The 3 Best Removable Wallpapers of 2023


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Jun 26, 2023

The 3 Best Removable Wallpapers of 2023

For DIY-inclined renters and homeowners alike, peel-and-stick removable wallpaper (also called self-adhesive removable wallpaper) can quickly transform a space. These wallpapers are designed to remove

For DIY-inclined renters and homeowners alike, peel-and-stick removable wallpaper (also called self-adhesive removable wallpaper) can quickly transform a space.

These wallpapers are designed to remove as cleanly as possible from non-textured walls that are painted in most finishes—ideally avoiding the need to repaint.

After spending 10 weeks researching, sampling, and testing wallpapers from nine brands in a range of patterns, we found three peel-and-stick wallpapers that you can apply with confidence and (relative) ease, no matter your style.

We think shopping around for patterns is half the fun, which is why our top picks come in two distinct textures (smooth paper and fabric), have tons of patterns, and are easy to install. Our also-great pick is a worthy splurge, with hundreds of finely detailed patterns to pick from (but you may need some help installing it).

Wallshoppe’s smooth, satin, paper-based wallpaper is easy to install and has plenty of patterns to choose from.

Of all the peel-and-stick wallpaper we tested, Wallshoppe’s Removable Wallpaper was by far the easiest for one person to apply, readjust, and handle, without it sticking to itself. The non-vinyl material’s smooth finish and thickness also make this wallpaper forgiving of mistakes, so it looks polished. When installed, the wallpaper has a slight sheen and classic flat-paper look (as opposed to Chasing Paper’s wallpapers, which have a woven texture that’s more tactile). The design selection—more than 2,000 patterns—is impressive, and it includes various bold and bright patterns. The patterns we tested were Orange Crush wallpaper by Nathan Turner in Onyx, El Quijote wallpaper by Chris Benz in Mustard, Françoise Floral wallpaper by Clare V. in Green, Blowfish wallpaper in Sky, and Merci Beaucoup wallpaper by Clare V. in Pink.


Chasing Paper’s lightweight, fabric-based wallpaper has a tactile, woven finish. It’s easy to install and has crisp printing in multiple styles.

We recommend Chasing Paper Wallpaper for those who like paper that has a matte look with a tactile finish (it’s made of fabric instead of paper) and crisp, fine-line printing. Though this company has fewer designs than some others, the range is well curated—including several small-scale patterns (which can be hard to find for peel-and-stick, a category that sometimes caters to a big-and-bold aesthetic). We found the non-vinyl, lightweight textile material easy to apply and reposition without it creasing or wrinkling (and it still remained secure on the wall). The patterns we tested were Cane and Palm in Orange, Grid in Fern and White, Jaipur in Dusty Blue, Stripes in Neutral, and Jacobean in Grey.

Livette’s is an Oeko-Tex–certified option with gorgeous patterns to choose from. But it can be trickier to install without help.

We were impressed by Livette’s Wallpaper’s excellent print quality and designs in more than 300 patterns. Its fine-webbed, non-vinyl woven material is extremely lightweight and has a refined, matte look once installed. It is the only textile-based peel-and-stick wallpaper we tested that is Oeko-Tex–certified, which may give some people peace of mind. The adhesive has a very strong hold, which all but guarantees the wallpaper will stay up for years to come. But the strong hold also makes it harder to correct mistakes during installation, compared with other papers we tested. This quality might also make it more likely that the wallpaper could peel paint in rooms with intense climatic conditions (rooms that get very hot or very humid) or with older paint. All wallpapers can be relatively tricky to install by yourself. And this one can be especially hard because of its thinness and strong adhesive; you may want to consider calling a capable friend or hiring someone to help. This paper is also pricier than our two main picks, but we think the quality is worth it. The patterns we tested were Baby Blue Lemons wallpaper, Sunny Delicate Scallop Print wallpaper in Yolk & Off White, and Greek Terrazzo wallpaper in Multicolor.

Wallshoppe’s smooth, satin, paper-based wallpaper is easy to install and has plenty of patterns to choose from.

