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Young woman removing wallpaper with scraper and steamer while crouching

How To Use A Wallpaper Steamer To Remove Old Wallpaper

September 29, 2021

If your wallpaper needs refreshing, you will need to remove it before you redecorate. A wallpaper steamer is a useful tool that can help you get the job done. It has the power to loosen the glue and make it easy to remove old wallpaper.

What Is A Wallpaper Steamer?

A wallpaper steamer is a machine that is composed of a water tank and a hose that is attached to a hot plate. The machine converts hot water into steam to soften wallpaper glue and make it easier to remove wallpaper from walls. A steamer can be used on all types of wallpapers including washable wallpaper and peelable wallpaper. A steamer can have difficulties removing non-porous wallpaper, but it can get the job done if the paper's surface is perforated.

What You'll Need:

  • Wallpaper steamer
  • Water
  • Stripping knife, putty knife or scraper
  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Dust sheet
  • Screwdriver
  • Masking tape
  • Optional:
  • Wallpaper scoring tool
  • Pushpin


1. Prep the area

First, you will need to do some prep work on the room that has the wallpaper you would like to remove. This is an important step and should not be skipped because it will protect your walls, furniture and floor from damages.

Lay tarps or dust sheets out over the floors and furniture in the room. Remove the covers from any light switches and electrical outlets. We recommend that you tape the screws and the outlet covers together with masking tape so you know which ones go together.

Wallpaper steamers release a great deal of moisture into a room because they use steam. Before starting to remove wallpaper from your walls, open a window. The open window will ventilate the room and ensure that excess moisture does not become trapped and cause mold to form.

2. Prep the steamer

Before you begin using the wallpaper steamer, it will need to be prepared for use. As previously mentioned, a wallpaper steamer is composed of a water tank, hose and hot plate. You will need to fill the water tank with water for the machine to create the steam.

After you have filled the tank with water, you will need to turn on the machine and wait a few minutes for the heating element to heat up and begin converting the water into steam.

3. Put on your protective personal equipment

Most people think that they do not need to wear any personal protection equipment when they are stripping wallpaper from their walls using a steamer. This misconception can be dangerous and may even put you in harm's way! Steam is hot water that is converted into gas. Steam is typically created by boiling water, meaning it is very hot and can cause burns if you don't take the necessary precautions.

As professional wallpaper installers and removers, we recommend that everyone wear long sleeves, eye protection and rubber gloves when they are removing wallpaper with steam.

4. Use steam to soften the wallpaper adhesive

Once the site is prepared, it’s time to start steaming! Take the steam plate or pad and lift it to the wall that you would like to start stripping paper from. Place the steamer's head flat against the wallpaper and hold it there for a maximum of 30 seconds. During this time, the steam will penetrate the paper surface and begin softening the adhesive or paste underneath.

5. Be mindful of your wall

Don't leave the wallpaper steamer on the walls for too long! Drywall is much more vulnerable to moisture and can easily be damaged by steam. Plaster walls are much more durable, allowing you to strip old wallpaper with ease.

To determine whether there is drywall or plaster beneath the paper, you should test the wall's hardness. For this test, take a push pin and press it into the wall. If the pushpin goes in easily, your walls are made out of drywall. Plasterboard surface is much harder than drywall and, often, a pushpin will need to be hammered into plaster.

Side note: Other wallpaper stripper experts say that you can knock on the surface of the wall and determine its material based on the sound. We don't recommend this method because drywall and plasterboard both have a hollow sound. At the same time, you also may be knocking over a wood stud in the wall, resulting in a deeper sound even if your walls are drywall.

6. Strip wallpaper from the wall

After using the steam plate, it’s time to test the strength of the wallpaper adhesive. While holding the steamer, take a scraper, putty or craft knife in your other hand. Maneuver the tips of the knife underneath the edge of the wallpaper and then try to lift the paper. If you can easily remove the paper from the wall, then you can proceed to strip the paper. If removing paper is difficult, use the wallpaper stripper over the wall to further loosen the paste sticking the paper to the walls.

7. Start removing wallpaper

Once you have determined the correct use of the steamer, start to remove the paper in sections. If you are working in a large area, a wallpaper scoring tool will help make the job go by faster. The scoring tool will lift the edge of the papers and make it easier for the wallpaper stripper or steamer.

Redecorate Your Space

At first glance, removing wallpaper can seem easy. A blog post or online video can offer tips and explain how to use a wallpaper steamer with ease, but it doesn't truly capture how laborious and time-consuming the job can truly be. Be prepared to spend a day - or several - stripping paper from your walls. If you're not ready to dedicate this time, we recommend hiring a professional wallpaper installation and removal company.