Can Vinegar And Fabric Softener Remove Wallpaper?

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

Wallpaper from the late 70s might make you nostalgic for grandma’s house, but it can make your home feel seriously outdated. If you’re looking to update your home, it might be time to remove that old wallpaper. But what is the best way to remove the wallpaper? You don’t have to buy expensive equipment. You can use vinegar and fabric softener!

Removing wallpaper is not as difficult as it sounds, but it can be time-consuming. You can use a mix of hot water with vinegar or fabric softener to make the task easier. Spray either mixture on the wallpaper and let it sit for roughly 15 minutes before scraping it off.

If you’re looking to remove wallpaper, and you don’t want to invest in expensive removal chemicals, then this guide is for you! We’ll tell you how to remove wallpaper so that you can apply your new, updated wallpaper to get your home looking the way that you want it to look.

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How To Remove Wallpaper

Removing wallpaper is more tedious than it is difficult. You’ll need to set aside a good bit of time to remove your wallpaper because, unfortunately, your wallpaper won’t come off in one giant sheet. You’ll have to go section by section to tackle the job.

To remove wallpaper, you’ll need the following tools:

  • Vinegar/Fabric Softener
  • Warm water
  • Drop cloths
  • A spray bottle or a sponge and bucket
  • A wallpaper scoring tool or a utility knife
  • A scraper
  • Sandpaper
  • A washcloth
  • A steamer (optional)

Step 1: Prepare The Room

Prepare the room for wallpaper removal. Take everything off the walls and remove the furniture. Set down drop cloths to protect your floor and cover electrical outlets. Move all of your belongings into another room such as the kitchen or your bedroom so that you don’t have to worry about it as you go.

Step 2: Peel The Wallpaper Off

Score areas of wallpaper you want to remove with the scoring tool. This process will make it easier to peel off the wallpaper later. Be careful not to press too deep with the tool because you can accidentally score the wall!

Peel off the wallpaper if there are any loose edges. Once you remove the stubborn top layer, the rest of the removal process is more manageable.

Step 3: Create The Mixture

Mix 1/4 fabric softener to 3/4 hot water or 1/3 household vinegar to 2/3 hot water. If you’re opting to use a spray bottle, fill the spray bottle with the mixture. If you’d prefer to use a sponge, fill a bucket with the mixture and dampen your sponge with it.

If you feel you need more removal power, you can add a few drops of Dawn Dish Soap to the mix. The dish soap will help the mixture penetrate the remaining paper that you cannot peel off.

Step 4: Apply The Mixture

Spray the mixture or use the sponge to apply it to the wallpaper. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes to be absorbed by the wallpaper. Make sure you get it nice and wet. One small spray is not going to do anything. The point is for the mixture to get to the back of the wallpaper, where the adhesive is bonding to the wall.

Note: Spray one area at a time. It will be easier to remove smaller sections of the wallpaper than try to do it all at once. Otherwise, the mixture may dry before you can remove the wallpaper.

Step 5: Scrape The Area

After fifteen minutes have passed, it’s time to get scraping! You’ll need to use a little elbow grease to remove not only the wallpaper but also the glue. If you notice that some areas aren’t coming up easily, respray them.

Note: If there are a few problem areas that vinegar simply won’t remove, use a handheld steamer to loosen the wallpaper glue. Steaming makes it easier to pull the wallpaper off the wall.

Step 6: Let The Wall Dry

Give the wall 24 to 48 hours to dry. Plugging in some fans and opening windows in the room can speed up this part of the process. You don’t want to begin sanding until the wall is completely dry; otherwise, it will make it to where the sandpaper isn’t as effective.

Step 7: Sand The Wall

After the wall has dried, sand it down to make sure you remove any leftover glue you may have missed. Follow this with a damp washcloth to thoroughly clean the wall.

Step 8: Decorate Your Walls

Decorate your newly not-wallpapered walls! You can prime it and paint, leave it as it is, or apply a new type of wallpaper. You now have an empty canvas to create your living space the way that you want.