Chasing Paper’s lightweight, fabric-based wallpaper has a tactile, woven finish. It’s easy to install and has crisp printing in multiple styles.

Livette’s is an Oeko-Tex–certified option with gorgeous patterns to choose from. But it can be trickier to install without help.

I hold a Master of Architecture and have been immersed in design one way or another for more than a decade. As an editor at Metropolis, I covered products, interiors, and buildings through the lens of environmental and human health. Before that, I worked in design—and actually helped design an exhibition wallpaper while working at Project Projects—and sustainability. As an undergraduate, I majored in environmental studies.

For this guide, I dove into recent scientific research, CDC recommendations, and industry standards on indoor air quality and materials found in wall coverings. I also interviewed Teresa McGrath and Nsilo Berry, both researchers at the Healthy Building Network. (HBN is a materials transparency organization for the architecture and construction industry. It shares information on building materials, and its database, the Pharos Project, received an award from the Environmental Protection Agency.) I also spoke with wallpaper manufacturers for the wallpapers we tested to inquire about the ordering process, lead times, application instructions, and clarifications on materials.

I also spoke with wallpaper experts in interior design: Kelly Finley, founder of Joy Street Design, an interior-design firm based in Oakland, California, and Shavonda Gardner, a designer who specializes in small homes.

Peel-and-stick wallpaper is arguably the most DIY-friendly kind. Compared with other wallpapers—including pre-pasted and paste-the-wall removable types—it requires no water or liquid adhesive, no drop cloths, and no drying and curing time. Since it works like a giant sticker, peel-and-stick paper is instantly gratifying, and you can always undo it, no harm, no foul. “It’s good for spaces where people want to try wallpaper but can’t commit to gluing it on the wall,” said designer Shavonda Gardner, who’s also the founder of the small-home design blog SG Style.

However, peel-and-stick wallpaper may not be right for everyone. We don’t suggest using peel-and-stick paper for very short-term needs (of a year or less), for both economic and environmental reasons. It also doesn’t work on all wall types. Here are some things to consider before diving in:

Check your walls: Peel-and-stick wallpaper works only on non-textured walls. It does not work at all on textured drywall, including spray textures like popcorn and orange peel, brush textures like sand swirl and rosebud, or knife textures like knockdown and comb.

Check your paint finish: The smooth surface you want to wallpaper should ideally be finished with satin, eggshell, semi-gloss, or gloss paint. If you’ve recently painted, make sure the paint has dried and cured completely, which can take several weeks. If your walls have matte paint, many peel-and-stick wallpapers will adhere. But unless the labels say the papers are safe for matte paint, they will probably strip off paint when you remove them. Some paint stripping may also occur in rooms with very old paint and extreme climatic conditions, regardless of finish (think a sunbaked laundry room in weeks of 90-degree Fahrenheit heat without air conditioning). That might be okay if you plan to repaint, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re expecting a non-damaging removal. This is also something we’ll keep an eye on as we test our wallpaper samples in the long-term.

Check your room: The wallpapers we tested can all be used in kitchens and bathrooms, but there are caveats. The most important one is to have proper ventilation (like an exhaust fan or operable window) in moist and humid spaces, such as bathrooms, “so that moisture isn’t going to be trapped or attached to the walls,” said Gardner. Do not hang wallpaper where it will be splashed directly or constantly with water, like on a backsplash. Some companies do not recommend putting vinyl wallpaper (a type of plastic) within one foot of a heat source, such as a stove.

Be prepared: While peel-and-stick wallpaper is DIY-friendly compared with other wallpapers, know that you are still taking on a sizable project, especially if you’re wallpapering a large or tall area. “It requires a lot of extra effort in the front end to make it work,” said Kelly Finley, owner and principal designer at Joy Street Design in Oakland, California, and a self-professed lover of wallpaper. “Give yourself grace. It’s not going to be perfect.”

