Using Hot Water To Strip Wallpaper

Send out the ravens! (yes, that’s a Game of Thrones reference). Wallpaper stripping has commenced.

I was actually really excited to tackle the half bathroom’s wallpaper removal project, because I am a strange breed of human and that’s my idea of a good time. And since we have five rooms full of wallpaper (the foyer, the half bathroom, the kitchen, the dining room, and the master bathroom), I decided that I would try a different removal method for each one and report back with the pros/cons about each approach as I went, all in the hopes of sussing out which ones bite the big one and which ones seem to work the best. I’m telling you guys, I’m like one of those people who works in “risk management” and gets their kicks watching paint dry. So hold onto your hats, it’s about to get crazy up in here.

My first step was to clear things out (the soap pump, mirror above the sink, toilet paper, etc). Just so I don’t have any accessories in the way of the serious peelage that I was about to dive into.

Then I removed the wall plates to free up some edges of the paper and hopefully make the removal process easier (there are two light switches and an outlet). I couldn’t help but marvel at the dedication that was once put into this wallpaper job – the outlets were papered and the flowers even matched up.

Next I boiled a pot of water on the stove, since the method I’m trying this time is intensely simple, but I’ve also heard that it works like gangbusters. Get ready for my method guys. Here it comes. Oh my gosh, it’s…. boiling water sprayed on the wall. That’s it. No scoring, no steamer, no spackle knife, no application with a weed sprayer, no fabric softener. While I’ve also heard awesome things about those methods, the simple boiling water applied with a spray bottle approach seemed like a good place to start. If it stunk, it was the smallest room (and if it straight up didn’t work I could abandon that method and move onto something else).

And speaking of moving onto something else, this approach almost went off the rails immediately? Why? Well, I had this vat of boiling water on the stove and I was holding my spray bottle thinking “how am I going to fill this without dripping hot water all over myself?” – seriously I stood there a solid minute wondering how I was going to avoid giving myself third degree burns filling the bottle. I stared at my ladle and thought “no way, that’s going to drip out all over my hands” and then finally slipped the empty capless spray bottle itself into the boiling water and used the ladle to hold it under the water. I heard that comforting glug-glug-glug sound as it filled itself up, which was music to my apparently burn-a-phobic mind. Then I used the same ladle that I had used to submerge it so it would fill itself up to fish out the bottle without touching the boiling water itself.

I used one of those silicone pot holder things to hold the bottle as it came out and then attempted to secure the top of the spray bottle and that’s when I realized – DUH! – that the bottle had warped from the boiling water…

Guys, what was I thinking? I have no idea. I blame it on wallpaper-stripping-excitement. I was as wired as a kid hopped up on four boxes of Nerds. But I realized that the spray bottle still sprayed even without a perfectly shaped bottom or a perfectly attached nozzle, and in a very “the show must go on” moment I walked into the bathroom and just started spraying. Worked just fine.

What I learned:

  • Spraying the entire room with boiling water and then attempting to peel the paper is a lot less effective than saturating small sections at a time (ex: half of one wall) and then peeling while the paper is still wet and loose. When I attempted to spray the whole room first (even a small room like a bathroom) by the time I got back to the first part I sprayed it was starting to dry and re-attaching itself to the wall. It came off much easier when I moved in smaller sections.
  • Constantly spraying that bottle does get a little old (your wrist/forearm gets a little Jillian Michaels-ish workout) but it wasn’t bad enough that I cried or anything. I’ve heard that filling one of those plastic weed-spray containers from Home Depot gives your arm a huge break, so that might be helpful in a larger room, but I had such little wiggle room in the bathroom (there was a chair in there with me sometimes so I could reach a few high parts) that a big gallon sprayer would have cramped the room even more.

  • I needed to use a silicone pot holder to hold the bottle the entire time I was spraying since the bottle itself was still really hot, but the super hot water really seemed to get the paper off the wall well, so it was worth it to bring the heat, so to speak.
  • Almost all of the front of the wallpaper came off in the first round of spraying and peeling, which took about 1.5 hours. Then I re-sprayed the entire wall again since the backing/glue was still there in most places, and that came off in a second round of peeling, which took about 1.5 hours. So all told, it was about a three hour project from start to finish.

But when I was done I had a garbage bag full of wallpaper and white walls!

Glorious, glorious, de-flowered white walls.

Which was definitely a welcome sight after seeing this for the last few weeks…

And now I can make loud proclamations, like “hear ye, hear ye, my house has four different types of wallpaper instead of five!” Not that I’m anti-wallpaper (I actually linked to a few options in this post that I’d love to see in here someday). Oh and I saved a small flowery wallpaper remnant from my removal process because I think it would be fun to frame little squares of each one of them somewhere – just for the memories. So… one room (and one wallpaper method removal) down, four to go…

Psst- OK, who’s watching Whodunnit? We saw the first episode last night and we’re hooked.


  1. Sarah says

    Looks amazing and LOVE the idea of little framed wallpaper samples mixed in the wall galleries you like to do!

  2. Becca says

    I apologize in advance for being a grammar nazi, but it should be “effective” not “affective” in your first bullet point.

