How to clean, repair, patch, strip, or remove offending wallcoverings

How to clean, repair, patch, strip, or remove offending wallcoverings 2That wallpaper’s been up since the kids were born, and now some of the seams have popped, grease marks have created unsightly spots near the floor, backed-up furniture has gouged out some sections. . . . What to do? The good news is that soiled and damaged wallpaper can be revived, and there are several ways to do it.

How to clean, repair, patch, strip, or remove offending wallcoverings 1

Cleaning Soiled Wallpaper

If the wallcovering is washable, choose one of the following:

  1. For everyday dirt and dust accumulation, dip a sponge or clean cloth in mild detergent mixed with cool water; wipe surface clean, then rinse with cold water and blot dry with a clean cloth.
  2. Remove mildew by rubbing lightly with a sponge or cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol or packaged mildew remover.
  3. To eliminate fingerprints and non-greasy stains, rub surface gently with an art-gum eraser.
  4. Remove grease stains by blotting with paper towels, then covering with three layers of terrycloth towels and pressing a warm — not hot — iron against the surface until the grease is absorbed.

If the wallcovering is non-washable, follow all of these steps:

  1. Dampen several clean, old terrycloth towels with kerosene or other solvent and allow to air-dry.
  2. Wrap one towel around the head of a broom or mop and secure with masking tape or string.
  3. Wipe the walls in sections from top to bottom, overlapping each section as you would when painting.
  4. When one towel becomes soiled, tape or tie on a clean replacement.

Repairing Curled or Loose Seams

To do this job you will need:

  • utility knife or single-edge razor
  • wallpaper adhesive (vinyl paste for vinyl papers, wheat for others)
  • narrow paintbrush
  • sponge
  1. Starting at the seam, cut diagonal 2- to 3-inch slits just above and below the damaged area.
  2. Peel back the loose wallpaper carefully; use brush to apply adhesive to the back of the paper
  3. With your fingers, press the wallpaper into place to spread the adhesive, then peel paper away again.
  4. Let adhesive dry slightly until tacky to your touch, then press paper carefully back into place once again.
  5. Dampen sponge with water and press gently against repaired area, removing any excess adhesive.

Patching Holes or Tears

For this project, you’ll need to assemble the following:

  • masking tape
  • wallpaper adhesive (vinyl paste for vinyl papers, wheat for others)
  • utility knife or single-edge razor
  • straightedge
  • putty knife
  • narrow paintbrush
  • sponge
  1. Cut a fresh scrap of wallpaper or pull off a loose section from an area that doesn’t show.
  2. Place the scrap against damaged wallpaper, overlapping the hole or tear by at least an inch on all sides; carefully match the wallpaper pattern before taping it smooth.
  3. With knife and straightedge, cut a square or rectangle through both wallpaper layers, making them the same size.
  4. Remove and set aside the scrap. Dip sponge in hot water, squeeze out and apply to damaged section; using putty knife, carefully peel off the old wallpaper.
  5. Brush adhesive onto back of wallpaper patch and press into place briefly; remove and let dry until tacky to your touch, then press in place again.
  6. Use clean, damp sponge to smooth patch and remove any excess adhesive.

Painting or Repapering Walls

In some cases, wallcovering may be too worn, faded, or damaged to be repaired successfully.

You can, however, “patch” it with color, touching up scraped or gouged areas with paint that matches the paper exactly. Never attempt to sugarcoat all of your problems by painting over old wallpaper entirely; surface problems will be exaggerated and the dyes may ultimately bleed through.

If your old wallcovering still adheres tightly, it’s possible to apply new paper over it, after reattaching any loose edges and coating the surface with primer. Best advice: Remove damaged, old wallpaper — whether you plan to paper the walls again or coat them with paint.

Removing Old Wallpaper

Here are the tools and materials you’ll need:

  • wide putty knife or scraper
  • utility knife or single blade razor
  • sponge
  • wire brush
  • liquid wallpaper remover
  • garden sprayer or power paint sprayer
  • 6″ taping knife
  • heavy-duty liquid household cleaner
  • premixed compound (for drywall) or premixed spackle (for plaster walls)
  • acrylic primer
  • paintbrush or roller

To remove strippable wallpaper — Lift up one corner and simply peel paper from the wall. For stubborn sections, use your utility knife to make a series of horizontal slits in the paper and then peel it off in small sections.

To remove residual adhesive, first soften it by applying a sponge dipped in hot water, then scrape off the adhesive with your putty knife.

To remove vinyl backing and all nonstrippable paper — You’ll save time and energy by renting a wallpaper steamer from a paint or hardware retailer and following the manufacturer’s instructions for removing wallpaper.

If you choose to go it alone, here’s what to do:

  1. First gently score surface of the wallpaper with a wire brush.
  2. Pour wallpaper remover into a clean sprayer, following supplied directions; then spray walls with a fine mist, working from floor to ceiling, section by section.
  3. After 15 minutes, use a taping knife to remove the loosened wallcovering, section by section, in the same order you sprayed, peeling up from the bottom. Repeat spray-and-peel process for stubborn sections.
  4. Next, clean the walls with a sponge and household cleaner; then rinse with a clean sponge dampened with warm water.
  5. Smooth any surface irregularities with compound or spackle and putty knife, and prime the surface before painting or applying new wallpaper.

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