We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Redecorating? Here’s What to Know About Renter Friendly Wallpaper

A woman in a plaid shirt hanging striped wallpaper
Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

Looking for a way to personalize your living space in a non-permanent way? We’ve got all the tips and tricks you need to use peel and stick wallpaper for a fresh (and DIY) look.

Maybe you’re in a rented home or apartment, or maybe you’re looking to spruce up your home without making a long-term change. The solution that works in any situation is peel and stick wallpaper. Also sometimes referred to as renter-friendly wallpaper, this simple option makes a big impact while also being easily reversible. If you’re considering it for your own home, let’s run through everything you should know before getting started.

What Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper?

Just like the name says, peel and stick wallpaper is a type of wallpaper that comes with an adhesive backing. Instead of requiring a long application process and permanent glue, these wallpapers are more like giant stickers, with a removable backing that reveals the pre-sticky side of the paper.

The biggest upside to peel and stick wallpaper is that it is generally removable without too much effort, whereas traditional wallpapers are much harder to remove once they’ve been applied. As a result, peel and stick wallpaper is hugely popular with people who want to spruce up their space without committing to a permanent change.

It’s great for a number of circumstances in your home, such as:

  • If you’re in a rental and can’t make permanent changes
  • If you want to spruce up a room but don’t want to do a major revamping
  • If you aren’t confident in your wallpaper-applying abilities and want a more forgiving, repositionable option
  • If you find yourself wanting to swap out a small area, like an accent wall, more often than you could with paint or traditional wallpaper

How to Measure for Peel and Stick Wallpaper

Peel and stick wallpaper usually comes in large sheets, panels, or rolls. When you get ready to purchase it, you’ll need to figure out how many units you need. While purchasing a little extra is always a good idea in case of measurement or application mistakes, it’s important to be as accurate as possible in order to stay within your budget.

Tip: Check with the individual brand of wallpaper you’re buying—some strongly recommend buying extra to ensure perfect pattern and seam matching.

If you’re working with walls that are straightforward rectangles, or are comprised of rectangular areas (such as a space around a rectangular door or window), you can use basic area calculations to get the square footage you need.

  1. Measure the length and width of the wall and multiply them together to get the area of that wall.
  2. If dealing with a wall that has openings for doors or windows, divide the wall up into smaller rectangles. For each “mini” rectangle, calculate the “width times height” area, then add them all up for the total.
  3. Once you have the whole sum of the square footage you need covered, divide that number by the square footage per unit of wallpaper. For instance, if you needed 100 square feet, and the rolls were sold in 25 square foot units, you’d divide 100 by 25 and get 4 units. Always round up to the next whole number; never round down.
  4. Depending on the recommendations of the individual brand, as well as the peculiarities of any patterns, you may wish to buy around 20 to 25% extra, if budget allows, to ensure that you have enough for perfect seam matching or overlap where needed.

How to Apply Peel and Stick Wallpaper

A bucket pouring out soapy water; a smoothing tool applying black and white wallpaper

There are two main portions of the application process for peel and stick wallpaper. First, you’ll need to prepare the wall so that the wallpaper will adhere cleanly and form a strong bond. Then, you’ll get down to the business of actually cutting and applying the wallpaper itself.

To start with, the day before you want to put the wallpaper up, follow these steps to prepare the wall:

  1. If the wall in question has any electrical sockets and/or light switches, make sure power is turned off to that area of the house, and remove the covers temporarily.
  2. Prepare two buckets of water: one clear, and one with a mild cleaning solution of 1 teaspoon dish detergent to 1 quart of warm (not hot) water.
  3. Dip a soft cloth into the soapy solution and wipe down the wall in sections.
  4. Follow up with a fresh, clean cloth dipped in the clear water, and wipe to “rinse” the walls and remove the soapy solution.
  5. Let dry for 24 hours.

Rubbermaid Commercial Products 2.5 Gallon Heavy-Duty Round Bucket

Mix up cleaning solutions in these sturdy buckets.

Dawn Dish Soap Ultra Dishwashing Liquid

A gentle cleanser to prep your walls.

MR.SIGA Microfiber Cleaning Cloth

Get a smooth, scratch-free clean every time.

Once you’ve prepared the wall, just follow this simple process to actually apply the wallpaper:

  1. Measure the width of a single piece of the wallpaper.
  2. Using a pencil, lightly mark that width on the wall as a guide for the first piece.
  3. Peel off several inches of the wallpaper backing on the first piece, and line it up using the edge of the wall and your pencil markings as a guide.
  4. Start at the top and press the adhesive side of the wallpaper to the top edge of the wall.
  5. Continue working downward, gently peeling the backing off and pressing down the adhesive as you go.
  6. Use a plastic smoothing tool to smooth out any air bubbles beneath the surface.
  7. If necessary, use a utility knife tool to trim off any excess paper at the bottom.
  8. Repeat, matching up the edges of subsequent pieces to ensure pattern matching throughout.

tiptopcarbon Wallpaper Smoothing Tool Kit

Ensure your wallpaper is smooth and bubble-free.

Amazon Basics Folding Utility Knife

A basic utility knife helps ensure a professional-looking application.

How to Remove Peel and Stick Wallpaper

A putty knife; a plastic scraper tool in someone's hand
Amazon Basics/YUUMEA

One of the biggest perks of peel and stick wallpaper is how easy it is to remove. That’s also why it’s so popular with renters: it allows you to personalize the space while you live there, then remove it without any damage and put the property back to its original condition when it’s time to move.

If you’ve ever peeled a price sticker off of something, you have the basic idea already of how to remove peel and stick wallpaper. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Using a putty knife or similar scraper tool, start in one, upper corner and gently work the edge of the paper up until it peels away enough to grip.
  2. Pull down and at an angle, using steady, slow pressure.
  3. Continue until the whole panel is removed.
  4. Repeat for each section.

Amazon Basics 2" Flex Nylon Handle Putty Knife

Get your wallpaper peeling off with this versatile tool.

Razor Blade Scraper, Two Pack

Remove wallpaper and much more with both plastic and metal scraper blades.

If you encounter a tough spot, don’t try to force it off—this could cause damage to the wall underneath. Instead, try these steps to loosen the remnants:

  1. In a spray bottle, mix a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts hot water.
  2. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Spray a small section of the remaining wallpaper and let the solution soak in for 10 minutes.
  4. Try to remove the wallpaper by pulling on it. Use the knife tool if necessary to get the edge started, but otherwise just pull like with the big sections—don’t scrape the whole thing up.
  5. Repeat as needed.

Sally's Organics Empty Clear Glass Spray Bottles

Environmentally friendly and easy to clean and reuse.

Lucy's Family Owned - Natural Distilled White Vinegar

The key ingredient to your DIY wallpaper removal solution.

Whether you’re renting a place or just want a low-commitment change to your home, peel and stick wallpaper is one of several home decor trends that can make a big impact in your space. All you need is a little imagination and some spare time, and your home can be more personal than ever!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?