To install peel-and-stick wallpaper, you will need to be able to use small hand tools (like a craft knife) and (most likely) to stand on a stool or step ladder. Everyone is different, but no matter your ability or experience with DIY projects, you should at least consider enlisting someone to help—especially if you plan to cover an area that is taller than your wingspan. We suggest a few tips and tools you’ll want to have on hand before you get started in the notes section of this guide.

Consider your budget: Even when you’re not paying an installer, the price of any type of wallpaper, removable or otherwise, can add up quickly, depending on the area you’re working with. The peel-and-stick wallpapers we tested range from about 75¢ to about $5 per square foot. That means it could cost more than $2,000 to wallpaper a 10-by-12-foot room with 8-foot ceilings (especially if you buy extra to ensure pattern-matching, as is recommended), compared with a few hundred dollars for paint and primer. Very generally speaking (because prices vary widely), traditional or unpasted wallpaper is usually less expensive upfront. But a true comparison is hard to gauge because you have to account for the cost of adhesive and installation, which you will most likely need for traditional wallpaper.

The best wallpaper for you will vary, based on your taste and budget. One person’s dream room may be another person’s hellscape. But there are still common things that set the best peel-and-stick options apart.

Durability: Any peel-and-stick wallpaper worth its salt must stay on the wall for a while, without corners lifting or edges wrinkling. And when the time comes, it must peel off easily—ideally without damaging what’s underneath and costing you your security deposit (or a new coat of paint). (Unfortunately, some paint stripping might occur, especially in rooms that get especially hot or humid, and the likelihood is higher if you do not follow manufacturer advice.)

Quality: Peel-and-stick wallpaper should feature high-quality printing that looks as crisp up close as it does from a distance. It should not harm your health. And it should have enough structure that it won’t become a sticky nightmare during installation. We steered clear of any wallpapers that did not or could not disclose information about phthalates and VOC emissions, the two biggest health concerns for peel-and-stick removable wallpapers. Especially because many people use peel-and-stick wallpaper in children’s bedrooms—precisely because of their convenience and temporariness—we thought it was important to err on the side of human safety and health.

Design: There are a dizzying number of companies that sell self-adhesive wallpapers—and an even more dizzying array of designs. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ll fall in love with until you see it. We looked at manufacturers that offered some range in aesthetics and that offered at least 100 pattern and color options.

Samples: We tested only brands for which you can order samples for a small fee (usually between $5 and $12 per sample; most are about as big as a letter-sized sheet of paper, although some are larger). Many wallpaper companies print on demand and thus honor exchanges but not returns—so samples are a must-have.

With these criteria in mind, we narrowed an initial list of 23 peel-and-stick wallpaper brands down to nine that we wanted to put to the test. We tested samples of each of the nine, putting them to an initial 48-hour stick-and-peel test. We immediately eliminated one candidate for quality and performance, and we moved on to test eight contenders.

For this group of eight brands, we called in additional patterns to compare print quality and consistency. Our main tester then applied these samples to smooth gloss paint, following their directions, in three climatically intense locations: a bathroom with a shower that is used daily, a kitchen, and a laundry room. We feel confident that we are testing the wallpapers in representative interior climates, including high summer temperatures, direct sunlight, and high humidity. After leaving samples up for at least two weeks, we removed them from the bathroom and kitchen. We’re leaving our test samples up in the laundry room, which is the hottest and sunniest room, and will continue to update this guide on how they fare.

To mimic the experience of installing wallpaper alone, we also called in full-size panels or rolls for each of the eight brands. We applied them in vertical sections in a hallway and the kitchen, and we left them up for a minimum of two weeks. After this mock install, we removed these sections and selected our picks.

Wallshoppe’s smooth, satin, paper-based wallpaper is easy to install and has plenty of patterns to choose from.

