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How To Remove Wallpaper Glue from Drywall with Fabric Softener

How To Remove Wallpaper Glue from Drywall with Fabric Softener

Determined to remove that stubborn wallpaper no matter how much time it takes? Most of us are aware of how tedious removing wallpaper glue can be. Here's a relatively cheap way to remove it—fabric softener! Yes, fabric softener. One of the most delicate items at the store can be used to tackle one of the toughest jobs.

Who knew that pink kitten wallpaper could be so intimidating and how a product that makes clothes smell good can take the headache out of the process. When fabric softener is applied to walls, it helps break down the glue that's used to stick the wallpaper to the wall. This makes the wallpaper come off much more easily than it usually would and creates more time for you to spend decorating. To remove that unwanted wallpaper, besides patience you're going to need:

  • Hot water (Not quite boiling)
  • Fabric Softener (Any kind will work, Downy is most common)
  • Handheld 2-gallon garden sprayer
  • DIF Concentrate wallpaper remover
  • Hand tool (5-in-1 Hyde tool is suggested)
  • Large sponge
  • Painter's tape
  • Painter's Plastic
  • Ladder
  • Gloves
  • Sandpaper
  • Cloth

Below are the steps needed to take to reach your new, stylish design for those soon to be bare walls.

Before you get started on this task:

Clear the space where you'll be working of furniture. If there's anything heavy or bulky that you can't completely remove from the area, cover it with a plastic tarp. Cover the floors with plastic and tape as much as needed to the baseboard.

Remove all light switch and outlet plates. Cover the openings with plastic.

Important: Turn off the room's electricity. You'll be getting the walls wet, and you don't want to electrocute yourself accidentally!

If you want to take an extra precaution, make sure kids and pets aren't around. It's said that old wallpaper glue can contain toxic fungicides. You could use a mouth cover if this fact freaks you out! Now onto the work.

Step 1: Hand Stripping

Start by removing as much of the old wallpaper as possible just by using your hands. Grab one corner and rip away. Sometimes old wallpaper starts to lift on its own at the seams and in the corners. The more you're able to take off, the easier the next steps will be. Work your way across the wall or around the room, removing as much as it will allow.

man removing old wallpaper from wall by hand

Step 2: Priming

Priming the walls is the next natural step. To do this, take a utility knife and make cuts in the wallpaper. The cuts need to be crisscrossed so the homemade solution can soak through the layers. With the knife, try to pry down just hard enough to pierce through one or two layers.

Alternatively, get a Zinsser wallpaper scoring tool and softly press the device against the wallpaper in order to poke small holes in the wallpaper.

Follow up by washing the walls with a sponge that is soaked in the hottest water your hands can manage. This will loosen the paste on the wallpaper, which keeps it in place. This will make the process go by a lot quicker and sufficiently. Wait several minutes for the hot water to help detach the glue from the wall. You might notice that the adhesive starts to bubble up, and the wallpaper should begin to peel away on its own. Pull off what you can.

Step 3: Fabric Softener

How do I remove wallpaper with fabric softener? What kind should I use? You can use any fabric softener; even the cheapest should do the trick.

  1. Mix 1 part warm water and 1 part softener.
  2. Mix in a spray bottle and spray the wall
  3. Make sure it's saturated enough. Use a wallpaper scoring tool to make small holes in the paper, which will allow the fabric softener mixture to penetrate the wallpaper more easily.
  4. Allow 15 minutes for the solution to soak through the wallpaper and reach the adhesive.
  5. Scrape away!

downy fabric softener and spray bottle

Step 4: Scrape Away

After the 15 minutes is up, grab that paint spatula and begin scraping away. A spatula is the best tool for this. Be sure that you're not only taking off the wallpaper but the glue underneath as well. You may need to apply more solution to some areas. When this step is complete, and everything is removed, allow the wall time to completely dry. This is the longest stage, and it is recommended to wait 24 to 48 hours for complete dryness.

Want to rush the process? You could try plugging in some fans to face the wall or open the windows in the room (only do this if it's nice, dry weather, so you don't bring in more humidity to the room, prolonging the drying process).

After double-checking to see if the walls are dried, sand them down in case of hardened glue residue or remaining wallpaper tags lingering around on those walls. After careful inspection, use a damp cloth and clean up the walls. You can follow behind it with a dry cloth.

man scraping old wallpaper away from wall with scraping tool

Step 5: Decorate!

Whether you are leaning towards painting, covering with wallpaper, or reclaiming it with wood, keep in mind the color and decor scheme for the room itself along with the rest of the house to ensure any changes will blend nicely. Don't forget to pat yourself on the back for the hard work you put in!

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