Oh no! A wallpaper paste stain: How to avoid and remove paste stains when wallpapering
Wallpaper paste stains on high-quality and delicate wallpaper surfaces are not harmless at all. In fact, they can have a detrimental effect on the surface and, once they have dried up, they can only be removed with difficulty or not at all. When applying paste and hanging the wallpaper, you need to be careful and attentive to prevent paste stains or remove them before they dry.
In our new advice blog, we illustrate the negative effect that paste stains can have on various types of wallpaper. We explain why you need to act quickly and early to remove such stains, and what you can do after paste stains have dried up and, depending on the type of wallpaper, to remedy the optical impairment.
Why do I need to take paste stains into consideration?
From daily experience, we can report that paste stains are the most frequent cause of spoiling the enjoyment of a freshly papered wall. Non-professionals are usually very careful as they are aware of the value of the newly purchased wallpaper. For once, the “blame” lies with professional painters and decorators. They are often so set in their ways of how to put up wallpaper that minor differences in wallpaper surface material can mean either success or total fiasco. We recommend asking the professional of your choice whether they have hung up textile wallpapers or glass bead wallpapers before – and do it before you place your order. You won't believe the customer photos we have seen, where professional painters/decorators totally ruined papered walls with paste stains, costing several hundred Pounds.
What is the problem with wallpaper paste?
At the very least, all common print colours for wallpapers are waterproof. This means that you can carefully dab off minor stains with a damp cloth. One might assume that because the powder-based wallpaper paste is mixed with water, the front of the wallpaper would automatically be resistant to the paste: on the contrary, uncoated wallpapers (i.e. all wallpapers except vinyl) will be damaged by paste stains on the front. The ingredients of the paste soften the print colours, so that when you attempt to remove the paste too late, the wallpaper colour comes off, too.
Wallpaper types/surfaces and the impact of paste stains
In our Online Shop for exclusive design and patterned wallpaper, you can find high-quality materials with special and delicate surfaces. In the following overview, we explain the impact that traces of paste on the front of the wallpaper can have, depending on the respective material:
The surface of natural wallpapers has a thin top layer of real natural materials such as cork, bamboo, grass or mica stones. These wallpapers are usually water-resistant but not washable or scrub-resistant, i.e. their surface is sensitive to moisture. Depending on the material, traces of paste may also cause delicate natural materials to swell up. Furthermore, the sticky paste collects in the fine structures, making it even more difficult to remove. Mica stones, which are made from volcanic rocks, soak up paste like a sponge (similar to clay granules).
Thinly rolled metal foils applied to a backing layer characterise decorative metallic wallpapers that can be treated with effect glazes or conjure up special structures and light effects through oxidation or etching processes. Paste on the surface of these wallpapers may result in optical changes caused by chemical reactions and should therefore be avoided. Also, when removing paste stains from glazed foils, in particular, there is a risk that the glazing will "smudge".
Sculptural, multi-dimensional flock wallpapers with interesting high-low structures give depth to a room. Short viscose fibres laminated to the backing material create haptic plasticity and a velvety smooth surface. Traces of paste on the flocking cause the fine fibres to stick together. As the paste collects in the fine structures, it is almost impossible to remove. This "clogging" is very noticeable and can seriously impair the overall appearance of the wall decor.
With textile wallpapers, natural or synthetic fibres are applied as a weave or warp threads on a paper or fabric backing. Linen wallpapers, raffia wallpapers, silk wallpapers or cotton wallpapers are examples of cosy and near-natural wallpapers that fill a room with warmth and comfort. Similar to flock wallpapers, the fine fibres are highly sensitive to paste, as any clogging of the fibres also results in optical flaws.
Glass bead wallpaper
Glass bead wallpapers provide pure luxury in the form of shimmering colours and light reflexes. A myriad of glass beads is attached to the surface, thus forming patterns and motifs and creating stunning plasticity. It is probably obvious that wallpaper paste on this type of surface is an absolute no-go, because glass beads are amongst THE most delicate wallpaper materials. Even trying to remove the paste with a dry cloth can cause the beads to come off.
The famous crinkle look with folds and pleats make crush wallpapers so popular. There are many variations of crush wallpapers in terms of materials and cleaning properties. Washable crush wallpapers make it easier to remove fresh as well as dried paste stains, but heavy rubbing should definitely be avoided.
The "leather" wall treatments in our range are actually vinyl wallpapers. Their surface consists of a large variety of thin and deceptively real-looking leather imitation materials. One of the biggest advantages of these high-quality vinyl wallpapers is that they are washable. Their wash-resistant or highly wash-resistant attributes are also a positive factor when it comes to removing paste. However, you should still remove fresh paste stains as quickly as possible.
