Need suggestions on removing old wallpaper and paints that have less odors

Hi!  The wallpaper in our kitchen and family room is the woven type that is really impossible to clean.  It's as old as the house, so 30 years old. 

I would really love to remove it!  Or have someone else do that task. 

First question – I know wallpaper can be tricky to remove.  Does anyone have suggestions on how to remove it without stirring up the gunk, any more than necessary, that I'm sure is on it after so many years?  Who would put that kind of wallpaper around the kitchen sink and stove? 

Second question – Are there any primers/paints out there that do not have strong odors?  As much as I used to like the smell of a new house, don't think it would agree with my breathing!  I've heard of a brand where the primer and paint are put on in one application.  I guess at least that would reduce the odors.



Comments 14

  • K8sMom2002

    Ugh on the wallpaper! Is it vinyl wallpaper or paper? Or fabric?

    My mom was the type to move walls around furniture, so we did A LOT of DIY projects growing up. Depending on the wallpaper paste, the best approaches are:

    • Steam it off (works really well with pre-pasted wallpaper)
    • Spray it down with a squirt bottle of water, let it soak, then take a paper tiger to it, and keep spraying it with water (works well with paper wallpapers). A paper tiger is a tool that scores the wallpaper and lets the water get behind it. Here's a .
    • Sometimes if you can get a free edge worked loose, you'd be surprised how easy it comes off without any big fuss.
    • Spraying and scraping any stuck on paper backing will take off the rest — not easy, but doable. 

    For paints, have you checked out the asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program? Here's a quote about it — and it does have paints listed.

    The asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program, administered by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) in partnership with the international research organization, Allergy Standards Limited (ASL), is an independent program created to scientifically test and identify consumer products that are more suitable for people with asthma and allergies. You can find certified products and services such as carpet cleaning, flooring, vacuums and more at 

    Happy DIY'ing!

  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, you don't happen to have an allergy to wheat, do you? Because most wallpaper pastes are wheat-based. NOT something you want airborne if you have a life-threatening allergy to wheat!

  • Pljohns

    Totally agree with K8SMOM2002-I've removed more than my fair share of wall paper with scoring it up really good, then spray with water and let it sit for a while.  The better you score, the easier it is.  Once the under side paper gets wet, it's not too bad.  

    as for paint-there are some out there that are virtually odor free-look for low VOC paint.  It use to cost more but now contractors are using it more and more so the price isn't as bad.

  • LK

    Cynthia and Lynn,  Wow!  Thanks for all those great tips!    The wallpaper is a woven cloth type.  I'm wondering if that will make it harder to score?  Should help it absorb the water better?

    Never knew that about the wheat in the paste.  I am not allergic but thank you for mentioning it.

    Good to know about the VOC paints.  Will look into that, too.

    Another question – Do you ever have the sheetrock come partially off when removing the wallpaper? 

    I removed wallpaper from a small bathroom years ago.  Didn't have the paper tiger and it took me awhile, but did get it off.  Painted the room, too.  Only difference is I didn't have asthma then so I'm a bit leery of trying it now.  Will definitely wear a mask!



  • Melanie Carver


    As Cynthia mentioned, our Certification Program scientifically tests paints. Here are the two that are proven to meet to AAFA's standards:

    Benjamin Moore Natura Premium Interior Paint

    Samhwa Classy ATO Free Paints

  • LK

    Thank you Melanie.  Such good information about products! 

  • LK

    This is the wallpaper.  DH just said he would help remove it!  He doesn't want to do it by himself but would be willing to help.  Suddenly the job just got easier!  Or not!!    We agreed to wait until spring or summer when we can open the windows if needed for fresh air.  I need to start thinking about it now so I can work up the will to do it! 

  • Pljohns

    Lisa-I would get a REALLY good scorer for that one so it cuts through the burlap type material.  And to answer your question, yes, we removed some wallpaper once and they hadn't primed the wall behind it-huge chunks of drywall came off with it.  We did the drywall repair because the extra work was worth no more wallpaper but yes, that absolutely can happen.

  • LK

    Thank you, Lynn!!  Will look for a good scorer.  Really want to get rid of this wallpaper.

  • LK

    In several of the other wallpapered-rooms in our house the wallpaper is coming loose in spots, but not this wallpaper!    At some point need to do those rooms as well.  One project at a time!

  • K8sMom2002

    Lisa, here's a video and a resource from Lowe's about 

    That wallpaper looks as though it's straight out of the 1980s, so you might be in luck and it MIGHT be strippable.

    Most cloth type wallpapers in the 1980s (when my mom was in her DIY heyday and my sister and I were her assistant chief cook-and-bottle-washers) had a paper backing. They didn't come pre-pasted usually, so that meant wallpaper paste had to be applied to the paper backing. Depending on the paste type, it could still be "strippable." Because it's cloth and was hung in a kitchen, if a professional hung it, they probably opted for a sturdy wallpaper paste … but if an amateur did it, then it's more likely a strippable wallpaper paste.

    Someone along the way could have repaired curling edges with a more durable glue or paste … so there's still some hope that it's not as horrible a job as you're thinking. 

    I'd rent or buy a steamer, though — and you might go over the edges once or twice before you start stripping. 

    I like your idea of waiting until you can have good ventilation. Another possibility is to rent one of the large "vent" fans like fire departments use to pull smoke/fumes out of fire scenes — open a door or put it in a window, and position it to pull air out of the room.

  • LK

    Cynthia,  Thank you for so much fabulous information!  Who knew there was so much to know about wallpaper!  Thank you for going to the trouble of finding the link on how to strip wall paper.  So thoughtful of you!   Great idea about renting a steamer.  Will definitely do that as well as all the other terrific ideas you and Lynn have given me.  That 'vent' fan idea is brilliant! 

    With all this new-found knowledge I'm almost feeling prepared!    Or is it a case of 'a little knowledge is dangerous'!   

  • K8sMom2002

    I'd say it's a case of quoting the tagline for that Home Depot commercial — "You can do it! We can help!"

    I'm a big believer in DIYing. With asthma, you just have to be prepared, really follow all the instructions when it comes to masks and ventilation, and understand that your progress might be a little slower than other folks who don't have to take frequent breaks. (Which I get, but my DH doesn't. ) 

    Just a warning: it's gonna look a LOT worse before it looks better. Just close your eyes and keep on strippin'. (Oh, wow, that didn't come out exactly right, now did it? )

    BTW, you're inspiring me to tackle my bedroom and half bath this summer — it's in dire need of 1990s border being stripped off and walls patched and repaired, primed and painted. I also want to put up crown molding. 

    Tee-hee — I'd need a week off to do it, and then another week to recover.

  • LK

    Cynthia,  Your comments really made me smile!!   

    Now that I am thinking in the DYI mode, I can think of a 'few' other walls that could use a little help!  May take me all summer!!  Oh, well!  I needed something to do!