Whether you’re looking to refurbish a tired interior or just moved into a home with shocking wall-coverings, you may need to strip away old wallpaper.
Fortunately, with the help of hot steam and this handy guide on how to use a wallpaper steamer, you’ll be stripping those ugly walls in no time.
What is a Wallpaper Steamer?
The simplest way to describe a wallpaper steamer is to think of it as a giant kettle. It has a tank you fill with water that heats up and slowly boils, releasing steam through a hose into a large plate that directs it onto the wall.
This steam then helps to melt away the wallpaper adhesive and, as such, allows you to pull the paper away from the wall with ease. Much like opening an envelope over a kettle. Not that we recommend that, mind.
Using a wallpaper steamer to strip wallpaper saves time and makes the job much easier. Alternative methods involve buying expensive stripping products or dedicating a lot of time.
Steaming is how the professionals do it, and depending on how many rooms you need to tackle, it can be a worthwhile investment.
Choosing the Right Wallpaper Steamer
There are many different brands of wallpaper steamers. At first glance, they can all appear the same. To help you pick the best steamer, we recommend considering these four points:
- Water Tank Capacity — The larger the tank, the longer the running time before refilling.
- Power — A higher wattage means more power and quicker heat-up times.
- Size of Steaming Plate — The bigger the plate, the bigger the surface area you can tackle.
- Length of Hose — A longer hose is important for rooms with high ceilings and taller walls.
Tools & Materials
- Wallpaper Steamer
- Wide Stripping Knife
- Protective Floor and Furniture Coverings
- Sugar Soap
How To Use a Wallpaper Steamer — Step-by-Step Instructions
1. Prepare the Work Area
Since we’ll be melting adhesive (sticky stuff!) and dealing with water, you’ll want to protect any floors and furniture around where you’ll be working. Lay plastic sheets throughout and cover larger items of furniture.
We also recommend covering plug sockets and light switches as well, and it’s also a good idea to open a window or two to allow steam to escape so as not to cause any condensation issues.
2. Test the Wallpaper
Wallpaper is often made with two layers, and depending on the type of paper used, the top layer will usually pull away on its own without the need for steam.
Using your scraper, cut into the wallpaper to lift an edge and see if you can easily pull this away with your hands. If you can, remove as much of it as possible.
3. Dampen the Wallpaper
Turn on the wallpaper steamer and wait a few minutes for it to heat up. As it’s much like a kettle, depending on how much water is in it, this could take a little while. You’ll know it’s ready when steam starts coming out of it. Hold the endplate of the steamer onto the wallpaper for around 20–30 seconds until it looks visually dampened.
Pro Tip: Ensure not to over-steam the wallpaper, as this can cause damage to the plaster beneath.
4. Strip the Wallpaper
Once the steam has soaked into the wallpaper, you can use a wallpaper-stripping-knife to push the paper off the wall. The wetter the wallpaper is, the easier this will be.
We recommend dampening only a small area at a time; otherwise, it may re-dry before you get around to stripping it. If the wallpaper isn’t removed easily, apply the steamer for longer.
Eventually, as you get more confident using the steamer, try multi-tasking steaming and stripping simultaneously. Use the steamer with one hand and strip with the other.
Pro Tip: Try scoring several large X shapes into the wallpaper first for easier removal with the stripping knife.
5. Wash Down the Walls
Once you’ve removed all the wallpaper, you’ll need to wash away any adhesive residue and smaller wallpaper flecks left behind.
For this, use sugar soap mixed with hot water and a cloth to wipe down the wall. Once the walls have thoroughly dried, you’re ready for re-decorating.
And that’s it! Five simple steps to stripping your walls with a wallpaper steamer. The more rooms you tackle, the faster you’ll get.
If you’d like to see this process in action, watch the video below from HSS Hire:
How To Use a Wallpaper Steamer — Final Thoughts
Investing in a wallpaper steamer is worthwhile, particularly if you have multiple rooms to strip. Trust me, you won’t regret it, and you’ll never go back to wallpaper stripping without one!
For information about removing unwanted decor, check out our guide to stripping paint.