Stripping wallpaper can be a tedious, difficult and time-consuming job that can put you off redecorating forever! But wallpaper steamers can reduce the amount of time this job takes tenfold! Whether looking to redecorate a wall, a room, or the whole house – a wallpaper steamer is one tool that you cannot do without! No more sponge and water, and hours of scraping pea size pieces from your wall at a time while hacking away all the plaster underneath!
We have created this article to give you information not just on what to look for when purchasing a wallpaper steamer – but then how to use it when you get your trusty tool home!
Only Got 5 Minutes?
So you’ve made the decision to redecorate, you’ve decided that you’re doing the job yourself instead of getting a decorator in, now you need the tools to be able to do the job well! Once you’ve made the important decision to decorate your home, there is nothing more that you want to do than get stuck in straight away, so keep reading for all the important bits of information you need to purchase your wallpaper steamer.
What to Look For When Buying A Wallpaper Steamer
The general purpose of a wallpaper steamer is to loosen the wallpaper so that it is easier to remove from your wall – hopefully avoiding damage to the surface underneath in the process. By heating water, which turns into steam, this is channelled down a tube and out into the head of the steamer – which you put on the wall – just like a big kettle! Once the steam has loosened the wallpaper, you should then be able to peel it off with relative ease.
Wallpaper steamers range in price from around £30-400 so it is important to shop around first and consider exactly what you are wanting to do with your steamer, such as how big the walls are that you are looking to cover and how often you intend to use the product.
This refers to the tank that holds the water which will be heated. These vary in size from around 3L to 8L (for more professional models). We would suggest that a 4L tank should be sufficient for general use, which will give you approximately 60 minutes of continuous use before needing to refill (this does vary slightly for different makes and models)
TOP TIP: While a bigger tank means less trips to the sink to be refilled, a smaller tank will use less power to heat the water and will usually be ready to use quicker!
Length of hose and Steam Plate Size
The length of the hose that you are using might seem like a very unimportant thing but if you have a room with particularly tall walls, then you could find yourself struggling to reach the top while the water tank is still on the floor (this can particularly be the case for stairs and landing spaces). As if redecorating wasn’t hard enough – the last thing you need is to be having to carry the tank of water AND steam the wall.
Therefore, always check the length of the hose and that this is going to be sufficient for your room. Also, the longer the hose the more surface area you can cover before needing to pause to move your tank to a different part of the room.
This also applies to the actual steam plate. These don’t vary greatly in size, but they do vary! Obviously the larger the plate of the steamer the larger space that can be steamed at once, which will speed up the process.
TOP TIP: If you know that the area you are steaming has a number of small, harder to access places, then look for a wallpaper steamer that comes with varying sizes of plates as a smaller one will be perfect for smaller nooks and crannies! If the model that you are looking at doesn’t offer this, it may be worth looking to see if there are add ons that you can purchase for this.
Length of power cable
As with the length of the hose, the same applies to the length of the power cable. Although the length of the power cables do vary, we have not yet found a model that would not be sufficient for purpose. Although, it always makes sense to buy a model with a longer cable if this is available to you. The longer the cable the further you will be able to steam before needing to unplug and move to another location – risking having to then reheat the the tank.
SAFETY TIP: Many would suggest merely adding an extension lead to your power cable, however this is most definitely not advisable when using a wallpaper steamer. Due to the tank of water, and the water droplets that can drip out of the plate, this could lead to a blown fuse – or worse!
Everyone knows that water electricity combined can be a bad idea! No one wants their home refurb resulting in a trip to A&E! Therefore it is so important that, regardless of the price of the wallpaper stripper, you ensure that it meets UK Safety Regulations and the parts fit together safely and tight enough to use without water getting close to the electrical components.
Always consider the wattage of different makes before purchasing a wallpaper steamer. The less power the longer it will take for your tank of water to warm up and send steam up the hose. This can be incredibly frustrating if you are wanting to get started immediately!
How To Use A Wallpaper Steamer
The wallpaper steamer itself is relatively easy to use, however working the steamer is only one part of removing the wallpaper from your walls. Read on to find out the best way to start this redecorating process!
