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Can You Paint Over Wallpaper Glue?

July 28, 2021

While some people may love the look of wallpaper in their home, others may not. Contractors, homeowners and do-it-yourself lovers often dread having to remove wallpaper and wallpaper glue residue from their walls in order to paint. It seems like a time-consuming process, leaving people wanting to cut corners like painting over any leftover wallpaper glue.

A Sticky Situation: Leftover Wallpaper Glue

If you’re looking to complete a home renovation project or are wanting to switch up your interior design, you’re likely eager to get to the finished result. This means that after you have removed wallpaper leftover by the home's previous owner, you may be left wondering whether you really need to remove the leftover glue residue from your wall or if you can paint over it.

The good news is that wallpaper glue can easily be painted over.

What Is Wallpaper Glue?

Wallpaper glue (often called wallcovering adhesive or wallpaper paste) is a strong adhesive that is meant to hold wall coverings like vinyl paper in place. It comes either as a powder that needs to be mixed with water to form the solution, or you can purchase it pre-mixed. When wallpaper is installed, the adhesive is applied in an even, thin layer across the wallpaper, then sealed to the wall using a seam roller. Therefore, some leftover residual glue may remain on the wall after any old wallpaper is removed. This residue can feel tacky to the touch and may leave a wall's surface feeling rough rather than smooth.

It’s important to note that most wallpaper glues are water-based. This means that any old glue can typically be reduced - and removed - using water.

How To Paint Over Wallpaper Glue

What You'll Need

  • Painters tape
  • Plastic sheets or tarps
  • A sponge
  • Hot water
  • Vinegar
  • Fabric softener
  • An electric sander or piece of sandpaper
  • Paint in the colour of your choice
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint roller
  • Wall spackle or joint compound
  • Putty knife

1. Remove Dated Wallpaper

The first step to painting directly over wallpaper glue is to first remove the old wallpaper.

Most wallcoverings like vinyl wallpaper can be removed using a steamer, hot water, or spray bottle. While some may find removing wallpaper to be easy, others may be overwhelmed by the job - especially if their entire home is covered in wallpaper. Consider employing professional wallpaper installers to remove the wallpaper for you.

After removing wallpaper, you will notice that there is a coat of sticky adhesive left on the surface of your walls. This is mixing glue left from your wallpaper.

2. Prepare The Area

Before you begin removing the glue residue, take the time to prepare the area for your work. Removing and painting over glue can create quite a mess.

Move any furniture away from the area. If that is not possible, cover it with a sheet of plastic. Also, tape both your baseboards and crown moulding with painter’s tape and lay a tarp or sheet over the floor. This will protect your flooring and the rest of your home from drips or any accidents.

3. Remove Excess Glue Residue & Apply Solution

While items like a sponge, bucket and water are typically used in a wallpaper removal job, they can also help remove wallpaper glue that remains on the surface of walls.

In a large bucket, mix hot water with 1 cup of vinegar and a bit of fabric softener. Then dip a sponge in the solution and ring the excess out of it. Too much warm water could soak into framing materials, drywall, and insulation and badly damage your walls. It’s best to keep the amount of water on your sponge to a minimum.

Using the sponge, apply the mixture to the walls to remove any excess glue. The solution will soak into the adhesive and - if you have great luck and the adhesive is water-based - will remove it easily. One coat of solution may not be enough to make a large difference so apply as many as needed, just be careful about how much water is used.

4. Sand Down The Wall

After the wall has been washed, let it completely dry before deciding whether you need to sand it down. Sanding will help remove any thick layers of glue residue and smooth out the surface of the walls. If you notice a thick or uneven skim coating of glue on a wall or walls throughout the entire room, consider using an electric sander or a piece of sandpaper.

While sanding, be careful not to place too much pressure on the wall. Extra pressure behind a sander or piece of sandpaper could lead to you sanding down the surface of your walls, making them uneven in spots.

5. Repair Any Damage To Your Drywall

After the walls of your room have undergone such rigorous treatment, it’s likely that they have cracked or have scrapes on them. Take several minutes to inspect the surface of your walls. If you notice cracks, scraping or chips out of the drywall, you should take the necessary steps to repair it before you start painting. If left untreated, your paint job may look uneven or poorly done.

Take some wall tackle or joint compound and apply it to one side of the putty knife. Don't be too generous with the amount as you only need enough to cover the damage to the drywall. Hold the knife at an angle and drag it over the damaged areas. Go over the area several times to ensure that the putty fills the cracks completely. After this has dried, sand down any uneven patches of mud to smooth out the surface of the walls.

6. Prime The Wall With An Oil-Based Primer

The next step in painting over wallpaper glue is to apply an oil-based primer to all the walls that are going to be pained. This is a very important step and should not be skipped. When water-based wallpaper glue comes in contact with paint it reactivates, creating a sticky mess. As a result, a thick layer of paint and glue mixture will be left on your wall. In order to avoid creating such a mess, an impenetrable layer of primer or sealant needs to be placed on the walls.

Apply several coats of primer to the whole wall that you would like to paint. The primer you use should be oil-based because a water-based primer also risks the possibility of reactivating the wallpaper glue. Ensure that each coat dries thoroughly before applying the next. After two or three coats of primer are applied to the room, you can begin painting.

7. Paint Over Wallpaper Glue

Make sure to use oil-based paint like Benjamin Moore to paint over wallpaper glue. Just like the primer, any paint that has a base made out of water risks reactivating the wallpaper glue.

Apply several coats of paint while taking the time to let each layer dry completely before applying the next.

White Spots On Painted Walls

After you have finished painting over wallpaper glue, you may have noticed that there are white spots flecked throughout the paint. These are pieces of wallpaper glue that have managed to escape the primer and paint and risen to the top. You could attempt to apply another skim coat of paint over the area to cover the white areas flecked throughout the paint.

Consider Your Other Options

Rather than taking the time and effort to remove wallpaper glue and paint over it, there are many other options available to you. These alternatives require less work than painting over wallpaper glue and can still transform your room entirely.

  • Install wood panelling over the area. This option is best for those who have wallpaper only in one area of their home. It will provide a quick fix and will create a focal point in the room.
  • Remove old wallpaper and install new wallpaper. A professional wallpaper installation company can easily remove old wallpaper and install a new one over top. This will allow homeowners to remove old, dated wallpaper with a timeless one to their liking.
  • Apply a skim coat of drywall joint compound onto the surface of the entire wall. If you are not into sanding, try to apply an even layer of drywall joint compound to the walls with leftover wallpaper glue. This mud will act as a primer and provide you with a new surface to paint on.