How to Use a Wallpaper Steamer To Strip Your Walls in 6 Easy Steps

Whether you’re revamping your tired interior or you’ve recently invested in a renovation project, you may find yourself needing to strip away some worn-out wallpaper. While it might sound like a daunting task to tackle that pesky paper, it doesn’t need to be. With the right tools, it can be much easier and quicker than you’d think. Fortunately, you don’t need to hire professionals because there’s a simple tool that can get the job done – a wallpaper steamer. With our easy step-by-step guide, we’ll help you remove your old wallpaper with a steamer in a flash.

What is a wallpaper steamer?

A wallpaper steamer is a steam stripping device that makes it easier to remove wallpaper from your walls. The combination of heat and steam helps to break down and loosen the paste that’s used to keep the wallpaper attached to the wall or ceiling.

How does a wallpaper steamer work?

Essentially, a wallpaper steamer works like a kettle. The main body of the steamer is a tank that has a heating element incorporated into it. Once it’s filled with water, just like a kettle, it brings the water to boiling point and funnels the steam onto the flat plate. This then directs the steam onto your wallpaper and helps to remove that stubborn paper that just won’t come off.

How to determine what type of walls you have

Before we start gathering our tools and beginning the removal process, firstly we have to establish what type of walls you have underneath the paper. The type of wall that you have will dictate how long you’ll be able to hold the steamer on the wall before it causes any damage. In most cases, people will have one of two options:

Plaster — Plaster is applied to the surface of the inner wall which would be either brick, concrete blocks or stone,

Plasterboard or drywall — In many newer properties, wallpaper is applied directly over plasterboard or drywall partition walls.

To determine what type of walls you have, there’s a fairly simple test you can do the knock test. If you gently tap on the wall and hear a dull, solid thud you’ll be working with plaster on brick, block or stone. If you hear a hollow sound when you tap, you’ll most likely be dealing with a plasterboard or drywall type of wall.

What’s the difference between porous and non-porous wallpaper?

For your wallpaper steamer to be effective and loosen the paper from the wall, the steam has to be able to penetrate through the paper and soften the adhesive. To do this, you’ll now have to determine what type of wallpaper you have: porous or non-porous.

Porous wallpaper

Porous wallpaper will absorb water quickly and loosen the wallpaper up, making it very easy to strip this type of paper off the wall. Some common types of porous wallpaper include:

Woodchip — This type of wallpaper consists of small wood chips that are bonded to basic backing paper. Once the wallpaper is hung, it’s normally painted.

Lining paper — This is used as a base layer to cover any imperfections in a wall or to cover any strong existing colours. Once lining paper is hung, it’s usually either painted or decorative paper is hung over it.

Pulp paper — This paper is the most commonly used type of pattern paper. They’re generally a lot easier to hang and strip compared to other types of paper.

Hand printed — Arguably the most traditional form of paper, hand-printed wallpaper is hung on a wall and then the pattern is physically printed on using large print blocks.

Non-porous wallpaper

Some wallpaper has a decorative, non-porous layer which means you’ll have to roughen the surface so that the water or solution can penetrate and dissolve the adhesive. Some non-porous wallpaper includes:

Vinyl coated — A pattern is printed onto a very thin plastic or vinyl film which is then bonded to a backing paper.

Standard vinyl — The vinyl or plastic coating is much thicker and much harder wearing than vinyl-coated paper. This type of paper is great for bathrooms or kitchens as it’s mostly water-resistant.

Washable paper — Essentially, washable paper comprises standard pulp paper which then has a plastic coating stuck over the top. This then allows it to be wiped down with a damp cloth.

Blown vinyl — This type of paper is very similar to the embossed type of paper mentioned above, however, it features an additional plastic topcoat that makes it much tougher and longer-lasting.

The tools and materials you’ll need

Before you begin removing your wallpaper, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve got all the right tools and materials. You’ll need –


• Wallpaper steamer

• Putty knife or paint scraper

• Scoring tool


• Plastic sheets

• Masking tape

• Soapy water

• Cloth

Safety equipment:

• Safety goggles

• Gloves

• Long sleeve t-shirt

Once you’ve gathered these items then it’s time to get to work.

How to prepare your room for wallpaper removal

Since we’ll be working with melting adhesive, you need to make sure that all surfaces in the room are protected from the dust, soap or water that might be dislodged in the process.

