Introduction: Fabric As Removable Wallpaper

Picture of Fabric As Removable Wallpaper

My laundry room was a total bore. To make things worse, it's viewable from my fabulously green dining room. I decided I wanted to wallpaper, but didn't want to spend the cash for a nice modern print or make the commitment. I've removed wallpaper before, and it's really not fun. I also have textured walls, so it would require an enormous time commitment to smooth them out.

I opted to apply fabric to the walls with starch. It's easy to apply and remove, and the fabric is reusable afterward.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

For fabric wallpaper application:


fabric starch

rotary cutter and cutting mat OR scissors



Other makeover materials:

indoor house paint

moulding and/or trim


brad nails

box saw


painter's tape

Step 2: Paint

Picture of Paint

The walls were a boring shade of beige, so I updated them with a coat of purple paint. I didn't want to have to detach and move the washer and dryer, so I opted to only makeover the walls on the top half.

Tape off any applicable areas and apply two coats of paint.

Step 3: Test Swatch

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I have textured walls and I've only ever seen this done with smooth walls, so I wanted to see how the fabric application would work and make sure it wouldn't damage the walls.

Spray the starch onto a small patch of the wall.

Lay the fabric swatch over the starch.

Spray more starch over the swatch until it's saturated.

Smooth the swatch until it's stuck.

I couldn't wait until it dried naturally, so I used a blow dryer to speed up the process.

When it was dry, I lifted a corner and peeled it right off. It came off easy and clean.

Step 4: Cut Fabric

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Measure your walls and cut your fabric to fit.

Because I planned to apply trim around all the edges, I did my best to cut the pieces to fit the space while not worrying too much if they were a bit off. If you don't plan to put trim around it, you may want to cut the fabric a bit bigger and cut the edges off after it's stuck to the wall.

Step 5: Tacking

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Use thumbtacks or pins to tack the fabric at the top of the wall.

Step 6: Cut Outs

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On one of the walls there was an annoying security console that I just couldn't figure out how to remove. The next step will deal with simple things like an outlet, but this was bit more tricky.

Tuck the fabric behind the top of the object and use a pencil to draw a line along the top.

Do the same to one side.

Cut a knick in the fabric inside the lines and cut along them.

Cut straight down from the other top edge.

Tuck the bottom edge under and draw a line.

Cut along the line.

Gently fit the object inside the hole.

Step 7: Outlet

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Remove the plate from the outlet.

Feel for the edges and draw lines around it.

Cut it out.

Step 8: Starch It

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Apply the panels the same way you applied the swatch.

Spray starch on the wall beneath the panel.

Start at the top spraying starch over the fabric with one hand and smoothing with the other hand.

When the panel is well saturated and stuck, use a dishcloth to press it down firmly. This helps the fabric stick well over the texture. It may not be necessary if your walls are smooth.

Anywhere I couldn't see the texture through the fabric, I applied a bit more starch and pressed firmly with the dishcloth.

Step 9: Connected Panels and Touchups

Picture of Connected Panels and Touchups

At the top, between the two panels, I opted to just let it overlap a bit. The fabric didn't have a repeating edge to connect with. If it did, I would have been a bit more careful to match up the pattern.

Allow to dry.

When dry, you can replace the faceplate of any outlets.

As it dried, there were a few places where the fabric lifted up like small bubbles. Simply apply more starch to the area and press it firmly with your dishcloth.

Step 10: Moulding

Picture of Moulding

Measure each wall and mark the top of the moulding.

When the edge will be set into a corner, line up the mark with the gap in the box to cut at 90 degrees.

Nail the pieces in place where they overlap the fabric and paint line using a level to make sure they're straight.

Step 11: Trim

Picture of Trim

I opted not to mitre the trim since it's square. Simply measure, cut, and nail in place.

I added a curtain and swapped the yellow bulb with a daylight temp bulb to finish off the makeover.

Step 12: Enjoy

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Brooklyntonia (author)2017-07-12

Over a month later, and it still looks great!

NorthernClutter (author)2017-06-09

Thanks so much for sharing this! I'm ready to do my room now (we moved here8 mos ago) and I wasn't looking forward to painting, but I wanted something colourful. THIS is perfect! Now I can't wait to get out to the fabric store(s)!

SusanH75 (author)2017-06-05

In theory, it sounds good but, I think to keep it clean and wipable, I'd use some type of waterproof barrier on top of it. :)

Brooklyntonia (author)SusanH752017-06-05

I thought about that, but it's easy to take down to wash and reapply, I want to be able to reuse the fabric someday, and my laundry walls don't really get dirty. Perhaps a layer of scotchguard would do the trick and still keep the fabric usable.

