How to Use a Wallpaper Steamer

Speed Up The Process of Stripping Wallpaper With This Guide

Stripping away old wallpaper can be a daunting messy, and laborious task. Often it involves getting the scraper out and spending hours hacking away at stubborn lumps of hard glue and congealed paper. Thankfully, there are more modern methods that get the job done in a fraction of the time and without all the hassle. Step forward that essential DIY tool that deserves a place in everyone’s collection - the wallpaper steamer.

To save yourself the hassle next time, did you know that all our Graham & Brown wallpapers use Paste-The-Wall technology? This means that rather than scraping off patches when it comes to changing your wallpaper, the existing paper comes off in full easy strips. With Paste-The-Wall, there’s no need to break out the wallpaper steamer. Check out our video on how to remove wallpaper to see this in action.

Wallpaper steamers use hot steam to break down wallpaper paste, making it much easier to prise the paper from the wall. It works by heating up water and then channeling the steam through a funnel, which you can then aim at the walls.

But if you’re making the change to Graham & Brown Paste-the-Wall and you need a blank canvas to work on, how do you get rid of your old wallpaper? Let’s take a look at wallpaper steamers in detail.


Wallpaper steamers use hot steam to break down wallpaper paste, making it much easier to prise the paper from the wall. This process is known as ‘hydrolysis’, which is a chemical reaction that breaks down the paste by using water vapour or steam.

A wallpaper steamer works by heating up a water reservoir and then channelling the steam produced through a nozzle and into a flat plate that sits on the surface of the wall.

Steamers work with most kinds of wallpaper and paste and are particularly good at breaking down old paste that's been on the wall for a few years. Wallpaper steamers can be used to take off lining paper, but you do need to know what kind of wall you have behind the paper. If it's plasterboard, excess moisture can damage the wall's integrity, causing the plasterboard to go soft.

If you do have a plasterboard wall behind that layer of lining paper, then it may be time to put the steamer away and break out the scraper. It's a laborious way of doing things, but it will prevent more serious damage to the structure of your wall.


We’re now going to tell you exactly how to use a wallpaper steamer to strip your walls, so you can get to the fun part of redecorating.

1Determine what kind of wallpaper you have

Depending on whether your wallpaper is porous or non-porous, you might need to carry out some prep work before using the steamer. Porous wallpaper includes types like lining paper, flock, embossed and unpainted woodchip. These types of paper don’t require any kind of prep, and you can get to work on them right away.

Non-porous wallpaper includes vinyl and washable paper, which steam won’t be able to soak into. To solve this, use a craft knife to score the paper in horizontal strips from top to bottom. Don’t press too hard - you want to cut into the paper but not badly damage the wall beneath. Perforating the wallpaper in this way will allow you to use the steamer effectively.

2Prepare the room

Before starting to use your wallpaper steamer, clear your room of furniture and lay down dust sheets to protect your flooring. Cover light switches and sockets with masking tape to shield them from any water spills.

Take down any pictures from the walls and ensure nails and hooks have been removed.

3Set up the wallpaper steamer

A wallpaper steamer operates like a large kettle. Place it on a flat surface, unscrew the lid and fill it with clean water. Then, plug it in and wait for the water to boil. Once steam starts coming out of the plate, you’re ready to start work.

4Hold the plate against the wall

Starting at the top, hold the plate against the wall. Begin by holding it there for around 15 seconds. If the paper is still attached firmly to the wall after this, reapply the plate for another 10-15 seconds. Keep doing this until the paper becomes damp and easy to peel away from the wall.

If you come to any tight or awkward areas, such as around a plug socket or beneath a radiator, switch to the smaller plate that ought to be provided with your wallpaper steamer. These are great for getting around corners and tackling hard-to-reach spots. Be particularly careful around electrical sockets – remember that water and electricity are a dangerous combination.

Our Top Tip

Work in short bursts. If you hold the plate against the paper for too long, you risk damaging the wall underneath.

5Strip the wallpaper

Use a stripping knife to get beneath the loosened paper and strip it from the wall. Keep the blade as flat as possible to avoid gouging too deeply and causing damage. Always strip away from yourself to prevent slipping and injuring yourself.

Our Second Top Tip

Tidy as you go – don’t leave it to the end to try and pick up all the bits.

It’s important to clear away the stripped wallpaper quickly - if it’s left on the floor to dry, it can stick to itself, exposed floorboards, and dust sheets. Have a bin liner handy as you work so you can immediately dispose of the paper.

Want to learn more about wallpaper and home decorating? Check out our guide on wallpaper lining and how to clean wallpaper.