Effect foil wallpaper
Gossamer-thin special foils with high reflection density and a brilliant range of colours allow for fascinating 3D and rainbow effects on the wall. As with metal wallpapers and glass bead wallpapers, paste stains on effect foil wallpapers are a major issue because they damage the delicate surface. Removing paste stains can damage the foil and thus destroy the special effect in the affected area.
How to avoid paste stains
As the wise saying goes: prevention is better than cure. This also applies to paste stains on wallpapers. Such staining can happen on wallpapers where the paste is applied to the paper backing as well as on non-woven wallpapers, where the paste is applied to the wall. This is usually due to too much paste and/or careless working.
Applying paste to the back of wallpaper: This relates to all paper-backed wallpapers. Apply the paste evenly using the brush. Less is initially more, especially on the edges that will form the seams later on. Carefully refinish your work on the wall by using a thin paint brush. When applying paste to the edges of the wallpaper while working on the trestle table, it is best to use a narrow paint brush instead of the paste brush. This reduces the risk of paste ending up under the wallpaper - and thus on the front. Before you fold the wallpaper for soaking, remove any traces of paste on the table – above, below and to the sides of the strip of wallpaper. This is necessary because it is very easy for the wallpaper to slip out of position when folding it, which means that the front would then come into contact with the paste on the table.
Make sure that the edges do not overlap when you fold the wallpaper. You should be working as a pair when unfolding the soaked wallpaper.
Pasting the wall: In the case of non-woven wallpapers, the paste is applied directly to the wall. Here, too, the rule is that the paste must not be applied too thickly. Apply the paste to the wall about a third beyond the first width of the strip of wallpaper. This will prevent you from coming into contact with the wallpaper that is already in situ when applying the paste for the next strip. You can subsequently remove any paste that has dried near the seams using a small brush. Since every new strip of wallpaper is usually "pushed" next to the seam of the previous strip, some of the paste will move toward this point, too. Excess paste will spill out on the front when the strips touch each other. With most printed wallpapers, you can remedy the situation by quickly removing the paste. However, you would no longer be able to save textile wallpapers at this point as the fibres soak up the paste straight away and cannot be cleaned. This problem can only be prevented by taking absolute care while working with this type of paper.
Wear gloves when working with delicate wallpaper surfaces
Wallpaper adhesive can crop up anywhere, even in the most unlikely places. All it takes is a splodge here or a drop there. Paste also tends to stick to your hands. In the heat of the moment, you might not really notice it while putting up the wallpaper. Simply touching the wallpaper may cause problems if the paper has a delicate surface and your hands are sticky. Thin cotton gloves are generally a good idea as they enable you to put up delicate wallpapers cleanly and free of grease. Even if some paste does end up on the gloves, they soak it up immediately, whereas the sticky moisture would remain on the surface of rubber or plastic gloves.
Even more attention is needed when using special adhesives and dispersion glue
Heavy wallpapers such as vinyl or embossed types require the use of special glues with added synthetic resin and other chemical components to achieve stronger adhesion. The substances included usually result in stubborn stains and may have a detrimental impact on the surface.
Dispersion glues that are added to normal paste or used in their pure form require even more care. Whether wet or dry, these stains can hardly be removed at all or only with the unwanted side-effect of causing damage.
As a rule, you need to remove paste stains immediately, and while they are wet
The following rule applies to all commercially available types of wallpaper adhesive: Traces of paste and paste stains must be removed immediately and while they are fresh and wet. Proceed as follows:
- Soak up excess paste with paper towels or an absorbent, lint-free cloth by dabbing carefully. Do not rub.
- Then moisten the spot with clear water (wet, clean cloth or lightly soaked small sponge) and carefully soak up and dab off any remainders.
You can only use clean water, with nothing added, to remove fresh as well as dried-up paste stains. Never apply volatile chemical substances such as turpentine or benzene to the surface of the wallpaper.
It is easy to overlook fresh paste stains if the lighting in the room is insufficient. Therefore, make sure everything is lit up well and brightly whilst working on your wallpapering project – a simple lightbulb is not fit for purpose. Fresh paste stains are easy to detect in daylight.
Removing drying or dried up paste stains
Shiny or milky matt spots on the wallpaper are usually due to drying or dried up paste. Depending on the base material (see material type), it may still be possible to remove them, but you will require patience and nifty fingers.
To start with, you will need to re-moisten the paste stain. Please use only pure lukewarm water. Then take a dry, clean cloth or paper towel and dab off the moisture. Do not rub, scrub, or scratch. Instead, repeat the process after some time, if required.
Please note that for some dispersion glues, it is usually not possible to remove dried-up stains without causing damage. Never use solvents on the wallpaper. You need to be extra careful when applying such glues.