Wallpaper Repair

Many problems with wallpaper can be repaired. This Fix-It Guide on wallpaper repair tells how wallpaper works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a wallpaper problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to clean non-washable wallpaper, how to patch wallpaper, how to refasten a wallpaper seam or edge, and how to eliminate a bubble in wallpaper.

How Does Wallpaper Work?

Wallpaper is a special paper, plain or printed, adhered to a smooth interior wall surface as decoration. Wallpaper comes in several forms, thousands of designs, and a wide range of prices. The two most common types are standard wallpaper and solid sheet vinyl. Standard wallpaper is a paper backing with a decorative print directly applied to it. Solid sheet vinyl has a paper backing laminated to a solid vinyl decorative surface. Vinyl wallpaper is easier to clean and is especially popular in areas with moisture (kitchen, bath, etc.).

What Can Go Wrong with Wallpaper?

If wallpaper is so simple, what can go wrong? Wallpaper can become dirty and suffer tears. Seams and edges can come loose. Bubbles can appear. All are fixable problems.

How Can I Identify a Wallpaper Problem?

  • If your wallpaper is dirty, try one of several cleaning methods (see below).
  • If there is a tear in the wallpaper, you can patch it (see below).
  • If a seam or edge comes loose, you can refasten it (see below).
  • If a bubble appears, you can easily flatten it (see below).

Fix-It Tip

If you have wallpaper running around a corner (where it can be damaged easily) you can protect the paper by installing a clear plastic corner molding. Moldings are available at many wallpaper stores, hardware stores, and home centers.

What Do I Need for Wallpaper Repair?

The tools and materials needed for fixing wallpaper are available at wallcovering stores as well as larger hardware stores and home centers. Tools needed include these:

  • Wallpaper (for patching)
  • Scissors
  • Wallpaper adhesive
  • Utility knife
  • Glue syringe
  • Art-gum eraser
  • Slice of rye bread (really!)
  • Cleaning fluid
  • Cornstarch
  • Tape
  • Sponge
  • Seam roller

What Are the Steps to Wallpaper Repair?

Clean non-washable wallpaper:

  1. Remove pencil marks and many other non-greasy spots from non-washable papers by rubbing gently with an art-gum eraser or a slice of fresh rye bread.
  2. Clean greasy spots, crayon marks, and food stains with a paste made of cleaning fluid and cornstarch. Let the solution dry and then brush it off. Repeat until the spot disappears.
  3. Remove fingerprints with a damp cloth followed by a light dusting of cornstarch to absorb moisture. Let the cornstarch dry and brush it off.

Refasten a wallpaper seam or edge:

  1. Carefully lift the edge of the seam.
  2. Moisten the area to be refastened.
  3. Use a glue syringe or glue that comes with a nozzle applicator to inject premixed wallpaper adhesive behind the seam.
  4. Wait 10 to 15 minutes, then lightly roll the repaired seam with a seam roller.

Eliminate a bubble in wallpaper:

 Wallpaper Repair

To remove an air bubble in wallpaper, carefully cut the surface with a utility knife, as shown, and press to allow air to escape, then rub the surface to flatten it.

  1. Carefully slit the bubble from edge to edge with a clean and sharp utility knife.
  2. Moisten the area that is bubbled.
  3. Use a glue syringe or glue that comes with a nozzle applicator to inject premixed wallpaper adhesive into the slit.
  4. Massage the glue in with your fingers, working excess adhesive out through the slit.
  5. Use a clean, wet sponge to remove excess adhesive from the repaired area.

Patch wallpaper:

  1. Use scissors to cut a patch of new wallpaper larger than the area to be covered.
  2. Carefully tear the edges of the patch wallpaper because it will be less noticeable than a straight cut edge.
  3. Remove any loose wallpaper from the area you are patching.
  4. Align the patterns to make sure that the patch will work.
  5. Clean and smooth the area to be patched with a damp sponge.
  6. Apply wallpaper adhesive to the back of the patch, place it on the wall, and smooth it into place with a damp sponge.
  7. Allow the patch to dry for 10 to 15 minutes, then lightly press the repaired seams with a seam roller.

Fix-It Tip

You can purchase replacement wallpaper for patching in wallpaper stores. However, even if you can find the correct pattern, how can you age the paper so it doesn’t look like a patch? You can use a light bleach solution to age pieces. Or you can find a loose piece in the corner of a closet or other hidden location. The best option is to set aside unused wallpaper left over from a job, tacking it up on an attic or closet wall to age with the installed wallpaper. It will then be ready for quick fixes.