Tips For Removing Wallpaper Yourself

It is definitely possible to remove your wallpaper as a DIY project. Here are a few tips to make the task successful:

  • Know your wallpaper. Some of the possibilities are peel-and-stick, vinyl, and pre-pasted paper. You can remove peel-and-stick by peeling without additional tools. 
  • Use the mixture. Vinyl may come off in one sheet, but you should use a solution to remove it. Your vinegar or fabric softener mixture should do the trick! The pre-pasted paper needs to be scored and will come off in chunks.
  • Know your wall. You may have a plaster wall or drywall. If you’re removing wallpaper from drywall, be very careful during the scraping process. Otherwise, you may remove some bits of the wall too!
  • Make sure all the glue and paper is gone before you start your next wall treatment. Little remnants will make it hard for you to achieve a smooth finish on your next project. 

Why You Should Use Vinegar Or Fabric Softener Or Remove Wallpaper

There are other options for removing wallpaper than vinegar and fabric softener like wallpaper strippers and other chemical sprays. However, using fabric softener or vinegar solutions has many benefits over using conventional wallpaper removers.

  • Both fabric softener and vinegar are inexpensive. One gallon of vinegar is roughly $2. While fabric softener is more expensive than vinegar, you can use the cheapest fabric softener available. An economical fabric softener will still provide the same results as a conventional wallpaper remover.
  • Vinegar doesn’t contain harsh chemicals. When relying on a conventional wallpaper remover, you’ll be introducing new chemicals into your home. Using vinegar is a less-conventional remedy, but it prevents you from using harsh chemicals.
  • Vinegar and fabric softener don’t have harsh smells like conventional wallpaper removers. Removers that use chemicals also have overpowering odors and vapors as well. Vinegar has its own unique smell but is often used as a deodorizer that accompanies green-cleaning methods. You can even add a few drops of essential oil to your vinegar mixture to counteract the smell. Fabric softener usually has a soft, essential oil smell. When you use this option, your home will smell like fresh laundry for days!
  • Vinegar is non-toxic, meaning it is friendly to use around children and pets. If you choose a non-toxic fabric softener, this offers the same safety benefits as vinegar.  However, not all fabric softeners are non-toxic, so read the packaging carefully if this is important to you.
  • Vinegar won’t leave behind a mess. Fabric softener is a bit more challenging to clean up simply because of its gooey, sticky nature. Vinegar, on the other hand, has a similar consistency to water and can be mopped up or wiped away easily. 

Related Questions

How much does it cost to have wallpaper professionally removed?

It will cost anywhere from $1 to $4 per square foot to remove your wallpaper professionally. Removal costs will vary depending on the size of your walls.

Is it a bad idea to paint over wallpaper?

Painting over wallpaper will cause moisture to seep into the wallpaper. Paint can weaken the wallpaper glue and cause it to peel, bubble, or even shrink. Instead of painting over the old wallpaper, you should remove the wallpaper and then paint the walls. Using the vinegar or fabric softener method will make this process easier.

How long does wallpaper last?

If installed properly, wallpaper can last around 15 years or longer. It tends to last longer than paint. But don’t worry, wallpaper can be removed at any time if you get tired of it!

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Wrapping Up

If you have old, ugly wallpaper in your home, it’s easy to remove it yourself. To properly remove wallpaper, it’s essential to know what type of wallpaper and wall you are working with. A vinegar or fabric softener and water solution will work just as well as any conventional remover.

To remove your wallpaper, take everything off of your wall and score the paper. Spray the wallpaper with your vinegar or fabric softener solution, then wait fifteen minutes. Scrape the paper away one small section at a time, and wait two days before sanding your wall down to the smooth texture you desire.

Vinegar and fabric softener are good alternatives to chemical sprays because they are inexpensive and smell better than conventional removers. Vinegar isn’t made with harsh chemicals, is non-toxic, and won’t leave behind a mess. Using a vinegar or fabric softener solution to remove your wallpaper will leave you with an exciting blank slate to update your home!

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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