PattyP17 (author)Brooklyntonia2017-06-09

I Scotchguarded a pair of wooden wedge shoes that I put new fabric tops on many years ago, and to my dismay the Scotchguard turned the fabric very yellow after a few months. But that was decades ago and the formulation has likely changed. You might consider contacting customer servcie for the manufacturer via email and ask.

DanC66 (author)2017-06-06

You know what people used to use before they invented wallpaper..?

A lot of people are asking about the longevity of using fabric, I lived in a house that was a couple of hundred years old and the layer right at the very bottom of all the years of paint and wallpaper was fabric so I've no doubt that it'll last for the longest time.

But I would add that a preparitory wallpaper paste might be better as it contains fungicide that will prevent mould if you've any worries about how damp will affect the fabric.

Brooklyntonia (author)DanC662017-06-06

I think the longevity concern is more about the starch than the fabric. Wallpaper paste would have been used to apply it back in the day and could certainly be used now, but wallpaper paste is much more difficult to remove. This process is more for those who can't commit and those who rent.

that's why i'm so excited about this: i'm fickle. i like too many colors & patterns {esp. mid-century styles}, & feel that i'll want to change it every couple of yrs. :^)

PattyP17 (author)2017-06-06

I love this 'able! I have fabric I love that just doesn't quite lend itself to apparel and it would work well for this. My color tastes are quite different than yours, but if we all loved the same thing, there would be a terrible shortage of it, right?

I think one of the keys to being able to remove it later is the pre-paint, but especially with a semi-gloss, perhaps satin, paint. With flat or eggshell, the starch may penetrate deeply enough into the paint to cause damage at removal. I did notice it appears you used a semi-gloss.

thundrepance (author)PattyP172017-06-08

wow; i'm so glad that you mentioned the paint finish! when my boys were small, they colored a bedroom wall with colored chalk. i attempted to scrub it off the flat paint. scrubbing took the paint off, but only half of the bloody chalk! i'm sure the chalk would have come off semi-gloss much more efficiently. >:^/

Brooklyntonia (author)PattyP172017-06-06

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, though paint is paint regardless of the finish. Liquids don't penetrate acrylic or latex paint. I really can't see how the shininess of it would make any difference.

PattyP17 (author)Brooklyntonia2017-06-07

Brooklyntonia, different paints can vary a great deal in performance. Flat paint is the least durable and can even be scrubbed off the wall when trying to remove stains or dirt, so it is only recommended for dry areas of little wear, especially ceilings. People do use it though to hide bad or messy repairs in drywall, since those can be harder to see on a flat rather than glossy wall. It is a good base for wall paper because it is absorbent - that is if you want the wallpaper there permanently. The glossier the paint, in general, the more durable the paint itself will be, but the less absorbency, which in most cases, is a good thing. If you read instructions for hanging wallpaper, it is always recommends to de-gloss shiny paint before proceeding, whether by sanding or using the appropriate primer. Typical wallpaper, whether pre-pasted or vinyl, sticks less well to paint the shinier the paint it is. The shininess is a slick barrier to penetration. The difference between flat and high gloss could be compared to newsprint vs. plastic, but that's a bit extreme I admit. Looked under a microscope, flat would look looser, hilly and bumpy, possibly a bit fuzzy, and gloss would have most the molecules aligned flat against each other, proving no "tooth", meaning no rough surface on a microscopic level for things to latch onto.

The other important factor with paint is the quality. Quality, which usually is reflected on the price you have to pay, makes a huge difference in how well any paint will cover with the minimum number of coats and truly hide what was underneath and how long the pigment will actually last. Whaaaat? Yes, cheap paints can have the surface "chalk" away. Cheap paint literally can turn quietly to dust and leave the wall over time. Also, never use indoor paint outside. It will chalk terribly.

My house before this one has a very cheap paint job inside in several areas. In bright light, you could see every path of the roller, especially where they put dark forest green on a white wall.

The fact that you plan to remove the fabric in a few years or so means that your shiny paint will make it quite easy, so no problem. The shiny paint is probably durable enough (and your paint work looks great), that your could gently wash down the walls after fabric removal and not have to paint again for some time.

I have remodeled and upgraded three homes, my hub and I doing most the work ourselves, over the last 26 years. Before that, I was a renter with frustrated aspirations to DIY already!

thundrepance (author)2017-06-08

"favorited" & voted for you. also, love the amusing green eyes fabric you chose, as well as that pretty, PRETTYpurple paint.:^D

Thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

panakanic (author)2017-06-06

Any idea if this would work over wood paneling? Can't afford to rip it out and drywall the room, and have been trying to figure out how to use fabric to cover the wood...

