Follow these tips for removing wallpaper without coming unglued.
Wallpaper comes in a stunning array of pleasing patterns, but if the pattern on your walls doesn't qualify as pleasing, the solution may be removing it. Taking off old paper can be daunting, but here's a primer.
First, gather the necessary tools. You will need wallpaper solvent, available at most home-improvement stores. Or you can make your own solvent by mixing hot water with fabric softener. It's wise to have dropcloths or plastic sheeting to protect the area around the walls. You also will need trisodium phosphate, spackling compound, sandpaper, a scraping tool or putty knife, a perforating tool and possibly a wallpaper steamer.
Then remove anything attached to the wall, including artwork and all the face plates from electrical outlets, switches and telephone jacks. Any electrical outlets should be covered with tape so no moisture gets in when you spray solvent on the walls. Cover the floor with the dropcloths or plastic sheeting.
At this point you should test the wallpaper adhesion to see how easy or difficult it is to remove. Some wallpapers will peel off easily while others are stuck to the wall like white on rice. To test the difficulty, start at a corner or a seam and try to peel away the paper. If it comes off easily, you won't need a steamer.
Even if the paper is peeling off easily, you still need to perforate the old wallpaper. A perforating tool is a roller with little spikes that punch holes in the paper. The little holes made by the tool allow the wallpaper solvent to penetrate and unglue the paper from the wall. Don't press too hard with this tool so you don't damage the wall behind the paper. If you are using your own hot water mixed with fabric softener, put this mixture in a spray bottle. Be sure the water is hot and mix a little at a time so you can keep remixing with very hot water.
If you have heavy or old paper that has been on the wall for a long time, you might need to rent a wallpaper steamer. Follow the instructions that come with it. This is a messy job, because there is steam and hot water dripping as you work. You might want to open a window to release some of the heat and steam.
Whether you use a solvent or the steam method, you will need to scrape the paper off the wall. Some of it will peel off, but some won't, so scrape the remainder with a wallpaper scraping tool or a putty knife. Be sure to get the wallpaper and the backing off the wall.
It might be necessary to repair some parts of the wall, and usually spackling compound will do the trick. A little sandpapering might be necessary in some areas.
Then all that's left is the cleanup. Here's where the trisodium phosphate comes in: Use a sponge to wipe down the walls with it and, finally, your job is done.
Now you just have to decide what to put on the walls next.