    I wish our wallpaper had come off so easily. Our walls have still not recovered. :(

  3. Anna says

    So I am sure you will get many suggestions on this, but here is a thought on the boiling water transfer situation – You could boil water in the microwave in a glass measuring cup with a spout, and then pour directly into the bottle. Looking forward to hearing about the other methods!

    • Casey says

      But beware! Water heated in the microwave heats unevenly and thus drops temperature quickly, so your magical boiling water powers won’t last very long if you do it that way.

    • Jeanna says

      I tried heating up vinegar in the microwave when I first used the dawn/vinegar solution for cleaning my bathroom fixtures………….. the first plastic bottle I used (it was a kind of hard plastic just like Sherry used) did the same darn thing. Totally warped the bottom of the bottle. It worked fine anyway, but the next time I bought a different brand of bottle, and had a better result. :)

    • says

      Please, be very careful if you boil water on the microwave, as it can explode once that has pass the boiling point!

      Mythbusters proved it here:

    • says

      Eeks! I think the tea kettle might be best since that has a pouring spout but is still stove boiled (so it’ll stay hot longer and won’t explode…)


    • says

      This is my go-to wall paper removal method, but I never go as far as boiling the water. I just run the tap as hot as I can get it and use that to fill my spray bottle. Boiling water sounds like more of a hazard and a hassle than necessary, IMO. I’ve found a scraper (or small drywall trowel is handy) as is a sponge to get off all of the last little bits of paper and glue (see my blog at

  4. says

    I started removing wallpaper in a guest bedroom this weekend and using a steamer really got the wallpaper off (same concept, easier application as your method here), but we were left with a ton of glue. It was like we had to do the process twice. Once for wallpaper, once for glue. You didn’t have any glue issues?

    • says

      Oh yes, if you read the bullets I had about 1.5 hours of peeling the front of the paper, and 1.5 hours of peeling the backing/glue off. So annoying, but worth it when it was done!


  5. Alison says

    I am SO happy you are going to do a de-wallpapering series. We are about to close on our fixer upper with only two walls of wallpaper, but with the amount of de-wood paneling we will be doing, knowing the fastest way to get rid of the wall paper will be amazing! :)

  6. Pauline says

    This photo with the blue trim and partially visible wallpaper in the hallway brings back flashbacks. We had the identical wallpaper in our hallway and kitchen and half bath with the same color trim!!! Our home had wallpaper in every room, except the living room! Our house is now free of wallpaper! Used the rip and spray method and also the scoring and spray method. If I ever move it will be a house with no wallpaper.

  7. says

    Nice! I’m actually super excited to hear all the ways you try and which ways work the best. For some reason when they staged my home (it was the model unit?) they put wallpapers in the three baths, only. Which is the WORST place to put it. And it’s really ugly paper. So I’ve been contemplating how I want to remove it. I’ve tried the just ripping it off the wall way (which left a ton of patching), I’ve tried the scoring which also left patching, the goo-spray and trying to steam my bathroom up as much as possible.

    Looking forward to seeing the rest and your recommendations!

    And btw, how much are you already missing game of thrones?!


  8. says

    Waaay better! And glad to hear your technique worked. I tried removing wallpaper once and only once (60’s style brown and orange) but gave up and covered the area in beadboard instead! And thus began my hatred of wallpaper and love affair with beadboard.

  9. sophie says

    Stripping godawful wallpaper was the first thing we did when we moved into our current house. Our kids were happy to help (our youngest was just barely three at the time). We just used cold water in a spray bottle and it worked a treat. Used a plastic putty knife for stubborn sticky sections. A couple of hours and all that hideousness was gone. It had been there for over 25 years – it was obviously original to the house as there was plain unpainted drywall underneath it, complete with contractor pencil markings! We used the same method for some awful floral borders in two bedrooms as well. Kids found it to be as fun as we found it to be therapeutic.

    • says

      Yes, ours was unpainted drywall as well (I could see pencil marks from the contractor too!). It was around 30 years old we believe (original to the house) so I’m crazy thankful it came off as well as it did!


  10. Saskia says

    Looking forward to hear about the different techniques!! This will be so useful to know! as you always hear from various people how they do it, but to give it all a try!! good fun!

  11. Nancy says

    Looks great!

    When you say “2nd round of peeling,” what does that mean? Did you use only your hands to do the peeling, or were there tools involved? Scrapers, putty knife, etc?

  12. says

    Looking great!!!

    I’ve taken down tons of wallpaper in our house! I usually just use 2 partswarm water (nuked for 1 min or so) and 1 part white vinegar (it helps with the adhesive). I am totally with you on trying to do it as chemical-free as possible!

  13. Jennie says

    Oh goodness, the house we are currently in had wallpaper in every single room except 2 of the bedrooms. And, get this, the kitchen was wallpapered with CONTACT PAPER! Talk about impossible to remove! Ugh, I’d rather not think back to those awful first weeks of home ownership, LOL!

  14. says

    The wrist/hand hurting thing is precisely why I always have a squeeze/squishy ball on hand when doing projects like this (or the time I had to scrape liquid nail off of a bulletin board at school).

    Taking little breaks to rejuvenate the body can, for me, at times be a huge help though sometimes the mind just wants to go-go-go!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *