DIYdiy projects

DIY Removable Fabric Wall Treatment

by Megan Pflug

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Okay, let’s get this out of the way: Wallpaper can be super-intimidating, whether you’re a renter who’s simply not allowed to adhere anything to your walls or someone who lived through the 80s and has bad memories of even-worse wallpapers. The materials and labor are not cheap, and what if you change your mind?

DIY Fabric Wallpaper Treatment by Megan Pflug of One Kings Lane on Design*Sponge
So when I heard you could make a removable wall treatment using fabric and liquid starch, I had to give it a try. I know it seems too good to be true, but the wall treatment you see here is in fact 100% removable! Ready to see how easy it is? Keep reading for my full step-by-step guide, or head over to the One Kings Lane Style Blog to check out the video and see the hanging process in action. —Megan Pflug

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Here’s What You’ll Need:
• Medium-weight or lightweight natural-fiber fabric (enough to cover your wall)
• A small foam roller and a roller pan
Liquid starch (approximately one gallon per five yards)
• A large bucket or bowl
• Scissors
• A craft knife
• A rotary cutter

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Measure and Cut

To get started, I measured my wall. The walls in my room happen to have a decorative molding on them, so I chose to cover only the area within the molding borders. Next, I cut my fabric to fit the space, leaving an extra couple of inches all the way around; you’ll trim it off later. No special prep is necessary for the wall except for the obvious stuff like making sure it’s clean and relatively smooth. Even though I covered only part of the wall here, you can totally cover a wall floor-to-ceiling using exactly the same steps.

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Wet the Fabric

Place the cut piece of fabric in a bowl (or bucket), and pour the liquid starch over it until it’s saturated. Once it’s totally wet, wring out the excess starch back into the bowl and set aside (don’t discard!).

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Place the Fabric

The wet fabric will stick really easily to the wall. I used a couple of pushpins to help hold the fabric in place at the top and used my hands to place the rest of the fabric and smooth it out.

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I found that the fabric stayed wet for a pretty long time, but if it dries out while you’re placing it or if you need to readjust a spot that has dried with a bubble, dip your foam roller into the extra starch and use it to rewet the fabric and smooth it out as needed.

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Trim

Once the fabric is in place, use a craft knife to trim away the excess. I found the craft knife worked really well for tight corners, but for the longer cuts I used a rotary cutter, which is great for making long, straight cuts. It’s really a matter of personal preference.

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Drying time is usually around 1-2 hours. And there you have it! When you’re ready to remove the fabric all you have to do is get it a little damp and peel it right off.

Inspired to try some other weekend projects? Check out my project page here.

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Comments

  • I’m a renter, and I’m worried that slicing off the excess fabric with a craft knife or rotary cutter could damage my walls. Did it cut through the paint on your wall? Do you know of any alternate trimming techniques?

    • You should be able to respackle any cuts that you may make into the wall very easily. Just sand after spackling, repaint, and you should be good to go!

  • Amy, the rotary cutter might leave a mark. I would try testing it in an inconspicuous spot first. If you cut the edges of the fabric with scissors you would not have anything to worry about… it just might take a little longer.

  • Hi Megan! This would be perfect for the awkward white wall behind the TV. Can you share where you purchased this lovely grey and white fabric? Thanks!

    • Renov8or

      This process allows you to turn almost any fabric into “wallpaper”, which adds more texture than most wallpapers and doesn’t require you to work within a pre-existing wallpaper collection. So that’s one reason to try or enjoy this technique…

      Grace

      • I agree Grace, and it is so much cheaper!! Tempaper is great, but to cover a larger area, and cover any shortage this is definitely a less expensive option!! Love it!!

  • I love this! I just moved in to a rental that has generic beige paint in every room, this is a fabulous idea to add some color.

  • I have concrete walls in my apartment, so decorating is a little more difficult unless you have the tools to do it (which I don’t!). This would be so cool as an accent wall, but my walls are textured. Do you think this could still work?