Move furniture out of the way

Trust us when we say, it’s going to get messy! You’ll want to make sure that you move as much furniture as you can out of the room or if that isn’t possible, then move it away from the walls into the center of the room. To avoid your furniture from getting wet or collecting dust, cover it with a protective plastic sheet.

Remove everything from the walls and ceilings

Make sure that everything is taken off the walls, including vents. If you spot any openings, make sure that they’re masked with masking tape and plastic sheets. If possible, make sure that all the electricity is switched off in that room and remove the faceplates from any sockets or switches. This will help you to remove any paper that’s stuck behind them. If this isn’t possible, cover any electric sockets with plastic sheets to prevent moisture from getting into the electrics from the water and steam.

Protect the floors

To protect the floors from harbouring dust or getting wet, it’s best to cover all the floors and skirting boards with plastic sheets. Securely fix it in place with the masking tape and test that the sheet doesn’t move or pull if it’s stepped on. If you find that it does, just apply a little more masking tape until it’s sturdy.

Open the windows

Since we’re going to be working with steam, make sure that any windows in the room are open to allow the steam to escape. The last thing we want is a build-up of condensation on or around the windows.

How to use a wallpaper steamer step-by-step

1. Score the paper

If the wallpaper has a vinyl finish or has been painted, you’ll most likely have to score the paper first with a scoring tool. By perforating the paper, it’ll help the steam to penetrate the wallpaper quicker and loosen the wallpaper paste. A scoring tool will make the job of perforating the paper a lot quicker, especially if you’ve got several rooms you need to strip. Take care not to press too hard so that your tool goes through to the other side, causing damage to the wall and plaster underneath.

2. Fill the steamer with water

To reduce boiling time, simply fill the steamer with warm water from the tap — and using a jug will make it a lot easier to pour! Plug the steamer in and wait for the water to come to boiling point. You’ll know when it’s ready because you’ll see steam coming from the steam plate. It’s also a good idea to use an old piece of wood or a metal plate to place the steamer on so that it prevents damage to the floor underneath.

3. Start from the top of the wall

Starting from the top of the wall and making your way down, hold the steam plate on the wallpaper for a maximum of 30 seconds. The steam will penetrate through the wallpaper onto the old adhesive paste underneath, and once moistened, will loosen the paper from the wall. If need be, use a scraper to get underneath the paper to scrape it off, but usually, you should be able to remove it with your hands. If the paper is not coming off, hold the steamer to the wall again, but be careful not to leave it on too long as this can cause damage to the wall underneath.

4. Remove the wallpaper from the ceiling

If you’re working overhead, be careful of any hot dripping water that might come from the steam plate. Make sure that your arms are covered and you’re wearing protective gloves and goggles. Also, it’s best to position yourself on one side of the steam plate, not directly under it.

5. Tidy up as you can

If you leave the paper to dry, you’ll find that it can stick to itself and the dust sheet — which can make it even more difficult to remove. It’s best to tidy as you go, that way you’re not allowing a huge mess to pile up.

6. Wash down the walls

Once you’ve removed all the wallpaper, you’ll then need to wash away any of the adhesive residues that are left behind. We’ve broken it down in our simple step-by-step guide to removing wallpaper glue.


How long does a wallpaper steamer take to heat up?

Depending on the make and model of the steamer, as well as how much water is in the container, it roughly takes up to 12 minutes for the system to generate enough steam. A full container should degenerate enough steam to last about 85 minutes.

How to descale a wallpaper steamer?

There are a few different ways you can descale a wallpaper steamer, but essentially you’ll need to:

1. Remove the old water.

2. Add clean, distilled water and a descaler solution into the steamer.

3. Run the stripper until the steamer is half empty and check its effectiveness.

4. Throw away the remaining water and clean the stripper head ready for next use.

How much is a wallpaper steamer?

Depending on whether you’re wanting to rent a steamer and how long for, the price will vary. If you’re looking to purchase a steamer, you’ll have to find the right make and model for your job which will vary in price.

How to remove wallpaper with a steamer? Now you know!

Although it might seem like a daunting task, you can put your newfound wallpaper steamer knowledge to the test. If you need some more inspiration, why not check out our wide range of wall coverings to give your room a well deserved upgrade? Or, if you’re looking for some more helpful tips, head over to our how-to guides to help you with your next interior project.

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