PattyP17 (author)panakanic2017-06-06

If the paneling is way old, the face layer is wood veneer, which can be painted and this project would work well. The veneer would need cleaning to remove dust and oil. If it looks like Formica or shiny paper or some sort of plastic coating, you'd have to try a test spot, like behind a large piece of furniture and use a spray primer lightly, adding several coats until pure white. That would help form a barrier to keep the laminated paneling from separating.After primer is dry, you could paint, allow to dry, then apply starch and fabric. One thing that needs to be stressed is that each layer of primer and paint must have time to cure per manufacturer's directions before moving on to next step.

TeresaM7 (author)panakanic2017-06-06

My one concern would be that the paneling could peel. Cheap paneling is nothing more than a paper print glued to a thin plywood surface. Wetting it with the starch could cause it to bubble and peel. I'd check a small, unobservable area - or better yet, on a scrap piece if you have it - before starting on the walls.

Brooklyntonia (author)TeresaM72017-06-06

Even if your panelling is paper glued to wood, It should be able to hold up to being damp for a bit or it would be too fragile to use. I had panelling in my bathroom as a child. It was constantly damp with hot showers and no exhaust fan. A test scrap is never a bad idea though. That's why I did it first myself.

mrsmerwin (author)2017-06-02

do you have any idea how long it will probably stay on the walls? Do you think it would stand up to the humidity of a bathroom?

trebenaid (author)mrsmerwin2017-06-05

I have a friend who did this same exact thing in an apartment she lived in, when she moved out of the apartment more than 5 years later she had to take it down, there had been ZERO issues with it. I can't recommend this process enough, especially where wall paper is frowned upon.

Brooklyntonia (author)trebenaid2017-06-05

Excellent! Thanks for the long term prognosis.

Brooklyntonia (author)mrsmerwin2017-06-03

I really don't know how long it will last. The various bloggers posting about using this method didn't post about it falling down in the future, so either it will stay until you decide to remove it, they're fickle and remove it after only short periods of time, or they're all part of an extensive coverup. My using it on textured walls unlike them may have an effect, but that is yet to be seen. I'll be sure to post an addition down the road to show how it's holding up.

Adding the trim was partly a protection against it peeling up prematurely. I figure if the edges are secure, it will be less likely to come loose.

Considering that if it gets wet, it comes loose, I wouldn't recommend it in a bathroom. However, it doesn't do any damage to try it out. I would put up a large-ish piece of fabric and see how it holds up in the bathroom for a few days. If small areas come loose, you only need to add a bit more starch and press. Perhaps with some trim and a bit of upkeep, it would be alright.

mrsmerwin (author)Brooklyntonia2017-06-03

I may try a swatch in the bathroom. If I do, I will come back and let you know if it holds up. Thanks.

Brooklyntonia (author)mrsmerwin2017-06-04

Excellent! I'd love to know how it goes.

mreith (author)2017-06-05

Spent much of my life in the military, living in government-assigned housing. White paint, only. If you do anything to that, it must be restored to white paint when you move out. Ugh. My neighbor tried this for their dining room. BTW, I really like the way you chose a way to improve things without moving the appliances!! I'm old, and sometimes give up any ideas because the task will be too hard for me. Now I need to ask, "What can I do without moving anything?" And it looks GREAT! Not only that, it was smart---the fabric on the wall close to the washer would likely get splashed or stained in my house.

mreith (author)mreith2017-06-05

Forgot to mention--my neighbor used liquid starch. We starched uniforms back then, really heavily. Not sure how available it is, but you can find it on Amazon. Cheap. And you can use a sponge. Probably will require some practice to get the right mix, if you want to thin the starch.

Brooklyntonia (author)mreith2017-06-05

Thanks for the praise and tips. I intended to use liquid starch but couldn't find it even at Walmart. The spray was a lot more convenient, and most likely way less drippy.

ReelHeat (author)2017-06-03

Takashi Murakami! I remember seeing him before he blew up, love his work.

Brooklyntonia (author)ReelHeat2017-06-03

Good eye! It's nice to have someone recognize it. I've been a fan for about a decade. A friend of mine got me this fabric for Christmas a few years back and I finally found the perfect use for it.

ReelHeat (author)Brooklyntonia2017-06-04

Great idea! I saw him in a chelsea museum and once in Brooklyn museum when I lived in NJ. Waiting to see if he would do a show in Atlanta.

seamster (author)2017-06-02

Whoa, I've never seen anything like this before. Neat idea!

About This Instructable



Bio: Art Teacher, Artist, and Maker - Follow me on Instagram to see what I'm working on before it hits Instructables.
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