Old Wallpaper Paste

vjrntsJuly 21, 2011

(crossposted to the cleaning tips forum)

Hello everyone!

I live in a 1922 house with plaster walls. I am stripping wallpaper in one room. This paper was applied in the 80s, and whoever did it did not do a thorough job of stripping the older (early 70s vintage) wallpaper that was already there. I am faced with quite a bit of wall that has stripped relatively cleanly, and other parts where I have had to steam and scrape to get the old paper off. Sadly, it appears that she (I know who it was) did not use pre-pasted paper, and really slathered on the wallpaper paste under this older layer. Before I prep the surface for my new paper, I have to get the old paste off, and I already know it's going to be a chore.

My Wagner steamer has a squeegee head; I think that might work as a first pass, but what would you use to catch the pasty water as it rolls down the wall? I don't want it on the floor, which is a white oak hardwood in poor condition; my plan right now is to clean it gently and then cover it with a rug eventually.

What do you think? Or just a natural cleaner and a sponge and buckets and buckets of hot water?


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Hot water, TSP (if you can find it), and rubber gloves (hot TSP solution will burn your skin).

The 'TSP Substitutes' are not nearly as good as the real thing.

The TSP will break down the paste.

I usually use a large thick sponge to wet the glue remaining on the wall, let it sit a few minutes, then use a nylon scrubber to remove it, followed by a plain sponge.

A clear water rinse after the past is off is needed.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 1:59PM
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Thanks, brickeyee, but I can't get real TSP here. They have stuff on the shelves that's labeled TSP, but when you read the fine print you see that there is no phosphate in it. I know that TSP is the best out there for preparing walls, but ... I'll bet my local Ace Hardware guys could tell me. They know everything.

So, you don't think steaming would be useful? Hey, I wonder if steaming would work as a final rinse!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 2:23PM
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I used TSP too. I have lots of old towels and laid them along the floor where the wall meets the floor. I used big sponges to try to catch the TSP water as it came down the wall so that it wouldn't get behind my baseboards. For the final rinse, I used a rough washcloth and a bucket of water, changing the water as it got dirty. I tried not to slop the water on walls. I feel your pain - we had 7+ layers of wallpaper that I removed from all of the old house walls and ceilings. It was so worth it in the end.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 3:40PM
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"I wonder if steaming would work as a final rinse!"

Not very well.

You are trying to remove and dilute anything left on the wall.

While steam will soften wallpaper and paste, there is not enough water present to carry away residue.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 3:45PM
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I guess. The steamer with the squeegee attachment works unbelievably well on windows, but this is different. Squeegee is pretty small, too.

Thanks, powermuffin. I'll do the towel thing; I have a bag of them that I will donate to the local dog pound, but I guess I can use them and wash them one more time before I do!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 5:41PM
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Windex with ammonia in it helps dissolve the paste.Or you could use a household ammonia solution, but dilute plenty to avoid being overcome by the smell. Spray down a section and work with a big damp sponge in one hand and a green scotchbrite in the other. The heavy-duty scrubbies with handles attached (from the paint stripper department, or the BBQ aisle) can work pretty well but are a little harder to get the crud out of. Scrub until the plaster is white-white.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 6:10PM
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Hi Casey! I remember you from the kitchen forum; I did mine back in 2007, while you were doing yours. Yours came out so beautifully!

Ammonia's not a bad idea. My mom used to wash her kitchen floor with ammonia. Scrubbing until the plaster turns out white-white means scrubbing off at least three layers of paint! Don't think I'm up for that. But I'll scrub until the surface is bright yellow (and dark green in some places, and dark pink in others)!

I hate all the work that's involved in wall prep, but it's so worth it when it's done.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 6:17PM
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Make sure you have good ventilation is you are using ammonia or you could get chemical pneumonia like I did! I'm trying to get vinyl off of mom's kitchen, won't budge without a steamer. I told her to hire it done. It was supposed to be dry strip-able, not after 17 years apparently! Good Luck!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 2:00AM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

Dirtex is what you need

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 5:21AM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

Or better yet, get some Diff and follow the directions, scrub with a big green scrubby pad used for pots and pans.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 5:25AM
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I just picked up some Spic 'n Span (essentially TSP without P), and then stopped to chat with the painter (house painter) next door. He said that hot water and vinegar works too.

Lots of options, I guess.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 3:56PM
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Cheap fabric softener mixed with hot water OR vinegar and hot water both work well to remove paste. The trick is to get it on the wall and let it sit about ten minutes, long enough for the chemicals to do their job. A extra wide putty knife has been my favorite tool for this chore however it can ding the wall if you get too carried away. I usually do both a roll of towels at he baseboard to catch drips and a plastic tarp over the rest to catch flying debris. I like to wipe the putty knife after I use it into a pail so it is clean for the next swipe on the wall. Sometimes my aim into the bucket isn't what it should be and it's a nice help to have that plastic there on the floor to catch mistakes. Paper that has been removed and dried is just as nasty to remove as paper from a wall.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 6:37PM
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Vinegar works like a charm, but if you have real plaster walls you will be dissolving the lime in the whitecoat. DAMHIKT

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 10:22PM
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I had this happen to me. Sorry so much for you-occasionally my people painted over the wallpaper, so, yeah. from about 1912 (the pencil writing on the plaster in my 1889 home's pantry). What I did was this...

I just took a razor knife and scored the layers of wallpaper. Then I wiped with a sponge soaked in Downy (maybe a capful to 1.5 gallons). Then I used a putty knife to peel back (from bare plaster once I got to it) as much as I possibly could.

I'm delighted that my current project was just removing one layer of wallpaper that was over PRIMED plaster circa 1989. I know. So lucky. I did have to rebuild a wall, so I'm not completely lucky. But I was pretty darn lucky.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 10:37PM
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Peeling off that old paper can be a nightmare. I just need to get all that old paste off now. Yuck.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 10:58AM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

If you really want to get all the adhesive off you should order some of this. I have been in the paper stripping business for 20 years and this works better than anything else out there.

Here is a link that might be useful: safe and simple

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 7:06AM
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