Banishing Wallpaper for Good!

In March, when summer was fast approaching, I wanted to finish this year’s indoor projects before the sunshine beckoned me outside. After successfully removing the wallpaper from our downstairs bathroom in what I called a “mini makeover,” I thought it time to remove the last of the wallpaper from our home. Our main bathroom is upstairs and in pretty decent shape. It appears to have been previously remodeled in the early 2000’s featuring a nice vanity with granite countertop and acceptable – if boring – hardware, light fixture, and tile. All things I can live with for sure. It did, however, have floor to ceiling green wallpaper. As far as wallpaper goes, I thought it had a nice neutral pattern and texture, and while the color wasn’t anything I would have chosen, it was not offensive either. Overall, it was just ok. But the color was a little dark for a small room and the paper was beginning to buckle and peel at the seams. Removing the paper and painting a crisp neutral color would prove to be the refresh that this bathroom sorely needed.

To learn more about my first experience removing wallpaper and the specific steps I followed, click HERE. This article will detail how I altered my approach, what went right, and what made me curse the day wallpaper was invented.

To start this project, I decided to remove the mini blinds. This bathroom is on the top floor, our backyard is heavily wooded, and our neighbors are far behind us. The only way they could peep would be in the winter with a telescope. If they want to see me (or Logan) naked that badly, well then I guess more power to them. Perhaps when we return to work and start showering again at 5 am I might change my mind, but for now, I wanted as much light as possible in that tiny room. Next, Logan helped me remove the mirror which was thankfully attached to the wall with clips (rather than glued as some mirrors can be). This was surprisingly easy. Based on a tip I found on Youtube, I used an adhesive plastic carpet protector to cover the mirror just in case we broke it. It is basically like super sticky Saran Wrap. It worked great, but in the end, was a little harder to remove than I anticipated. (On another note, where has this product been all my life?! I have painted three homes now and spilled drops on the floor each time. Never again!) Finally, I removed the old caulking, and I was ready to attack the wallpaper!

To recap, wallpaper is made of two layers – the decorative top layer, and the paper bottom layer that is pasted to the wall. Last time, if you recall, the decorative top layer came off in huge pieces and I gloried in the ease of my success (at least for a short time). This experience was much different. Given the fact that the wallpaper was already loosened at the seams, I expected the top layer to come off in a breeze. I was very wrong.

You know when you buy something and it has a price tag or a “Made in China” sticker on the bottom? You try so carefully to peel it off in one piece only to have it shred into ten teeny pieces, leaving a film of sticky residue behind that requires a few applications of Goo Gone to remove. Well, my bathroom walls were essentially covered with giant Made in China stickers. It was a major victory if I got a scrap of paper off that was the size of a business envelope. Most pieces were less than 4 square inches. It literally took days to remove it all. It got to the point where every time Logan would use the bathroom I would shout, “pull some paper while you’re in there!”

I also discovered that the wallpaper was installed prior to the last update, so the paper continued down behind and on the sides of the vanity. I was not about to uninstall and reinstall the vanity. So, I ended up using a utility knife to score the paper around the granite and I scraped as far as my tools could reach on the side. In the end, it turned out lovely and you can’t tell that any paper remains.

With the top layer finally removed, I turned my attention to the paper underlayer. Last time, I used a wallpaper scorer to scuff up the underlayer to make it easier for the chemicals to saturate and theoretically easier to remove. Unfortunately, I pressed too hard and damaged some of the walls.

This time, learning from my mistakes, I decided to try removing the underlayer without scoring first. I am happy to report that scoring or not scoring made zero difference for me. The underlayer peeled off easily and I avoided damaging the walls.

I had some remaining wallpaper remover from the last project, so I started with that. Just as last time, I saturated the surface in an area of about 4 square feet, rubbed the product into the paper, and easily scraped it off. As the product ran low, I decided to try diluting it with warm water. It still worked great. I just kept diluting and diluting until it was 100% water in the spray bottle and it still worked just as well as the product only with less goo! It was a very pleasant surprise. I simply sprayed the water, rubbed it into the paper, and scraped it off. I wish I had tried this water method last time to confirm if it is a proven method, but I didn’t. I can’t guarantee it will work for you, but for me, the underlayer came off faster and cleaner than it did last time.

Next came the part I knew would be the worst – scrubbing the remaining glue residue off the walls. I tried the widely suggested internet recipe of hot water, baking powder, dish soap, and vinegar, I even tried a new brand of wallpaper remover with zero effect. Honestly, I think elbow grease, time, and patience is the only answer. You simply have to scrub and wipe and scrub some more. Just when you think it’s clean, you find more sticky spots and need to scrub again. 

Once the walls were clean, I primed them with an oil-based primer, fixed any damage with All Purpose Joint Compound, sanded the patched areas smooth and primed over them again (exactly like last time). As mentioned before, I was very careful and had minimal patching. I honestly damaged the walls more by scrubbing them clean than by removing the paper.

Finally came the fun part! 

I painted the accent wall behind the mirror with the same Hale Navy blue that I used downstairs. The rest of the walls I painted a bright creamy white.

Note: White is an incredibly difficult color to choose due to the subtle undertones. I didn’t want to paint the entire room just to realize later that it was really some hideous shade of pale pink. (This has literally happened to me in the past.) This time, I did a little research on popular white paint colors and also colors that were complimentary to my Navy paint. Rather than guessing from hundreds of white paint chips, I trusted the professionals on Pinterest, chose the highly recommended White Dove, and I am very pleased with the results. It’s not too cold, not too warm, and bright, but not blindingly so.

With the addition of some new towels and an epic shower curtain, new life has been infused into this small bathroom. You may think my shower curtain is ridiculous, and that’s ok. My original intent was to do something “classy.” But why? Our house is not for sale and I highly doubt my bathroom will be featured in any design publications. I’m not trying to impress anyone. But if something as cheap as a shower curtain can give you a good laugh first thing in the morning, I say go for it!

I hope this information helps prepare you for your own wallpaper challenge. Stay tuned for my next project!


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