Posts Tagged ‘vinegar’

The night we got the keys to this house, we knew we had to come in and DO something. We took a few minutes and plonked down on the living room carpet — looked lovingly around and said a few “Can you believe it?”s, gazed into one another’s eyes, and then immediately went upstairs and started joyously, gleefully, peeling off strips of pink airbrushed glossy wallpaper.

Now I have learned a few things about wallpaper removal in the past two years, and unfortunately most of them involve profanity I can’t type here because my Mom might read it. But here’s the quick and basic version:

1) You peel up a corner and a big old sheet tears off the wall! You are a wallpaper rockstar!

1a) But guess what? That’s just the top layer, a.k.a. the “easy” layer. It is really fun and gratifying when it goes this quickly, but it leaves a huge fluffy paper wasteland behind it. (Please note, sometimes even the easy layer is hard, esp. if the wallpaper in question is not shiny to the touch in the first place. As you can see, I had to find an internet photo of this phenomenon as I have never quite had it myself.) So here’s what that underlayer looks like from far away and then from close up, with dramatic lighting to illustrate:

2) So, if I spray that remaining fluffy beige layer really well with very hot tap water in a spritz bottle, and let it soak in, and use a 7-in-1 tool gently, it comes off! This, of course, takes a lot longer than the “easy” layer but then you’re done!

And all is well … Except that

3) When your “clean” paper-free walls dry, there is still a layer of paste. Paste from Satan. Paste you can’t always see with the naked eye, but then from an angle you suddenly see a filmy layer, complete with the brush strokes of the paperhanger from decades past. This layer, which can RUIN your paint job (and your life) if you let it, is easy to detect by running your hand over the wall, at which point, if you’re like me, you’ll get massively squicked out by the dusty, dry, crackly surface that is anything but smooth.

4) If you leave the paste on and let it dry (ESPECIALLY FOR, SAY,  TWO YEARS), it will start to peel up the paint/sizing that was on the walls behind it. Because (MY THEORY GOES) as the newly rewetted paste dries, it contracts a little bit and pulls up paint flakes from behind it. So instead of this nice smooth post-paste wall:

you get this unpaintable madness:

and then you kind of want to die and put things off for two more years.

Or maybe that’s just me.

So, fast forward through two years and I have been wanting to hang up some family pictures on the long wall in this upstairs hall. We found a wall color that we like, or think we like to the point that we bought a cute sample can. But before we can possibly do the priming or painting, much less the photo-hanging, we have to get that horrible stubborn paint-ruining PASTE off the walls.

My mom is visiting, and she likes to experiment. So here are our results:

  1. Hot water, which got the paper off, does remove a little. It would take about 20 rounds to get all the paste off.
  2. Hot water and some borrowed DIF (by Zinsser) fancy wallpaper removal solution did very for me as well.
  3. Hot water and extensive scrubbing with a plastic scrubby pad for nonstick dishes did a little better than the hot water alone.
  4. Hot water and dish soap did very little. This was super disappointing because A) My mom believes in the power of Dawn dish soap to do almost anything, B) It is cheap and C) it was highly recommended by a famous home improvement expert called The Internet.
  5. Hot water and white vinegar, however, in a 1:1 ratio solution sprayed from a spritzer bottle and then wiped well with a cellulose sponge? For some reason, on the particularly hellish paste of our fiendish upstairs hall, this worked fairly well. And it’s also inexpensive (compared to DIF, anyway!) and relatively innocuous as far as chemical paste-strippers go.

So you have to lay old towels across the bottom of the wall to catch the drips, and your whole house smells like Easter eggs for a little while (it does dissipate), and you have to rinse out your sponge/scrubby almost constantly, and it’s still time-consuming and sticky and imperfect, but for now, it’s the best I’ve got.


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