How to Remove Adhesive from Drywall

Lead Image
  • 2-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-50
What You'll Need
Large cloth or old newspapers
Safety glasses
Warm water
Soft scrub brush or rags
Adhesive removal solvents like Goof Off
Detergent (dishwasher sprays, liquid soaps etc)
Spray bottle
Knife or blade
Hair dryer

When repainting or tiling an old wall, it's fairly common to encounter leftover adhesive or residue. These adhesives come in many forms, including wallpaper glue, duct tape residue, bonding paint, and other wall treatments.

Unfortunately, since glue remnants take away the smoothness of the drywall surface and can destroy the overall look from the paint job from underneath, they have to go before you get started on the fresh layer. Here are some steps you can take to revive the uniform surface of your drywall.

Step 1 - Make Preparations

Before you start to remove the adhesive, cover the surrounding area with loose cloth or old newspaper to collect any debris from the process. Also, check if there are any electrical openings around—if so, cover them, too.

Safety should also be among your top priorities when dealing with chemical products. It's a good idea to put on some goggles and gloves before you dive in.

Step 2 - Identify Adhesive

You need to identify the type and cause of the adhesive on your wall before you can properly remove it. Some adhesives, like wallpaper leftovers, can be easily cleaned up with hot water and soft scrub, while others require harsher methods. Start with the simplest solutions first, but be prepared to escalate your approach if necessary.

Step 3 - Use Solvents

The easiest way to remove old glue is to scrub it off using liquid solvents. Adhesive removers are solvent scrubs and are generally enough to take care anything on your walls. In a pinch, you can mix some dishwashing powder with warm water and spray it on the problem spots. Whichever you choose, wipe the wall with a damp cloth after the solvent has been left to sit, using some pressure, and the adhesive should come away with no problem.

Step 4 - Gently Remove Duct Tape

Duct tape on walls has very strong glue base that can peel off paint or parts of the drywall if you aren't careful. Gently raise a corner of the tape and, using a knife or blade, start cutting the contacts between the tape and wall to help it come off easily. Then, clean up any left over residue with warm water. Tape can also be removed by heating it with a hair dryer and then peeling it off.

Step 5 - Seek out More Advanced Tools

There are companies which make exclusive adhesive remover products like The Wagner if you're really encountering resistance, and wallpaper steamers can melt the glue on the wall, leaving you to simply wipe it off. The process involves a lot of heat and is messy, but it works. Just take your time so you don't damage the material underneath.