  • I very much like the idea of turning any fabric into wallpaper…why choose this fabric? The cream against the white is jarring to my eye…just my opinion

  • I love this technique! I have such a fabric hoard that this would be fun way of using some of it up. I have a couple of questions. Are there limitations as to how thick the fabric can be for this technique? And can you still nail through the fabric without it puckering or damaging the effect? I notice that there is a mirror hung in one of the fabric paneled walls-how was that done?

  • Fantastic! This really opens up to a whole new world of options when it comes to removable wallpaper. And the example is so stunning with that trim. Really beautiful job!

  • After my daughters disastrous experience with Christmas transfers that are not supposed to damage walls (they do), I’m just a little wary! LOVE the idea but does anyone have the experience of removing fabric from walls and did it leave a stain from the dyes?

  • I have also seen this technique used to mount a decorative sheet behind a bed with matching duvet and pillows. If you want it to be permanent and more water proof, mix the starch with white glue.

  • Alex, I made the fabric. I bought some muslin (it’s really inexpensive) and dyed it using gray Rit Dye. I folded the lengths of fabric in an accordion fold and simply dipped the folded edges in the dye. I did a couple of tests to figure out how long to leave to fabric. to get this look I left the fabric in the dye for about 7 min.

  • Stef, I think there would come a point when a fabric would be too thick/heavy to stick to the wall… having said that the starch is really strong. Testing thicker fabrics before you dive in is might be the best way to find out. I think the real limitation would be with a fabric like velvet or some silks. Getting those fabrics wet can be dicy! The mirror is just hung with a nail that I put in once the fabric was dry.

  • Is this for real? I know my landlord wouldn’t approve of me wanted to go to the dark side with black paint. I might give this a shot instead. Happy Nesting.

  • This idea has been around for decades. I did this in the ’70s when I was renting Apartments. I’m sure it was not new then.

    You will need to colorfast test the fabric first to make sure it will not leave any stain on the wall when soaked with the starch. I recommend washing first but do not use Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheets. You want the starch mixture to be absorbed completely into the fabric. Note: If you live in a high humidity climate watch for moisture collection in the fabric near doors or windows (do not do this in a bathroom). And, as quilters know…bugs like starch so make sure you keep them away or use a quilters starch that bugs do not like. Mary Ellen’s Best Press scent-Free clear starch is good and it is earth and people friendly, too. Available by the gallon.

    This is a fabulous way to perk up your blah white walls. In a dining area you can make it look like you have wallpaper and chair rails. The possibilities are endless.

    Changing things up a bit will always bring a smile to your face. Your landlord may question your judgement on this, so get a small piece of fabric. Stick it to the wall for a couple of weeks and then remove in front of them. They’ll see no mess. You may need to wash/wipe the walls after to get some of the starch off if you have put it on thick and did not use a squeegee to get out the bubbles and smooth the fabric.

    Enjoy and have fun with it!!!

  • I have a big, ugly, particle board wardrobe that I have been wanting to cover with something. Do you think this technique would work on surfaces other than a wall?

  • You can actually use a heavier fabric but after you attach your fabric to the wall you would need to add some trim molding at the top with small nails. Yes there would be nail holes but those could be touched up easily before you moved again. If you needed to paint the one wall again, just get the paint from your landlord or find out what color was used on the walls BEFORE you move in. That way you won’t have to ask for paint you could just go and buy a sample bottle of it which should be enough for 1 wall. Also you could hang them with large tacks across the top instead of trim molding.

  • TO ALISSA…yes of course you can add fabric to your wardrobe. If you want it permanent though I would consider putting it on with Mod Podge. There are several different ones to choose from, matt finish, shiny, indoor, outdoor..etc. Get the one that appeals to you! Good luck with that and sure would love to see it when you finish.

  • I love the bed that’s in your post. Where did you get it? Or can you suggest any places to find a similar bed?

    Thanks!

  • My bathroom walls are all textured. Do I need to first use something to make them smooth? I am not into sanding and all that. I may decide to use a board and cover it with the fabric like you suggest and then hang it on the wall like a painting.

