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. says

    Ha! The house we moved into last summer was 1/2 wallpaper (and NOT the swanky kind, pretty sure that our previous homeowners and your previous homeowners would have been decorating BFFs)and I was freaked out by the boiling water as well. We decided to go ahead and shell out for one of the wall steamers (I think it was less than $50 at Lowes) because we had a number of large areas to do and then we set to work scoring and steaming. In hindsight, I’m a little bummed that I didn’t brave the boiling water, but I’ve actually been able to use the steamer to steam my clothes so it’s had a value add beyond just wallpaper. Annnnnd, I’m happy to report that we finally re-did our son’s room over the last couple of weeks and said buh-bye to the LAST of the wallpaper marathon in our house. YAY!

  2. Eileen says

    A tip on filling the spray bottle: instead of boiling water in a pot, boil it in a teakettle. Put the opened spray bottle in your sink. You should be able to aim the spout of the teakettle over the bottle spout and get most of it in.

    • says

      So smart! I love how much more level headed you guys are about boiling water. I saw the giant pot of it on the stove and was all “now what…?”


    • nicky says

      Thank you! I read.the post and.the.comments.thinking have I missed something? Surely $herdog has a.kettle!

    • says

      Instead of trying to funnel boiling water, what about sticking only the spray nozzle top into the kettle’s spout and spraying that way? I know your arms might get tired more quickly for the upper part of the wall, but might also keep you from breaking out in sweat thinking about getting burns from accidental exposure to the water?? And you can keep the water boiling longer! Just a thought…

  3. Tara says

    This is great! My parents house was also wall-papered to the extreme (it looks like your paper was done professionally, like theirs was, since the outlets are all lined up and everything – that’s apparently a pro technique and it is ALL OVER the ‘rents house, haha). Their bathroom is this crazy wild 90’s floral craziness. The fact that hot water will take it off might entice them to make it less crazy up in there!

  4. ashlea says

    Not that I want things to go bad for the wallpaper removing but I was seriously hoping for some serious problems under that wallpaper. So I will know what to do with the wall I took wallpaper down from. It’s a mess under there. I have no clue as what to do. It’s been wallpaperless for a year.

    • lisa says

      If it’s damaged and you want to paint, you’ll want to have the wall “skimmed” with drywall mud. You can look it up on youtube. It’s not a huge deal. Good Luck!

    • says

      Just a guess: the previous occupants wallpapered over bare drywall, and when you peeled off the paper, off came the drywall’s paper, too?

      You need a little tub of of premixed lightweight spackle, a bigger bucket of drywall compound (a.k.a. sheetrock mud; a 5-lb bucket is enough for a whole room), a trough, and a spackle knife. You can find YouTube videos on how to spackle if you’ve never done it before.

      Here’s a good one:

      It happened in my kitchen, too. You are not alone.

    • Mary says

      I was thinking the same thing! We took down wallpaper in our bathroom and the drywall paper got torn off in many places and the glue was impossible to get off. My husband just painted water-based Kilz over it and said it would be fine. That was a really bad idea because it just reactivated the glue. It has been a mess for over 3 years.

    • ashlea says

      Thanks guys, I was looking into Gardz for torn drywall, etc. Found it online but not in stores. It seems the perfect solution. It said it would seal the glue from wallpaper etc. Has anyone used it?

  5. Rotem says

    Took my a few seconds to understand what looks out-of-place in that first picture… Sherry, you’re wearing color! New house + summertime must equal excited, colorful happiness!
    That bathroom looks great! We’re you able to remove the wallpaper from the switch plates as well, or will those need to be replaced?


  6. Candice says

    Save a tiny piece for Clara’s doll house! Maybe she’ll want to ‘redecorate’ it one day in this very vintagey pattern. (My dad wallpapered the dollhouse he built for my sister & I.)

  7. says

    I removed 5 rooms of wallpaper in my present home and what I found worked was just plain water in a spray bottle and a putty knife and worked with tiny sections. Seemed the previous owners didn’t use wallpaper sizing so it was very tricky to get off. Had to get one layer off and then the other. Tried all the store bought solutions and fabric softeners, etc. Have one of those fancy wall paper steamers that drips down your arm but this worked best for me. Good luck!

  8. says

    We wanted to save a bit of the wallpaper border we removed from our bathroom in our first place (it was purple with frogs and lily pads) but in the wall paper removal excitement we forgot. Bummer. But it will forever live on in pictures I guess.

  9. lisa says

    If the paper came off that easily, it was probably applied professionally and the walls were prepared before papering. If you get to a room where the paper comes off in quarter-size pieces, get the Wallwik kit. It’s a kit of fabric sheets that you apply directly on the wallpaper and spray with solution. It helps keep the paper wet until the glue-eater has a chance to soak through. You’ll thank me :)

  10. Anjuli says

    I think it is worth mentioning that wallpaper removal from a plastered surface is easier than wallpaper removal that was attached directly to dry wall. I had both surfaces behind the wall paper in my kitchen, and wallpaper on drywall is a level of hell that no one wants to deal with no matter the method of removal that is used.

    • says

      Oh no! Our walls are actually drywall (this house is a late 70s/early 80s house) so I have also heard how much glue was use matters (if it was over-applied it can be a nightmare!).


  11. says

    Looks great! I had to laugh at your “hear ye, hear ye!”. My daughters favorite potty training book was The Princess and The Potty, in which the little princess declares, “Hear ye, Hear ye, I have to pee pee- seems fitting for a bathroom post:)

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