How to Easily Remove Wallpaper {DIY Tutorial}

Today I have a very handy, easy tutorial for those of you living in 1970’s ranch homes with wallpaper. I know you’re out there. We can’t be alone in choosing to buy a wood-paneled, wallpapered house because we saw potential.

Now, this tutorial can cover 2 different scenarios that happen when removing wallpaper. The first scenario is you remove wallpaper and find beautiful, intact drywall behind it. The second scenario is when you remove wallpaper and end up ripping off the top layer of drywall with it.

Guess which happened to us?

The second scenario, of course. I’ll never forget the moment we finished ripping off all the wallpaper and Daniel looks to me and says, “I think we need to replace the drywall…”


Do you know how much work that would be? No thank you.

So, I googled around, and took some tips from a few sources to come up with this tutorial. Now, I’ve done all the steps, so I can attest to the fact that it works. It does take lots of elbow grease, but the results will add value to your home.

Supplies (now there’s an item or 2 on here that is non-negotiable…please just trust me on this!)

-Spray bottle (I like to buy mine from the travel section at Walmart for 88 cents)

-Warm water

-Downy or dish soap

-Medium grit sanding block/pad (I bought the one I used for this at Dollar Tree- 2 for $1)

-Fine grit sanding block/pad (I bought name brand 3M for this, about $4)

-Wall texture (you can use/rent/borrow a sprayer + buy texture, or buy the water based wall texture sprays cans by Homax at Lowe’s or Walmart for about $12 each)

-Joint compound (about $3 for a quart’s worth at Walmart)

-Paint roller + foam paint roller cover

-Zinsser Bulls Eye Water Based Primer (NON-NEGOTIABLE!! About $19 at Home Depot/Lowe’s/Walmart)

-Paint color of your choice

-Wallpaper scraper ($4-$7 depending on whatcha buy…I love the one below and it’s about $7)

-Trash can, tarp, etc. for disposal and floor/area protection

Total Cost: Around $100+

You start with an ugly wallpapered wall:


Step 1: In your spray bottle mix about 1 part Downy or dish soap to 4 parts water. It’s not a science. I always just did 2 pumps or squeezes of dish soap and filled my spray bottle with warm water. No biggie. Spray about 4×4 foot sections at a time and start peeling paper off. Try to get it down in big pieces/panels. If it’s being really pesky, use your wallpaper scraper.

Step 2: After you have 99% of your wallpaper removed, you’re ready to move on. Now, it’s important to try to get MOST of the wallpaper off, but do not kill yourself trying to get every bit off. It’s just not worth the effort. Let’s say that your wallpaper has been up for DECADES and rips off the top protective layer of drywall and looks like fuzzy cardboard.


You will panic. You may want to cry. You may ask yourself why you get yourself into these messes. You could have lived with the wallpaper. WHY???

I understand, and I felt that way, too.


Now, put on your big girl panties and let’s do this. Grab your medium grit sanding block and lightly sand the fuzzies and the uneven patches. LIGHTLY. Don’t create more work for yourself and be ferocious with it. Lightly. Almost like you’re barely skimming it.


Step 3: So once you’ve sanded your fuzzy wall into a peach fuzz like wall, you’re ready to prime your wall with Zinsser. PLEASE USE ZINSSER. I am cheap, I know you want to save a buck, but the Zinsser Bulls Eye primer is so affordable. Please buy it. I did 2 coats over my peach fuzz walls. Let it dry. Have some wine.


Step 4: Now, take your joint compound and apply to any areas that need major repair work in the drywall. We had this funky cracked portion under the light switches and the corners were all screwy, so I just used my fingers and slathered it on. It doesn’t matter if it’s goopy or lumpy because you’ll sand it baby-butt-smooth soon. Bear with me.


Step 5: Once your joint compound has dried (I usually give it 4 hours or so), lightly sand it smooth with your fine grit sandpaper. This part creates mucho dust, so you might want to wear a face mask/respirator. I didn’t because I was too lazy to walk to the garage.


Step 6: Now your walls are ready for texture. We did an orange peel texture on them…it’s a little more textured than I’d like, but it worked well to make the walls “even”. Like I mentioned earlier, you have 2 choices for texture. We have a Wagner texture sprayer that works well for us because we’re doing other drywall projects in the near future. However, if this is the only project you’ll need wall texture for, you might be better off buying a few cans of this item:

We found them at Walmart, actually, for about $12 a can for the water based texture (which is what you want). I would say a small bathroom would need 3-4 cans, so it can get pricey. Up to you as to how much or how little you want to texture your walls. I know someone will ask me if walls HAVE to be textured. Up to you. We’ve removed wallpaper in 2 areas of our home, and the walls were never in good enough shape to not texture. Use your own judgment/preference to decide what to do.


Once you apply texture, it helps to have a paper towel handy to blot down any areas that may be too lumpy/concentrated. It’s also easy to tell when it’s wet/dry. Once it’s dry, it’ll look white and blend in with your primer. Wet tends to look blue or gray depending on what kind of texture you use. I would say to be safe, let your texture dry over night.

Step 7: Prime your walls one more time using the Zinsser Bulls Eye primer. You should have plenty of primer left to do this.

Step 8: Paint your walls any color you’d like, or you could even be a total glutton for punishment and stencil like I did (and I won’t ever do that again…)


And you’re done! This can be a tedious, long process, but it isn’t really hard. It is elbow grease, patience and various steps. I’ve worked on my bathroom for about 4 weekends in a row now and only 2 of those weekends were used up on the wallpaper removal process (the other 2 were used up on stenciling).

Hope this helps! A small $100 project can add lots of value to your home while making it more modern and wallpaper free. My full reveal will be up in a few weeks- I can’t wait to show you all!

Any questions? Leave them in the comments or e-mail me.



  1. marty (A Stroll Thru Life)
    July 23, 2012 / 2:19 pm

    Great tutorial. I so remember that I had all those wallpapered walls. So sorry for the people that bought my house. Hugs, Marty

  2. megdanielle
    July 27, 2012 / 1:11 am

    I just got to this site so if you've mentioned this in another post, I'm not there yet! You have a textured wall – but could you have a smooth wall if you just resprayed to get off the backing? The 1962 ranch with wallpaper all over that my husband and I are looking to purchase (I laughed and almost cried when I read that in your post!) is head to toe wallpaper!

  3. 26.2x35
    February 21, 2014 / 8:58 pm

    Your blog has saved me! I almost hyperventilated when I saw what our walls were looking like under the wallpaper, and yes, 70's style ranch here too. Thank God for google and your blog! I was able to tell hubby to calm down because someone else has fixed it before and has a list of stuff with instructions. Thank you, thank you thank you! You now have a faithful follower. I also love the gray color in your living room and am planning to do that color in my kitchen over the lovely 70's style panel boards.Keep bloggin!