Bubbles in wallpaper: Causes and how to get rid of them

Hand putting on wallpaper paste on wall with brush
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There’s nothing worse than bubbles in wallpaper appearing after you've hung your wallpaper. You've put in a lot of time and effort, only for them to spoil what should have been a smooth, smart looking finish. But, don’t panic, getting rid of them isn’t as difficult as you might think.

Knowing the ins and outs of how to wallpaper will help reduce the chances of bubbles appearing in your wallpaper, but it’s not a guarantee. We are here to tell you the reasons behind bubbles in wallpaper and offer solutions to help you say goodbye to bubbles forever.  

Bubbles in wallpaper: what causes it to happen 

There are a few reasons that cause bubbles to appear. These include short soaking times and too much wallpaper paste in patches, try to apply evenly. Damp patches on a wall mean that the paste will not stick properly. The same principle applies to poorly prepared walls or areas with a high gloss finish. If you are removing wallpaper first, make sure to prep the walls before putting up new wallpaper.   

Will bubbles in wallpaper go away on their own? 

Yes and no. It depends on the cause, but when you first hang wallpaper small bubbles often appear, but as the paste dries the bubbles often disappear. Leave your newly put up wallpaper to dry for 24 hours and then see if you have any bubbles.  

How do you prevent bubbles in wallpaper? 

No DIYer wants bubbles in their wallpaper, and the right preparation will help as Olivia Hunter, decorating specialist at Wallpaper IT explains. “We always recommend using light sandpaper to smooth the surface and applying a layer of primer before going in with your wallpaper adhesive. This will help to strengthen the surface and reduce the likelihood of the wallpaper lifting or bubbles forming.”

Hunter says another common mistake is putting up paper too quickly. “Bubbles are more likely to form if there is a weak bond between the wallpaper and the wall. To avoid this, you must allow for booking, referring to the period where your wallpaper should “rest” while the glue activates. This process allows the paste to penetrate the wallpaper while keeping it from drying out before hanging. Every wallpaper is different but each will come with a manufacturer's guide that should include a recommended booking time.” 

Hunter also reveals a simple tip to help when putting your wallpaper up, “Apply pressure using a brush and smooth down from the centre first, then brush outwards towards the edges. Using this technique consistently will help you to avoid air becoming trapped beneath each strip of wallpaper.”

Finally, Hunter recommends that you are proactive in tackling bubbles in wallpaper, “It’s better to catch the bubbles whilst the wallpaper is still wet - if discovered when dry, the bubbles will be difficult to fix. If bubbles do start to appear, don’t be afraid to lift the wallpaper up around the bubble and smooth it back down using the same brush technique. Alternatively, if it’s a small bubble you can try using a wallpaper brush to push the air towards the edges of the wallpaper.”  

Can you get bubbles out of wallpaper with a hair dryer? 

If you have left your wallpaper to dry properly – over 48 hours – then a hairdryer by itself is unlikely to get rid of the bubbles. A hairdryer alongside some other tools might do the job however. You can also first try to to smooth down the bubble with a wallpaper brush or a wide plastic putty knife – like this Plastic Putty Knife Set from Amazon  – as this is less likely to tear the paper.

If that doesn't work combine the hair dryer  with a wallpaper syringe – like the Syringes & 14G Blunt Needle from Amazon to get rid of a bubble. Fill the syringe with wallpaper paste, push into the bubble, fill the bubble and then smooth out. Wipe away any excess paste with a damp cloth and use a hairdryer to finish. For larger bubbles use a very sharp craft knife to create a slit in the bubble and use a brush to work in the paste under the wallpaper.  

Why is my wallpaper bubbling when I paint it over? 

One common reason that bubbling appears when painting is that the wallpaper has not been left long enough to dry before you start painting. So the first step is to make sure that any new wallpaper has dried out fully before painting.

When painting over wallpaper you are wetting the surface again which can cause areas to lift and create bubbles. Especially areas that weren't well stuck down in the first place. Leave the paint to dry properly – before adding a second coat – and the bubbles will most likely disappear. If they don’t, you will need to look for a fix.  

Steve Jenkins

Steve is Homebuilding & Renovating's DIY content editor, and has been a writer and editor for two decades. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating homes. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has strong all-round building skills, having previously worked in the industry for 10 years.