Using a wallpaper steamer
The steam stripper works on the principle of a kettle, sending steam along a hose to a distribution plate. This is held against the paper for a few seconds, pushing steam through and dissolving the adhesive. This in turn makes the paper easier to strip.
Filling the tank with hot water saves waiting around for cold water to come to the boil.
Steam stripping technique
By holding the plate against the paper with one hand and scraping with the other, you can build up a system so that the next section is being soaked while the first is being stripped.
Do not allow the steam to work on any area for too long, however, as it can also be an effective way of blowing the top layer of plaster!
Take care, steam can easily burn you. Always allow plenty of ventilation to the room while working with a steamer. Open windows and doors – otherwise you’ll end up with a very wet room. It’s not unheard of for a steam-filled room to soften an old lathe and plaster ceiling in poor condition sufficiently to bring it down – think ahead!
When scraping off paper, use a stripping knife, which is designed specifically for this job. Don’t use a filling knife, as this will flex and gouge the surface.
The knife should be held at an angle which is enough to get under the paper but not enough to dig into the wall.
Try to work methodically as this will actually make the job easier.
By getting the blade of the knife under the paper, you should be able to edge it along using small "back and forth" strokes. If your angle becomes too shallow, you will simply come back through the paper again. The trick is to maintain an angle which causes it to sit between paper and wall all the time.
The easiest method is to work upwards, so starting at the bottom of the wall is best. Using a scraper downwards makes it much more difficult to control and requires a great deal more effort.
Cleaning after stripping the paper
Once the paper has been stripped, look at the surface to see what’s left.
When dry, any slight roughness of the surface can be smoothed easily by light sanding with a flat block. Chances are, in a modern house you’ll have reasonably decent plaster. However, in an older house, it is possible that you will encounter a chalky or powdery surface, which is likely to be distemper.
Don’t leave stripped paper all round the room – as the adhesive dries, it will stick just as well as it did the first time round.
Do not leave bagged-up paper indoors as it generates heat when compacted producing a possible fire hazard.