Removing wallpaper border can be tricky, whether you’re removing it from a painted wall or a wallpapered one.
Either way, to remove it without damaging the underlying walls or wallpaper, you’ll need to take your time. Below we’ve laid out the steps for the best way to remove wallpaper borders—without damaging your walls in the process.
How to Remove Wallpaper Border
Most wallpaper borders are easy to remove, especially those manufactured in relatively recently. The main tools it generally takes are a putty knife and some perseverance to lift the decorative accent and remove it without too much trouble.
Tools You’ll Need
Steps for Removing Wallpaper Border:
- Move furniture and other items into the middle of the room and cover with a plastic sheet or drop cloth.
- With a wallpaper scraper or putty knife, locate a seam and lift a bottom corner of the wallpaper border.
- Once a large enough section is peeled back with the knife, slowly peel the paper away by hand, applying steady and even pressure so it doesn’t tear. For areas that resist, slide the knife or scraper under the paper as you pull to loosen the glue’s grip.
- Once all the adhesive has been removed, wipe the area with a clean sponge and hot soapy water (dish soap will work), making sure you’ve removed all the residue, and allow it to dry.
Other Ways to Remove Wallpaper Border
If the border doesn’t come off easily or keeps tearing, leaving you to
chip peel off pieces off bit by bit, step up the removal process with the following methods.
Warm Water and a Putty Knife
Fill a spray bottle with warm-to-hot water. Spray the wallpaper so that it absorbs the water, but not so much that you damage any underlying wallpaper. Allow the water to penetrate the border, about ten minutes. This will loosen the glue and allow the paper and backing to be removed with less resistance.
Using the same method as above, insert the putty knife under an edge and pull the paper back, using the putty knife to assist where necessary. For stubborn spots, spray more warm water, wait a few minutes, and tackle the area again.
Fabric Softener and Water
Mix equal parts water and fabric softener in a spray bottle, shake and spray onto the wallpaper.
Allow the solution to penetrate the border for 5-10 minutes before attempting to scrape it off with a putty knife or scraper. For an eco-friendly solution, use white vinegar instead of fabric softener, and follow the same steps as above.
Heat Gun or Wallpaper Steamer
For a hard-to-remove wallpaper border on a painted wall, apply high heat from a wallpaper steamer or heat gun (a hairdryer may work in a pinch). Once the border’s been heated enough to melt the glue, use your scraper to peel it back.
If using a steamer or heat gun, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wear protective gloves, clothing, and safety goggles—steamers drip hot water and heat guns can burn skin easily.
Do not use a heat gun or steamer for a border that’s adhered to wallpaper you’re trying to salvage—the heat may also melt the glue of the wallpaper, causing it to bubble and pull away from the wall.
Chemical Wallpaper Remover
If the paper still resists, enlist the help of a wallpaper remova
l product, following the directions on the label.
For a particularly stubborn wallpaper border, you can score the paper every 6 to 12 inches with a wallpaper scoring tool before applying the remover. A scoring tool makes tiny holes in the paper you only need a little bit of pressure; if you press too hard, you’ll damage your wall. Allowing the solution to penetrate the backing will make the border’s removal easier. Then, using the same method detailed above, lift the paper with the putty knife to remove as much of the paper as possible in large chunks. If you need to, apply additional remover for stuck-on parts, waiting an additional 5 minutes for the remover to penetrate the glue.
For super-stuck-on wallpaper border pieces, an orbital sander with 40-60 grit paper can sand away the top layer. Once the top layer is removed, spray down the remaining backing with warm water, wait a few minutes for the glue to loosen, and remove the border remnants with your putty knife.
Removing wallpaper border while trying to salvage the wallpaper underneath: In an ideal world, the wallpaper border will easily peel off, without pulling the wallpaper up along with it. If it is proving to be stubborn, any other method has the potential to damage the wallpaper you are trying to save. And, depending on how much sunlight the room receives, the wallpaper under the border may be darker than the rest of the wallpaper. It’s best to determine if it is worth your time and effort to try and save the wallpaper.