How to Remove a Wallpaper Border in 5 Simple Steps

Spray, scrape, and peel away your stubborn wallpaper border

Caroline Gilbert
Written by Caroline Gilbert
Updated September 7, 2022
Victorian dining room with floral wallpaper border
Photo: lawcain / Adobe Stock
Difficulty

Easy

You've got this!

Time to complete

4 hours

How long it takes to remove a wallpaper board depending on the size of the room and how adhered to the wall the covering is.

Cost

$50–$100

Put your money toward future projects.

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What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Spray bottle
  • Putty knife
  • Sponge
  • Perforating tool (optional)
  • Steamer or hairdryer (optional)

SUPPLIES

  • Liquid fabric softener
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloth

Wallpaper can add personalization and a customized look to any room in a home. Wallpaper borders are used to line ceilings, accentuate windows and door frames, or break up the wall in a room. If you have a wallpaper border in your home that doesn’t quite fit your style, you might consider taking it down. 

Fortunately, removing wallpaper borders can often be accomplished in a few simple steps using materials you likely have at home or that can be found in most hardware stores. Discover the tools and materials needed when learning how to remove a wallpaper border to help you get one step closer to achieving a new look in your home.

Steps for Removing Wallpaper Border

If you have an outdated wallpaper border, follow these steps to learn how to remove it yourself and refresh your room.

  1. Determine Your Removal Method and Prepare the Area

    Before you attempt to remove the wallpaper border, first determine how attached it is to the wall. Certain removal projects may require a bit more elbow grease depending on how long the border has been on the wall, the amount of adhesive that was used, and the material of the border.

    Start by applying hot water to a small test area and then peel back the paper from a seal or a corner using your fingernail. If the border peels back easily, simply continue removal by gently peeling back the wallpaper in pieces using your putty knife as leverage, if necessary. If the wallpaper doesn’t budge or is resistant, you will need to soften the wallpaper glue using a solution.

    Before starting your project, here’s how you can prepare the area:

    • Remove all furniture from the room

    • Lay down a drop cloth to protect the floor

    • Turn off the electric

    • Cover any baseboards, electrical outlets, and light switches with painter’s tape

  2. Mix Your Solution and Apply

    Removing old wallpaper border using a spray bottle and solution
    Photo: detry26 / Adobe Stock

    To make your removal solution, combine equal parts of liquid fabric softener and hot water then pour the mixture into a spray bottle. You can also use white vinegar or dish soap to make the mixture or buy a wallpaper stripper solution from the store.

    Spray the border with the wallpaper remover solution onto small sections at a time and then wait for about 10 minutes for the mixture to soak in and soften the glue. You can then attempt to remove the border. Remember, it’s important that your homemade solution stays hot when applying so you may need to reheat it a few times during the project.

  3. Peel Back the Border and Perforate Remaining Pieces

    Man scraping off old wallpaper border
    Photo: detry26 / Adobe Stock

    Gently peel back the border from a corner or seal and continue pulling until you feel resistance. It’s helpful to keep your spray bottle with you and spray behind stubborn areas to fully penetrate the wallpaper glue.

    If you still have remaining pieces of wallpaper border after applying your solution, you may need to try a more aggressive method. You can either use a utility knife or purchase a specific wallpaper scoring tool to puncture through the wallpaper. Creating tiny holes in the wall covering (also known as scoring) is a popular method for larger wallpaper removal projects and can also be used to remove a border. 

    Once you have perforated the area, reapply your solution and wait for about 10 to 15 minutes to allow the mixture to fully soak through and soften the glue. Continue to scrape off the remaining pieces. If your wallpaper border is covering another layer of wallpaper, be prepared to remove bottom layers as well, as the holes from scoring it will most likely poke through all layers.

  4. Apply Heat, If Necessary

    For more stubborn wallpaper borders, apply heat using a clothing steamer, a rented wallpaper steamer, or even a hairdryer to melt the remaining glue. This works for certain wallpaper borders that have been applied using multiple layers of adhesive or are resistant to the scoring method. Remember, if there is wallpaper underneath the border, applying heat will most likely remove the base layer of wallpaper as well. 

    You should then be able to peel back the remaining wallpaper border using your putty knife, plastic scraper, or a specific wallpaper scraper tool found in most hardware stores. 

    If the wallpaper border is still resistant to these methods, you may be working with a particularly stubborn type of wallpaper or wallpaper glue. In this instance, this project may require a professional service to avoid damage to your walls.

  5. Clean the Remaining Adhesive

    Once you have all of the wallpaper off, go over the area and remaining adhesive with your solution and sponge and allow it to soak for another 10 minutes. This allows any remaining wallpaper glue to soften. 

    You can then rub off the glue residue with a towel or use your putty knife to scrape off stubborn wallpaper glue that is still attached. This is a vital step because you will want to start any new project, such as hanging new wallpaper or painting, with walls that are free from any adhesive or residue.

Next Steps

Once you have learned how to remove a wallpaper border and finished your project, start planning the next steps for your room. Check for any holes or damage to the walls and make any necessary repairs with spackle or joint compound. It’s also a good idea to wait a few days before starting any new home improvement projects in the room to ensure the walls are completely dry. 

Once the old wallpaper border has been removed, you can either paint, hang new wallpaper, or add a new wallpaper border. If the room has remaining wallpaper underneath the border you removed, you can either remove what's remaining or even paint over the wallpaper, depending on your style.

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