The best way to strip wallpaper

Last time I stripped wallpaper, about nine years ago, I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, we were in the middle of a heatwave and the entire house needed stripping of ancient wallpaper before it could be skim-coated.  Oh and every sash window had been nailed shut.  I used a steamer, which did the job but was a pretty unpleasant experience. My skin was certainly glowing after multiple daily facials...  

So this time round, I was keen to see if there was a better way.  i had a wall of fairly recently applied wallpaper to remove in order to have some cabinets fitted in a laundry room, plus a stretch of textured Anaglypta-type paper in the hall.  A bit of research revealed that Polycell Wallpaper Stripper yielded good results, so I ordered a couple of bottles, along with a wallpaper perforator and a pressure sprayer.


Roll the perforator back and forth over the wall to create holes in the paper for the solution to penetrate.  This one is a Silverline 245130 Wallpaper Perforator.  The spokes are pretty ferocious so keep it safely out of reach of children! I read some warnings that if you are too heavy handed with it, it will leave indentations in the plaster, but I did not find this to be an issue.

Dilute the wallpaper stripping solution according to the instructions.  A bottle makes a lot of solution and would be easily enough to strip a large room.  The instructions say that it can be sponged on, but I used a sprayer for ease and speed. This one is a Spear & Jackson 5 litre Pump Action Pressure Sprayer.  Use face and eye protection, especially if using the sprayer.

It's really quick: spray, making sure the paper is well soaked, wait 10 minutes, peel off. You can use a decorator's scraper to help ease the paper off (the kind with a proper replaceable blade screwed in), in which case, make sure you hold it at a shallow angle to the wall to prevent it gouging into the plaster.

As you can hopefully see from the above, the modern wallpaper came off in sheets; it was a very quick and easy job and created little mess as the paper could be put straight into a bin bag as it came off the wall.  Where it was still sticking a little, I simply resprayed that area and gave it a couple more minutes, rather than scraping away at it with the blade.  The plaster underneath was completely unharmed so can now be scrubbed clean of any residue and repainted.

I won't lie to you: removing the Anaglypta was a lot more challenging.  The painted surface is a lot harder to penetrate (which is also true if you are using a steamer), plus, the plaster-work was older and had been lined first, so there were two layers of paper to get through.  In this case, I used a blade to score the paper (being very careful to go through the paper only!) and then followed up with the perforator, to ensure the best possible penetration.  Be aware that Anaglypta is often hiding dodgy plaster, so only remove it if you are willing and able to confront what lies beneath! 

Verdict:  I do think that the wallpaper stripping solution was more pleasant and effective and less disruptive than using a steamer.  Certainly for removing smooth modern paper, it's a no-brainer, and I'd say even for tougher stuff it's worth having in your arsenal.   The total cost is very low (a few pounds for the solution, about £8 each for the sprayer and perforator, each of which will obviously be reused).  Now just need to consider whether to remove the rest of the Anaglypta (which follows the stair wall below dado level over three stories!)...