Using A Wallpaper Steamer

New wall-coverings can transform a room, going from boring to beautiful. If you just bought a pre-loved home that has the original wallpaper from 1950 plus years of wallpapering over the original wallpaper, you are going to want to do some redecorating.

You are talking major work if you have to remove more than one layer of wallpaper or wallpaper that has been painted over. If the wallpaper was not applied to a properly sealed surface, removing it without damaging the wall can be nearly impossible.

For this type of redecorating project you will find the job is much easier if you rent a wallpaper steamer. In most places it costs about $25-30 for a half-day. Or you may want to buy a DIY model, about $50-100+, if you have a lot of wallpaper to remove. (Pro models cost $500 or more.)

How a Wallpaper Steamer Works

A Wallpaper steamer is a hotplate attached to a hose extending from a hot water reservoir. A heating element in the reservoir heats the water and directs steam to the hotplate.

Precautions When Using a Wallpaper Steamer

Although you can use a steamer with relative confidence on plaster walls, use caution on drywall, which is much more vulnerable to moisture.

Remember that steam is boiling hot. It can burn you.

Wear latex or rubber gloves to protect your hands.

Wear long sleeves. Consider wearing a Tyvek suite. Steam can’t penetrate straight to the skin.

Make sure you are using a step stool if you are working above chest height.

How to Use a Wallpaper Steamer

Before using a wallpaper steamer you will want to read the operators manual and safety guide so as not to sustain any injuries and to make sure you use the device properly. The following steps are typical of most machines.

  • Start by filling the steamer with water (hot water will heat up faster than cold), and let it heat up.
  • Use a wallpaper scoring tool to introduce small perforations into the wallpapers face paper. A good inexpensive wallpaper scoring tool is the Paper Tiger by Zinsser.
  • Keep a baking pan handy to put the hotplate in when it is not in use.
  • Start at the top of the wall, holding the hotplate in one place until the wallpaper adhesive softens.
  • Move the hotplate to an adjacent area as you scrape the softened wallpaper with a wallpaper razor scraper. By the time you finish scraping one area, the steamer will have had time to soften the next area of wallpaper. This will make job easier.


Again always use caution when using the wallpaper steamer. Do not allow small children to be around this piece of equipment.

Make sure that you have a drop cloth covering the area of the floor you are working on. When the wallpaper comes off the adhesive will make a mess of a carpet and can mar the finish on hardwood floors as well.

When you have to remove wallpaper using the wallpaper steamer may not be the easiest way to go on the project, but it some cases it will be the most effective method. Often that’s something you can’t know until you start the job of removing wallpaper.

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