How to Remove Wallpaper Borders Naturally

My friend Amy just bought her first house. It a ‘new to you” home that only needs minor work. She was resting on her bed the other day when my husband and I went over, after having scraped her heart out trying to remove a wallpaper border positioned on the wall near the ceiling by the previous owners.
The border was light blue with scalloped edges and had a country scene printed on it. Exhausted and complaining about a cramp in her neck and shoulder from constantly looking up, she was visibly aggravated and began attaching blame to whoever was closest. As she barked orders, her poor wall stood miserably in silence. Where the drywall wasn’t covered by abrasions, it was clearly wounded. Large chunks of plaster had been burrowed out and were now scattered across the once shiny new hardwood flooring. To add insult to injury, even with all this damage to the wall and to my friend’s constitution, most of the wallpaper remained. Busy attacking the drywall with a pallet knife, she had failed to move most of the items in her bedroom away from the walls first, so had to blindly shimmy around tables and debris so as to not trip as her eyes and arms were straining skyward.

My husband and I have done some professional painting and interior work so inquired what her intentions for the home were exactly. She had a faux finish painting job planned for after the wallpaper border was removed and had spent $150 on paint and supplies. She purchased Behr brand paint from Home Depot because she insisted that it was the best. She had the rollers and brushes, pans and blue masking tape. With so much time and expense going into the one room, my husband and I felt obligated to help. Here’s what we did:

1. Moved all furniture and debris away from the walls. Even if it is unlikely to get dirty during this preparation stage, furniture and the like is a magnet for every stray paint drop. No matter how careful you are not to drip the paint, it is likely to end up on the one place you don’t want it to be, so it’s best to avoid any possibility of this right at the beginning. Plus you’ll avoid numerous stubbed toes and other bodily harm.
2. Mix three parts vinegar to one part water. Fill a spray bottle with the solution and spray it onto the unwanted paper. Within minutes, a razorblade will slide smoothly between the paper and the wall. From there, peel the remaining paper gently, adding more solution as necessary.
Note: White vinegar often eats away at a lot of plastic spray bottles, disabling their spraying mechanisms and rendering them useless. This was the case at Amy’s house. Instead, we filled a plastic container and applied it by soaking a rag in the solution and squeezing it onto the wall. This method worked well as long as we were careful not to fully saturate the wall. Too much solution on the damaged wall caused some of the paint to chip off in places.
3. Swept off all the wall surfaces, windowsills and baseboards. This clears the area of any dust, cobwebs or hair that would get stuck in the paint. It is much harder to pick out a wet piece of hair glued to the wall than it is a dry one.
4. Taped off any areas that we didn’t want to get paint on. This included the windowsills, baseboards, doorframe and around the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling. The blue tape works well as long as it’s not left in place for more than a day or two. After being left on too long or getting wet, the tape can peel off unevenly leaving behind unsightly bits and pieces.
5. Unscrewed and removed all the light switch covers and outlet covers with a flathead screwdriver. Put all the screws where they won’t get lost. This is an easy and worthwhile step to avoiding streaks by trying to paint around them.

Although the wallpaper border peeled off cleanly by using the vinegar and water solution, the previously gouged walls would have to be coated with a layer of mud and left to dry. Since Amy was planning on a faux finish, she decided to skip this step as the detailed paint would hide most of the imperfections. I haven’t been over to see the finished room yet, but with any painting job, preparation can make all the difference.

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