Tips and tricks for fixing common wallpaper problems

Posted1/3/2014 12:48 AM

Wallpapering has come a long way since it was first used, thank goodness! Now we have paper that is easier to put up and take down.

Howver, makers haven't yet found a way to prevent peeling, bubbling and a few other issues that us paperhangers have to deal with. Here are a few tips that can help you correct some of these pesky paper problems.

• Loose and peeling edges probably are the most common issue. If you can carefully remove any of the old adhesive from the back side of the paper and the wall, do so. Sometimes a razor can help you do this. Just don't cut or tear the paper. Then, use a small paintbrush to apply more wallpaper paste to both surfaces and press it back into place. Use a seam roller for better contact and adhesion.

• An air bubble is easy to fix. Just fill a syringe with wallpaper adhesive and puncture the bubble with the needle and squirt a little adhesive into the space. Then use a seam roller to push it back into place.

• Cleaning wallpaper is a little more difficult and depends upon the type of paper it is. Dust it to remove any loose dirt. Use a damp sponge in an inconspicuous place. If it doesn't stain the paper, then use it where the dirt is. A Magic Eraser is a great tool, used carefully, to remove dirt.

• Small tears can be glued back into place if the paper is still there. Just use wallpaper adhesive and a seam roller to press it back into place.

• Larger tears need to be patched. Hopefully you still have some scraps of paper to use. If there is a pattern, cut a scrap of paper larger than the damaged area and matching the pattern. Use masking tape to place the patch over the damaged area, matching the pattern exactly, and then use an X-ACTO knife to cut through both layers of paper. Pull the patch off, then the damaged paper and then glue the patch in place. Roll it with the seam roller.

• Spreading seams might be camouflaged with a small paintbrush and some matching paint. Yes, it's time-consuming, but it will work.

Stubborn screws

A stubborn screw is a common problem for the do-it-yourselfer. There are several ways to try to tackle it. Sometimes, it's just a matter of really getting the screwdriver blade into the slots in the head of the screw. Try placing the screwdriver into the slot and then tapping the end of it with your hammer. This will push it as far into the slots as possible and it might just be all you need to get the job done. It's certainly easy enough to do!

Prevent paint spills

Before you ever pick up a brush or roller, you need to spend some quality time with your paint, stirring it to make sure it is thoroughly mixed. Since this can be a little messy for most of us, try placing the whole can into a large paper sack or a cardboard box. This gives you a good shield for those spatters and drips. Keep the messes under control, and you'll have to spend less time cleaning up later.

Super hints

• If you want to keep your home, garage and yard clean, put a trash can in each area. Heck, maybe your family actually will see and use them. You can save a lot of time cleaning up if all you have to do is empty the trash cans around the house!

• Squeaky hinges can be annoying, but spraying them with grease, which drips down the door and onto your floor, is just about as annoying to me. I use petroleum jelly to lubricate my hinges. It works just as well and won't drip.

• If you are having trouble keeping your shop organized, assign boxes or bins for specific projects, like plumbing or painting, and then label these boxes so you know just where to put each item. You can devote a whole shelf or cabinet to one type if you need to.

Q. I have a problem. We left a rubber tub mat in place for several years, not thinking about cleaning under it. It has stained the white surface, and I would like to find a way to remove these dark stains. Bleach won't touch it -- I've tried that. Now what?

A. Try making a paste from cream of tartar (available in the spice aisle at your grocery store) and hydrogen peroxide. Spread this over the stains and let it stay in place overnight. Then wash it away. Don't use an abrasive scrubber. If you need to repeat it to get stubborn stains off, do so. It usually works pretty well and won't harm the finish.

Q. I've had ceiling fans for years and never thought about reversing them during the winter. Heck, some of them might already be reversed and I don't even know it. Which direction should they be going, how can you tell and what does it actually do?

A. During hot times of the year, you want the blades to push the air straight down from the ceiling, directly on you to help cool you down. But during the winter, you want the air to be pulled up and then pushed back down at the edge of the walls. Turn the fan on a slow speed and use a stick of incense to test the air flow to make sure it's right for this time of the year.

Q. We have a canvas patio awning. We took it down this winter to make some repairs and to see if we could clean it. Is there something in particular that can be used to clean dark stains from it?

A. Spot treat with warm water and dishwashing liquid. After it has dried, add a layer of fabric protector to the whole thing to help it continue to resist moisture. Good luck.

Reader tips

• My wife makes me use coasters in the house. I really appreciate it, since I've had to remove my fair share of rings from tabletops. But then I started using coasters in my workshop. I put them under paint cans, hand cleaner and other messy stuff. They prevent grease stains and other messes that would end up on my work bench or utility countertop. I make my coasters from the lids of plastic containers because they are larger and hold more drips.

• You'll love this idea. I bought an old radio cabinet that I have restored. The wood was in good shape, just nicked and scratched a little. The radio didn't work, but still looks really neat. I replaced the inserts where the speakers were with a black mesh fabric and refinished the wooden cabinet. I polished the radio, but had trouble cleaning the old knobs. I ended up putting them into a bowl of vinegar and left them overnight. The grease and grime from years of use was all gone, and I didn't even have to scrub them. The project looks great, and I can't wait to start my next one. I will be using vinegar again for sure!

• I knew it would happen because the whole family was in town for Thanksgiving -- the sink in the bar stopped up. I needed to drain the sink and was able to get most of the water out except for the last little bit. I grabbed the turkey baster to suck the rest of the water out. It worked quickly, and then I was able to pull the drain off and remove the clog. I'm going to buy my own baster just to keep in my plumbing-repair basket, because I can see that I will be using this again -- but not anytime soon, I hope!

• One of my pre-party jobs is digging out the old candles from the candle holders. It's always a lot of fun! But I have discovered some shortcuts. I put the candle holders into the freezer for a few hours first. This makes the wax really hard and brittle. It will break easily, and I can get the chunks of it out easier. You even can use the old wax pieces on drawer glides and hinges to lubricate them.

• Before the cold weather hit, my husband installed foam-pipe insulation on the water lines under the house. I saved a scrap to put between my kitchen counter and the refrigerator. I am always dropping things down into the space and then having trouble getting them out. This blocks things from falling down into the space.


• One common problem inside the house during the winter months is low humidity. It causes floors to creak, wallpaper and paint to peel, static electricity and dry skin. Honeywell has a Cool Moisture Humidifier that looks very nice, doesn't have a filter to clean or change and fits under a faucet easily for refilling. It can run continuously for up to 48 hours between fillings and shuts off automatically when it's empty. Check it out at to find out if it might be a solution for your dry environment this winter.

• LED bulbs are the latest and greatest way to light your home, and the new Cree 75-Watt LED Bulb is a good choice. It's brighter than some others and uses 82 percent less energy than a standard incandescent bulb. It is even made to look just like the standard bulbs. It's shatterproof, dimmable and perfect for those hard-to-reach lamps since it lasts for about 20 years! Check it out at your Home Depot store.

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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