The first thing that it is important to do is check exactly what surface your wallpaper is on – plaster or plasterboard. Removing wallpaper that is on plasterboard using a steamer can be difficult, as if you leave the steamer in one place for too long then it can damage the plasterboard underneath. Equally, removing wallpaper on plaster can risk damaging the plaster underneath if you are not careful when actually scraping the wallpaper off afterwards, so it is important to make sure that the wallpaper is as soft as possible and is coming away from the walls easily – otherwise you could end up having to patch up the plasterwork underneath. For tips on how to do this, see the frequently asked questions below.
Next, it is important to cover any furnishing and the flooring around where you will be using the wallpaper steamer – as this can be a messy job. Using old bed sheets will work perfectly well – however you can purchase plastic sheets that will do a better job of protecting any important flooring or furniture from the damp. Also, we recommend opening a couple of windows where possible for ventilation due to all the steam!
Once you have done this you are ready to get your wallpaper steamer working. Simply fill up the tank to the recommended level, and plug into the mains electricity, ensuring that your power cable and hose are not tangled with each other or the main tank. While your tank of water is heating up (this will usually take a few minutes) it is always advisable to score the wallpaper that you are going to be removing to make it more porous. There are special tools that you can purchase to do this, however we find that it is just as easily achieved using a blade or even the edge of your stripping blade (if it is sharp enough).
TOP TIP: Certain types of wallpaper will be less porous than others – such as vinyl covered wallpaper. This will make your job more difficult as the wallpaper will not allow the steam through, so it is important to put extra score lines in the paper to allow the steam through these spaces – but be careful not to damage the wall underneath!
At this point you are ready to start using your wallpaper steamer! You will know when your wallpaper steamer is ready to use as steam will be pouring out of the plate! It is always better to start at the base of the wall, so choose a point to start and hold the plate against the bottom corner of the wall until signs of damp start to appear. At this point move the plate across to the next patch and repeat. If you feel able to – or if there are two of you removing the wallpaper – it is a good idea to have one person using the stripper blade to work on the newly damp patch of wallpaper, while the plate is steaming the next patch. This allows the process to be smoother and avoids patches of the wall starting to dry out again before you get chance to strip them!
Once you have moved along the base of one sheet of wallpaper, start to move up the wall until that whole sheet is removed. Then simply continue this process until you have removed all of the wallpaper.
If you are tackling a particularly tricky area, where the wallpaper is being stubborn to remove, then holding the steamer on this patch for longer should help. But remember, the longer you hold the steamer on the wall, the longer it takes the surface underneath to dry!
Once you have removed all the wallpaper, it is important to wipe down the walls to remove any residue glue or paper. Using a damp sponge will be sufficient for this. Now, all you have to do is wait for your walls to dry out!
Important Tips for Wallpaper Steaming
- Never let the water in the tank pass the minimum water level – this can cause damage to the wallpaper steamer, and will not be covered on the warranty if it should break.
- Disconnect any mains electrics that are on the wall (or close to the wall) that you are steaming at the time. Water from the steam can run down the wall and into these sockets if you are not very careful!
- Always keep the wallpaper steamer on a flat surface and never stretch the power cable or the hose to the point of being taut – this can add risk to the tool falling over and spilling the boiling water.
- Allow the tank to cool for a few moments before refilling. Although this will mean that the tank will take longer to reheat the water, it avoids the risk of any burns to yourself.
- Always allow a couple of hours (minimum) for the wall underneath to dry fully before fixing any cracks in the plaster and starting to redecorate.
- Once you have finished using your wallpaper steamer, make sure to wait until it has cooled down before emptying the tank!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any other tools that I will need to remove the wallpaper?
There are additional things that we would recommend to make removing your wallpaper easy and pain free! Firstly, something to score the wallpaper (see above) and a stripping blade to remove the wallpaper once it has been softened. It is also a good idea to put sheets down to both protect any flooring and make removal of the old wallpaper easier.
How can I check what is behind the wallpaper?
As we discussed above, it is important to check whether you have solid plaster on brick or stone, or plasterboard, behind your wallpaper. A simple way to do this is to do the “knock test” – which really is as simple as is sounds! Knock on the walls that you are wanting to redecorate, if your knock sounds solid then your wallpaper is on plaster, if it sounds more like an echo then your wallpaper is on plasterboard.