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Will sugar soap remove wallpaper paste?

by | Mar 3, 2023

The short answer is yes, sugar soap is an effective way of removing wallpaper paste as it effectively strips away adhesive before you’re ready to apply more paint or perhaps another layer of wallpaper.

Read on for a guide on how you can remove wallpaper paste and the science behind how this works. Sugar soap is commonly used to remove adhesive in general but not many people favour the method to remove wallpaper glue.

So, read on to learn all about the topic.

How does sugar soap remove wallpaper paste?

Sugar soap is a common cleaning agent for removing wallpaper paste. It works by breaking down the adhesive properties of the wallpaper paste, making it easier to remove.

Sugar soap’s active ingredient is typically trisodium phosphate (TSP), an alkaline compound. TSP dissolves in water and produces hydroxide ions (OH-) in solution when sugar soap is mixed with water.

These hydroxide ions have a high pH and are highly reactive, allowing them to break down the bonds between the wallpaper paste and the wall and you can read more on here.

hydroxide found in sugar soap

Sugar soap’s high pH also helps to emulsify any oils or greases on the wall, which can aid in the removal of wallpaper paste. It is typically mixed with water and applied to the wall with a sponge or cloth to remove wallpaper paste.

After that, the solution is allowed to sit for a few minutes to allow the TSP to penetrate the wallpaper paste. The wallpaper can then be easily removed with a scraper or putty knife.

How to remove wallpaper paste with sugar soap step by step

In order to remove wallpaper glue from the walls you can follow the below steps. It is useful to note that some wallpaper glues are very tough and even if you do everything correctly you may still be left with a rough texture on the walls.

Either way, follow the below instructions for the best result.

Gather the right materials 

The right materials are needed before you start the process of removing wallpaper glue from the walls using sugar soap. You don’t want to get halfway through the process and realise you need some extra equipment.

The below list should be sufficient to make sure you have what it takes to remove things from the wall using sugar soap:

  • Knife for wallpaper
  • Bottle of sugar soap
  • Sponge
  • Dust sheets
  • A bucket (filled with water)

Apply sugar soap to the walls

To use a sponge to apply sugar soap to a building’s walls, first prepare a bucket of warm water and mix in the sugar soap according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, dip a sponge into the solution and wring out any excess water. 

Begin at the top of the wall and gently wipe the sponge in a circular motion across a small section of the wall, working your way down while being sure to apply the solution evenly and avoid oversaturating the wall with water. 

Scrape the walls with a knife

Sometimes, simply adding in the sugar soap solution to the walls is not enough to remove all of the glue using a sponge. 

So, it may be necessary to work the walls with a knife to scrape any excess off the wall.

However, before you do this step, ensure you have actually applied a sufficient amount of sugar soap solution as this could be the reason why the wallpaper glue isn’t coming off of the walls.

If you scrape away at the walls without using the sugar soap solution correctly where you could have used more, you could end up damaging the plasterboard underneath the glue.

This is a big inconvenience because if you want to add on more wallpaper later on or you want to repaint the wall, it could mean you have to replaster the wall depending on the amount of damage done.

Clean the walls 

After you’ve finished covering the entire wall, rinse the sponge in clean water and re-wipe the walls to remove any excess sugar soap solution. If you leave it on the walls it could dry with a sheen or a sticky texture.

However, do not worry too much as sugar soap is non-toxic if ingested in small amounts (due to accident) and is odourless once it dries. So if you have pets or you have small children this is not a massive concern.

What are the alternatives to using sugar soap?

There are several ways to remove wallpaper from walls that do not involve sugar soap. So, if you don’t want to use sugar soap because you don’t have access to it or you prefer another method, read the options below.


Vinegar is a relatively strong acid and is also far cheaper than sugar soap when bought in bulk. So, if you can stand the smell of vinegar then this could be an option.

It is best to test out whether the vinegar actually works at removing wallpaper glue before you go ahead and use it throughout the wall as it can be difficult to wash off.

vinegar used as an alternative to sugar soap


If you have access to a sanding machine, this is a great way to remove wallpaper glue quickly. The problem for most people would be getting access to the equipment and making sure you have the right extensions to cover the entire wall.

It is not good if the cost for the sanding machine is not long enough to cover everywhere in the building.

Hot water

You can also use hot water to loosen the wallpaper glue. Use a sponge or spray bottle to apply hot water to the wallpaper, and then use a scraper to remove the wallpaper.

Hot water is not as effective as sugar soap but if you have a small amount of glue left on the wall this could be a great way to get rid of it. Simply boil the kettle and pour onto the wall in small amounts.

Before you go ahead with this step, consider placing sellotape over the sockets in the building as this will prevent water from entering the holes.


Using a wallpaper steamer: A wallpaper steamer uses hot steam to loosen the wallpaper glue and make it easier to remove the wallpaper. Simply hold the steamer against the wallpaper for a few seconds, and then use a scraper to remove the wallpaper.

What common mistakes should you avoid to remove wallpaper paste with sugar soap?

In order to remove wallpaper from the walls, there are a variety of other methods you can use if you don’t have access to sugar soap or the glue is particularly strong and the sugar soap is not being effective.

Not applying enough sugar soap

It is not as if the more sugar soap you add to the wall the stronger it gets, but sometimes the chemical becomes so spread out that it no longer can cover all of the glue on a wall.

To avoid making this mistake, try not to be frugal with the amount of sugar soap you add and be sure to give the chemical a good rub into the hard to remove areas too.

Not scraping hard enough with the knife

If you have a stronger adhesive, it could simply be a case of putting in a bit more work and elbow grease into the process.

If you find the paste on the wall is softening, this is a sign that it can be removed but a bit more physical work is needed on your side to completely dislodge the adhesive.

Not placing dust sheets before you begin

Especially if you’re using other methods in conjunction with using sugar soap like sanding the glue off of the wall, things can get dusty.

It is easy to underestimate just how much fust will be removed and this will mean you’ll end up with additional cleaning to do later on.

What are the advantages of using sugar soap to remove wallpaper paste?

Sugar soap is a popular choice for removing wallpaper paste due to several advantages it offers compared to other methods so if you’re still not sure whether to go ahead and use it, perhaps these benefits will help you make a decision.

sugar soap removing wallpaper paste


Sugar soap is made from natural ingredients and is non-toxic, making it a safer alternative to other harsh chemicals that may emit harmful fumes.

There is also significantly less risk involved when comparing it to other methods that use equipment such as steaming glue off of walls or using sanding machines. These machines can burn and injure you easily if used incorrectly.


Sugar soap can be used on a variety of surfaces, including walls, woodwork, and floors, making it a versatile cleaning solution for many areas of the home.

So, once you’re done removing the glue from the walls in a property, you can also use it for the other DIY projects you may get up to in the future.


Sugar soap is an affordable cleaning solution that is widely available in most shops and home improvement stores, making it an economical choice for DIY home renovators.

If you’re not looking to break the bank, sugar soap could also be for you and it is also readily available o a website like Amazon.

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Donnell Bailey

Property expert

Donnell is a property expert focusing on the property market, he looks at a combination of legislation, information from property managers, letting agents and market trends to produce information to help landlords.