Up to My Arse in Wallpaper

Maggie peeling wallpaperWe’ve had the house for less than 24 hours and I’m already psyched to pull off all the crazy textured wallpaper and rip up the carpet to reveal hardwood floors.  Alas, it’s a lot of work!  We spent several hours today pulling the top layer of wallpaper off the family room walls (the backing and paste tend to stay behind).  A guy from Vectren came by to turn on the gas and told me that I should make my life simpler and buy a gallon of magical solution called Dif that supposedly takes wallpaper right off.

I looked it up and learned that Dif is a wallpaper stripper with a “unique patented enzyme formula” and “a superior, more effective blend of wetting agents” that have made it a must-have for wallpaper removal projects.

Of course, my question is, what is the environmental impact of this stuff?  I looked at the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) but it is really designed for firefighters and hazardous waste clean-up crews so there wasn’t detailed information about its overall environmental impacts.  I’m pretty sure Dif is more environmentally harmful than using hot water but I’m also pretty sure it’s a lot faster.  At what point can a person justify an increased environmental impact to save some physical labor?  For this project, I would feel a lot better sticking with the manual labor – I could use the exercise!  But the question of trade-offs comes up a lot and it’s almost always impossible to get all the information needed to make the best decision.

My dad says that someone needs to come up with a Green Consumer Reports that would crunch all the data concerning the environmental impact of how an item is produced, how it’s used during its life, and how it gets disposed of.  I keep telling him it’s a great idea except I don’t think that data even exists for most products.  But maybe someone just needs to give it their best shot and refine as they go.

Any publishing moguls out there?  I’m handy with a blog and a wallpaper scraper…

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8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Bugs and Brooms said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

    This isn’t the perfect solution for everything, but maybe they will move toward this in the future…. The Environmental Working Group has done a lot of research on products, their ingredients, and the hazard level based on toxicity studies. They already have a great site dedicated to cosmetics and personal care products (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/index.php?nothanks=1) but maybe they will expand in the future. I looked up DIF on their main website but found nothing.

    I used DIF several years ago and it does work pretty fast! BUT, I wouldn’t touch it now – I have learned a lot over the past few years and not only would I be concerned about the environmental impact of this product, I would also be worried about the potential health risks!

    Good for you for going the working route and there is a fine balance between making decisions about personal time that could be spent doing other things (being with family, volunteering, etc) or using products that speed up the process but may have a negative environmental impact!

  2. 2

    Linnea said,

    July 10, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

    Here’s a great site for finding green building materials (this link is to interior paints, but the site as a whole is pretty helpful — especially if you consider replacing any fixtures or flooring). The storefronts are in Seattle/Portland, but I’m sure you can find the products elsewhere, and it’s a good place to start as far as finding info.

    http://www.environmentalhomecenter.com/shop.mv?CatCode=10310_WALPAINT

  3. 3

    melissa said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

    I’ve removed a LOT of wallpaper in the past, and it may not be the absolute easiest way to do it, a spray bottle with water always does the job. You just have to make sure the paper is really saturated. Have fun…I’m not jealous of this project!

  4. 4

    Will said,

    July 15, 2008 @ 10:59 pm

    Thanks for the reference, B&B! I’m sure it’ll be even more useful as we start doing more things.

    Thanks, Linnea. I’ll send you our measurements as soon as I can stay up late enough without crashing…

    That’s good advice, melissa. Luckily, we decided to pull off the paneling underneath, so we were able to skip that whole process. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to have to scrape or sand the glue underneath off of the plaster.

  5. 5

    Alder said,

    July 18, 2008 @ 12:06 am

    Sounds like you happily skipped past the wallpaper stripping, but I think vinegar would probably work to loosen the wallpaper glue. When I was a kid my dad outfitted my brother and I with big sprayers and a solution of water and vinegar to soak the wallpaper in our new house (as I recall, it had bucolic scenes with French peasants on it) while he scraped the wet paper off.

  6. 6

    Will said,

    July 18, 2008 @ 12:53 am

    The advice is still appreciated, Alder! There are still some random pieces of wallpaper that we’ll want to take out, so we may still have a chance to try vinegar.

  7. 7

    Nik said,

    August 25, 2008 @ 3:11 am

    Very interesting. I’ll reccommend my friends to visit you. How much time did you write a post?

  8. 8

    Plastic Bags and Good Jobs | GreenCouple.com said,

    November 24, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

    […] I guess this is another case for demanding that someone start a Green Consumer Reports magazine that would also include social justice data.  Anyone?  […]

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