How to Remove Wallpaper Borders

An old, damask wallpaper design.
  • 5-15 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-500
What You'll Need
Protective gloves
Warm water
Small spray bottle
Wallpaper removal solution
Wallpaper scraper
Bucket and sponge
Push pins or perforation tool
Wallpaper steam stripper

Sometimes a change in décor is necessary, but removing wallpaper borders can be a tricky job, especially if the adhesive still holds strong. However, if you follow these steps, you can make it easier and still end up with a great finished product.

Note: Painting over a wallpaper border is also an option when changing a room's design.

Step 1 - Try the Hairdryer Trick

Before you apply any water or other moisture to the wallpaper and border, gently heat the area with a hairdryer. This can loosen the adhesive. After you’ve left the heat on it for a few minutes, pull at the border gently to see if it will come off. If you have no luck, the adhesive used was likely strong and a different approach will be required.

Step 2 – Mist and Scrape

Fill a small spray bottle with warm water. Some do-it-yourself enthusiasts swear by a vinegar solution, but this is not recommended because it makes the room you are decorating smell unpleasant for days afterward—particularly if you are removing a border from a wallpaper background you intend to retain. Commercial wallpaper removing sprays are available, but if you are on a budget warm water will do just as well.

Once you have sprayed the border, scrape it gently but firmly with a plastic scraper. Metal scrapers should be avoided because they can damage the wall surface underneath; if the underlying surface of the wall is damaged, you will need to spackle, sand, and paint the area before you can continue with new wall décor.

Step 3 – Sponge with Warm Water

If you have followed the steps above and you're still looking at a well-attached border, consider applying more moisture to the area. Fill a bucket with warm, soapy water and sponge it gently onto your work area.

If you have a vinyl, waterproof border, you may have to perforate it to force the water in. Perforation tools are available from hardware stores, but for a small area of the wall, you could try push pins first. Wait at least 10 minutes for the border to accept the water. It should feel soft to the touch when it's finally damp enough and should be easier to scrape off.

Step 4 – Use a Steam Wallpaper Stripper

Steam wallpaper strippers are inexpensive; however, it may be best to rent instead of buying one for a one-time job. Steam from the bottom to the top to loosen the border, which should then easily come off with gentle scraping from a wallpaper scraper.

Step 5 – Clean the Surface

When you have finished removing the wallpaper border, clean the surface and check that the wall is free from any trace of adhesive; any new paper or paint you apply can be marred by anything left behind. The wall should be left bare overnight so the surface can dry out before anything new is applied.