Diff, which is a special solution that is supposed to make wallpaper come right off. There are also Tiger Claws, which put little holes in the walls and allow for moisture to penetrate to the glue behind the paper. Another popular option is to steam the paper off the wall with a wallpaper steamer.
None of these three options are worth a nickle on stubborn wallpaper. Diff really works no better than hot water. Tiger Claws work, but don’t put enough holes in the paper to allow enough water to penetrate to the glue and you have to skim coat the wall when you are done to fill in all the pin sized holes. And wallpaper steamers work, but are way to slow.
So, back to my story. I was removing wallpaper and I had an Ah Ha! kind of moment. I was thinking how could I take the idea of the Tiger Claw and take it to the next level. Then I pulled out my random orbital sander, put the dust catcher on the back and put on a 60 grit sanding disk. I then sanded a 10′ long wall in about 10 minutes. What this did was put tens of thousands of tiny scratches in the wallpaper without going all the way through and damaging the wall. Now the wallpaper had a porous surface.
Next I took a spray bottle (one that sprayed continuously, not a hand pump) and sprayed the whole wall with water. This took about 3 minutes. I let the water soak in and I repeated two more times. Once the wallpaper wouldn’t suck up any more water and it sat on the surface, I took my scraper and just like I though. The wallpaper came off the wall in huge strips! I was able to remove the entire 10′ wall worth of paper in about 25 minutes. Total time spent on the wall, about 45 minutes. I had been on pace for about an 1/2 – 1 full hour per linear foot, so 5-10 hours.
This method works by allowing the water to penetrate to the glue that is holding the wallpaper to the wall. All wallpaper glue is water based, so when water saturates the glue again, it becomes soft and releases the paper.
When I was done, the wall was completely undamaged and I was a really happy worker.