    • pat

      yes, you’d need to sand them first to ensure a good adhesion. so a board over the wall is probably the best bet. i love foam core for this sort of thing :)

      grace

  • I love this idea over painting and temporary wallpapers. How easy is it to remove and now much residue from the starch is typically left on the walls? Is it easy to wash off without having to repaint?

  • For those looking for feedback on fabric removal: I just removed one wall of fabric from my bathroom after having it up for 14 years. Took about 30 minutes and yes, all I needed was a spray bottle of water. Key is to get fabric wet to touch and let it set 5-10 min and it should lift right up. I did have a few small places where the paint did lift, but these seemed to coordinate with fabric areas that I’d ‘spot starched’ over the years—-in the bathroom when water would splash against the wall, white spots would appear, but a little liquid starch made them instantly disappear. Othhttp://www.transformation3cs.com/Celing.en.htmler than that, I wiped down the wall to remove the excess starch and it looks fine.
    Also on fabric application—if not comfortable using rotary cutter or blade, and fabric is thin enough, just trim and fold the remaining fabric under for a crisp, even seam (that’s how I matched my fabric pattern on my wide bathroom wall—looked great).

  • We have a mural painted by a family member who has passed away. The mural has been over my child’s bed for so many years and she doesn’t want to get rid of it as ii is a remembrance. But she is a teen now and longs for some time of covering to “age up” her room. Would this process damage the acrylic painting underneath do ya think?

  • Does anyone know which fabrics this will work with? I’m thinking wool wouldn’t work but I’m wondering if it will work with polyester?

  • Hi there!
    I would love to perform this DIY, but here in uk it seems impossible to find liquid starch! What could I use instead?
    Many thanks!!

  • Hi! not sure if this is a stupid question.. Love this DIY.. but do yo think it would work on an existing backsplash?

    Im renting, and would love to be able to have a back splash that goes with our theme. . questioning if it would adhere?

    • Lisa

      Sadly I think it wouldn’t. The liquid starch is water soluble, so being used as a backsplash puts it at too much risk of getting wet and sliding off :(

      Grace

  • Hi Grace,

    Great website. This might be just what I need. If using a dark cotton fabric in plain black or slate grey will you get any marks from the starch? I need the surface to remain matt with no marking or reflectiveness

    Keep up the good work,

    James

  • Do you think this would work to cover a wooden classroom door? I’m wondering it it would be durable enough for little finders that will be near to it too…

  • Hi – We are renting and want to actually cover up ugly fabric wallpaper. Is it possible to fabric on fabric?

    • Hi Paula

      I’ve had luck with liquid starch & spray starch + fabric on top of hanging fabric wallpaper. The hanging fabric was particularly porous in my case. I would do a small test in an inconspicuous place, and be sure to let it stay in place to test the adhesion which can be affected by heat & humidity!

      Good luck!

      Caitlin

  • Hi!
    I’m currently living in the Netherlands and they just do not have liquid starch out here, I’ve checked over 10 stores and the online prices are crazy. Is there any other substitute for liquid starch I could use?

    Thanks!

  • I’ve been looking for pretty much exactly this bed for ages… any info on where the bed in these photos was purchased?

  • Hii
    Thats amaaazing really..
    I just want to ask does this work with any fabric? If i want sth like velvet fabric will it dry and restore its texture or only for normal fabrics like cotton or so?
    Thanks alot

  • OMG! This is SO fantastic, why? Because I have been search Chinoiserie-style wallpaper and the cost is ASTRONOMICAL for us tiny apartment dwellers. However, Chinoiserie fabric costs a fraction of the wallpaper costs. It can be found for as little as 7$ a yard. I found a gorgeous de Gournay replica wallpaper at $15/sq.ft. Almost the identical fabric @ $17.50/yd. This will so work for me and I am moving in 2 months and will be ordering fabric ASAP! Thank you soooo much

  • Such a great Idea! I am sure the fabric Exchange has so many choices of fabric for this kind of project.

  • I just moved into an amazing old house. Unfortunately we are renters and the wallpaper in the kitchen and dining room is very outdated. The landlord will not let us change it. Can this method be used over wallpaper without damaging it?

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