We left on Tuesday having posed the question will the white vinegar/warm water solution work against the sticky goo of vinyl-over-vinyl adhesive? Many have contacted us since claiming to be waiting with bated breath as to how it all turned out. Let’s review though.
Problem: Vinyl wallpaper border is placed on wall with a strong adhesive that I can’t chemically dissolve
Solution: Use an acetic acid (a chemical with a low pH volume) to break apart the chemical compounds of the glue
Upon the suggestion of my mother (a one-time professional wallpaper hanger) I purchased a small bottle of white vinegar from the local box store. With it I purchased a viscose sponge, a 2.5″ plastic scraper, and a 16oz. clear spray bottle. All said the purchase was about $7 and seemed as good a solution as any. I talked to mother again and she recommended I also get a towel to keep the solution from running down the walls and possible loosening the adhesive of the wallpaper. Her confidence in this ‘magic potion’ was encouraging. I was ready to begin the process.
I decided on a 1:3 ratio of vinegar:warm water. Taking my 16oz. bottle I filled it to 12oz. with warm, tap water. Okay, so the water may have been approaching hot but that is because the mixing valve out of our hot water heater is not all that great. I then took a liquid measuring spoon and added 4oz. of white vinegar. I could immediately smell the potency of the mixture and immediately wondered if my rig would permanently smell like a freshly cleaned public restroom. I went to the first wall which happened to have the shortest stretch of border; just 9″. I lightly sprayed the solution on to the border and then wiped it off. The solution might have been on the border for 4 seconds. I then used my scraper to try and peel back a holding point. Nothing. NOTHING. I couldn’t even get my finger nail behind the paper. I was ready to call my mom out for her “mother earth home remedy” solution that she so freely offered. I decided to try again. This time I would be more liberal.
I sprayed the border using spray rather than stream. I used my sponge to keep the liquid from running and I let the solution pool up at the top edge of the border. I wanted it to really soak in. My nostrils flared with both satisfaction and putridity. I took my scraper and with one stabbing motion thrusted downward from the ceiling of the trailer straight into the top edge of the border. Like a samurai sword in a heated game of Flying Fruit I released the top edge of the border and watched as my vinegar potion continued to burrow its way behind the border. I was removing the border. There before my eyes a virgin swath of vinyl wallpaper appeared having been entombed by a covering I can only call “Napa Valley Upchuck.”
I sprayed again. I stabbed again. I sprayed again. I stabbed again.
I could finally get a hold of the border paper. As I slowly pulled from the top right edge and the border began to release itself I sprayed a bit more. When I reached a seemingly tough spot I sprayed liberally and then used the scraper to peel. The process was smooth. Within minutes I was on to the second stretch of Napa. I decided to change my procedure a bit and I sprayed a liberal amount on to my sponge. With a determination rarely seen in the pre-fabricated world I plunged my moist sponge into the border allowing the potion to saturate the whole border from outside in. As I held the sponge there I sprayed the top edge. Then I scraped. I pushed the sponge. I sprayed. I pulled. Piece 2 was surrendering itself to me! We were moving closer to a trailer that was more us and less fruity, if you will.
Within the course of a few hours I had removed all the border. The walls were calling out to me. They were singing praises to freedom. Their midsections were no longer bound by the discourse of deplorable interior design. It was a magical moment for campers everywhere!
There were a few spots (primarily in corners) where it seems the manufacturer turned to an adhesive still not known by man and used only in rare scientific studies. It was less good and more cement. If it released the border you would have to keep a distance as the substance would pull you in and ultimately make you its prisoner as well. For those areas I used a generic goo-be-gone that I picked up at the Dollar General combined with the scraper, my pocket knife, my finger nails, small children, dogs teeth, and anything else I could find. At first it just got soggy like an old, half-chewed Starburst candy. But over time it solidified again and allowed itself to be ransomed. And by the next day all signs of border and adhesive were gone and all that was left was a large pile of shredded border, a few layers of my thumb skin, and a dulled plastic scraper.
The smell cleared in just a couple of hours with a good cross breeze and we were now officially ready to put a little lipstick on this pig!