Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links, which means I may make a commission if you decide to make a purchase through one of my links, at no cost to you.
Stripping in the bathroom. Got your attention? Good. Now get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about removing wallpaper!
When I bought my house a year and a half ago, I naively thought I could remove the hideous wallpaper that covered FIVE rooms without much effort. No big, I thought. A little hot water/fabric softener/stain remover/insert-product-here and it will be smooth sailing. Famous last words.
Over the next year and a half, I successfully removed the wallpaper from one wall in the guest bedroom. The rest of the rooms — both upstairs bathrooms, my kitchen, and dining room — were hopelessly fused to paper. Trying to “dry peel” it off the wall would typically tear into quarter-sized pieces. Every now and then, I’d catch a good one – something bigger than my palm would begin to fall off the wall. And then I’d hit a point where the paper would take the drywall with it in massive, gouged strips..
Every attempt at using a scoring tool, wetting it down with white vinegar (or fabric softener), or tearing at it in a blind rage would leave me in a defeated, infuriated mess. I would then usually leave the room in frustration with tiny pieces of paper stuck to my bare feet and cursing the wall’s existence.
After time, I just gave up. I focused on other rooms that didn’t have a paper barrier thwarting every attempt at modernizing my home. Inevitably though, I would be reminded that I’d have to find a solution someday if I ever wanted this house to look the way I saw it in my head. I’d brush my teeth each morning staring at my previous failed attempts – and sigh a long, sad, defeated breath. What a good way to start each day, right? Reminding myself that I’d failed. Hard.
Removing stubborn wallpaper: finally, a real solution!
A year and a half later, I gave it one last try. I’m not sure how I heard about Safe and Simple, but the name stuck with me. Why not, I figured – the gamble would cost me less than $10. It was a bummer that it wasn’t available at my local hardware store or on the standard websites I typically order from, but I was glad to find something with great reviews that might actually… work??
When it arrived, I didn’t even take it out of the box for two months. I was sure I’d be the unlucky one with the world’s most ineradicable of wallpapers and I wanted to delay the inevitable crying fit that I knew would follow. My wallpaper was probably sticking around for good, and I’d have no choice but to paint over it. That image of painted-over wallpaper in my head insisted just please, wait a little longer to open the box.
Then, the day finally arrived and I couldn’t use the excuse anymore. I poured a tiny bit of the solution into a spray bottle. And added lots of water (this stuff is highly concentrated and requires suspension in water to work, so it’s important to dilute it). Since the product had the words “non-toxic” and “biodegradable” all over it, I didn’t bother using any rubber gloves or eye protection. And since I’d filled the sprayer using the primary bathroom sink, I saved myself the trouble (sheer laziness) of picking up my feet and turned to the wall I was facing.
I started spraying. I began first on the wall directly across from the vanity and toilet and aimed directly at a visible seam in the wallpaper. Then, I waited. Not long, and not for the recommended 15 minutes as it directs on the bottle, but I showed a small amount of patience (though I really wanted to just tear away as usual).
1. Peel off the top portion of thick wallpaper first
Then, I grabbed a small piece with my fingernail and pulled. The top layer of the paper came away, but the fuzzy bottom layer of the old wallpaper remained stuck to the wall. It reminded me of old sticker residue or the fuzzy edge of torn construction paper. I don’t think that the paper separation really had much to do with the solution because the paper backing was still very dry. Perhaps it was a combination of pulling the paper at an angle away from the papered edge (about 45 degrees) and pulling more slowly (I was hopeful instead of frustrated as usual). By not peeling down to the specific layer where glue meets drywall, very little gouging took place. I’m sure this matters since I know there are probably different methods for different types of wallpaper (traditional wallpaper vs. new wallpaper will probably have varying degrees of success).
The manufacturer’s instructions on the bottle confirm that you want the bottom paper layer to remain. It’s here that the remover solution can work its magic. The topmost is the more durable layer of wallpaper, but the remaining paper is absorbent and allows the solution to fully soak. Saturate the wall completely to get those glue proteins to break down.
I just allowed it to drip where it may as I sprayed. When you do this, you’ll probably want to take more precautions than I did and cover the floor, because it is meant to disintegrate glue proteins. Just because it’s non-toxic, doesn’t mean it won’t remove what you want to stay!
2. Soak the lower portion twice
Now that the paper layer was fully soaked, I let it sit. While I waited, I just started peeling more paper. I wound up repeating each part: peel the wallpaper, spray; peel more wallpaper, spray. Working through small sections at a time. Often, by the time I finished carefully peeling the top layer of wallpaper and fully soaking it down, the first section I’d already sprayed was ready for a second soaking. You may want to consider a drop cloth or towels around your baseboards, but I skipped it (laziness again? or just nothing to lose on that floor that also needs replacing anyway? You decide.) I sprayed each section twice before trying to peel off the remaining paper.
Then, I held my breath — and slowly peeled the wet paper layer off the wall!
To my utter astonishment, it came off clean! No scraper or putty knife necessary. No cursing. And no walking away in a huff. Time for a happy dance. The solution also doesn’t feel like harsh chemical stripper; there’s a slight residue because I used my bare hands, but no skin sensitivity to it.
3. Peel wallpaper from the bottom
I found that starting the wallpaper removal process from the bottom & up peeled it off faster and easier than any other direction. At the end of my second evening working on the bathroom, it’s finally getting done.
Next on the to-do list is to remove the last of the paper from the primary bathroom, cover previous damage with joint compound, sand, prime, and paint. I’ll probably then move on to the guest bath (since my full-time day job creates a need for a working shower at all times, I must complete one bathroom before starting the other). From there, the dining room and kitchen wallpaper. The small bottle of Safe and Simple 603 that I purchased is supposed to be able to do four rooms, but we’ll see how that goes. Chances are, my double-soak method will leave me needing a little more at the end. If that’s the case, it’s only another $10 — well worth the satisfaction I feel right now!
Disclaimer: While I’m whole-heartedly endorsing this product, I was not compensated for this review. Word of mouth is the sincerest form of
flattery marketing, so when I find a product that actually works, I tell my friends! For safety reasons, it is important that you read all of the label before trying this product out for yourself. Protect your eyes for the simple reason that you only have two, and they look better in pairs. Mmkay?