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How to Take Off Wallpaper from Plaster with a Wallpaper Steamer

Using a wallpaper steamer to remove wallpaper from plaster is a major project but very effective on stubborn paper. Use a wallpaper steamer on plaster walls if you have to remove more than one layer of wallpaper or if the wallpaper has been painted over.

A wallpaper steamer is a hotplate attached to a hose extending from a hot water reservoir that heats the water and directs steam to the hotplate.

First things first: Gather your tools. You’ll need a razor scraper, wallpaper steamer, baking pan, nonphosphate cleaner, large sponge, bucket of water, protective gloves.

Put the hotplate (from the steamer) in the baking pan when you’re not using it.

1

Buy or rent a wallpaper steamer.

You can rent a wallpaper steamer (for about $15 for a half-day). But if you have a fixer-upper, it would be worth your while to buy a do-it-yourself model (about $50).

When you use a steamer, be sure to take every precaution to prepare your room for the moisture to come.

2

Fill the wallpaper steamer with water.

You'll need to fill the steamer with water and let it heat up. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions, because each steamer is a bit different.

3

Hold the hotplate against the wall until the wallpaper softens.

Starting at the top of the wall, hold the hotplate against the wall in one area until the wallpaper softens. The moisture drips down so it should help moisten the rest of the wall.

Both steam and the water it produces can drip off the hotplate and burn you. To prevent hot water from dripping down your arm, stand on a stepstool when you’re working above chest height. Wear rubber gloves and a long-sleeved shirt, too.

4

Move the hotplate to an adjacent area as you scrape the softened wallpaper and let the pieces fall to the floor.

Hold the hotplate in one hand, and hold the razor scraper in the other hand. By the time you finish scraping the first area, the steamer should have softened the next area. If the paper is not yet softened, it is generally because the paper is not porous enough. You'll just have to wait a bit longer.

You floor should be covered with a canvas dropcloth or towels to catch the wet wallpaper.

5

Once the wallpaper is removed, wash the walls with a solution of wallpaper removal solvent.

Wash off any remaining adhesive residue with wallpaper removal solvent or with a nonphosphate cleaner in water, using a large sponge or sponge mop.

You can use an abrasive pad or steel wool to help you remove the adhesive residue on plaster, but use caution on drywall. Avoid overwetting or abrading the cardboard facing that’s on the drywall.

Rinse your sponge often in a separate bucket of water, squeeze it out, and continue rinsing your walls until all the residue and remover solution are gone.

 

Always try dry-stripping the paper first — it’s the easiest and cleanest method, but doesn't often work. If you can't dry-strip, the next option is to remove the paper by soaking and scraping. But if the wallpaper is too thick or old, you'll have to use a steamer.

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