Wallshoppe’s Removable Wallpaper has a supple, heavy-grade paper feel that’s smooth to the touch. The weight made this wallpaper considerably easier to apply than any other one we tried, and the thick paper material helped conceal small imperfections on the wall that other brands would have thrown into sharper relief. Also, the material was not prone to excessive bubbling. This wallpaper was pliable when torqued in multiple directions, and it resisted creasing and wrinkling. It was therefore easier to maneuver—even when we removed the sticker backing—than thinner peel-and-stick wallpapers, which can stick to themselves (beyond saving) once the backing comes off. Our testers found it was possible to attach a corner and adjust the position with ease. The low-tack adhesive was secure throughout our tests, but it wasn’t overly aggressive. So it was easy for us to relift small sections, to reposition and leverage corners and line up edges.

We found the print quality of the painterly, collage-like illustration we ordered to be very good. And there was no off-putting plastic odor, which makes sense because the material is vinyl-free. There are also more than 2,000 peel-and-stick pattern and color options by artists and illustrators to choose from. Wallshoppe’s patterns tend to have a painted, flat, or collage-like illustration style (versus traditional or photo-realistic), and they come in vibrant colors and patterns, ranging from broody dark florals to cheerful modern shapes.

Listed materials: PVC-free paper-based material

Inks: water-based, nontoxic latex

Average cost per square foot: $3.33 (estimated)

Shipping: $15 flat fee for orders up to $300, and free after that

Return policy: none, unless a product is defective (then return within 14 days)

You may want to avoid Wallshoppe’s text-based patterns, since the designs seemed blurrier in the samples we saw than in other types of patterns. Wallshoppe also does not offer returns or exchanges (unless a product arrives damaged, in which case you have 14 days). A no-returns policy is fairly common for peel-and-stick wallpaper that’s printed on demand (this cuts down on waste and keeps costs for the company down). But some other companies do offer exchanges, no questions asked. To avoid getting stuck with a wallpaper you’re meh about, order samples ($5 each) before committing to a pattern or color.

Chasing Paper’s lightweight, fabric-based wallpaper has a tactile, woven finish. It’s easy to install and has crisp printing in multiple styles.

Chasing Paper Wallpaper is printed on a thin yet supple woven fabric that doesn’t crease easily, ensuring smooth installation. Although this wallpaper is not as easy to install as Wallshoppe’s, we found the Chasing Paper wallpaper was easy to line up, remove, and restick parts of the paper to smooth out bubbles (a normal part of the installation process for most peel-and-stick wallpaper). Unlike Wallshoppe’s flat, paper-like wallpapers, Chasing Paper wallpapers are fabric-based and have a textured, slightly rough finish that reads as matte. Both lines are great wallpapers, but you may prefer one type of visual finish to the other. When, after three weeks, we removed a full 2-by-8-foot Chasing Paper panel and transferred it to a different wall, we found it did not crease or wrinkle easily as we handled it (unlike some other thin wallpapers), and we were able to reapply it.

The print quality on the samples we received was excellent, with crisp, fine lines and saturated colors. But tone did differ a bit from how it looked onscreen (which is why you should always order samples). There is a decent range of styles and color palettes to choose from, including truly small-scale prints (surprisingly uncommon for peel-and-stick wallpapers, which often reflect a bigger, bolder aesthetic).

This wallpaper has the most textile-like feel of those we tested, seeming the most like linen under the hand once installed. It is non-vinyl, and its Greenguard-certified ink adds third-party reassurance that you won’t expose your household to unhealthy concentrations of volatile organic compounds.

Listed materials: PVC-free textile, free of VOC and phthalates, certified lead-free

Inks: water-based, nontoxic latex, Greenguard-certified

Average cost per square foot: $5.00 (estimated)

Shipping: free shipping on orders above $200

Return policy: no returns; exchanges “for any items that are not completely satisfactory” within 14 days

Because the material is quite thin, light wallpaper colors applied to walls with dark-colored paint may appear more muted. One of our testers noted that her sample with a white background looked darker than she’d expected when she applied it to a dark brown surface. With around 150 patterns to choose from, Chasing Paper offers the second-smallest selection of the wallpapers we tested. However, we found that selection to be well curated and wide ranging. The adhesive is quite sticky. And because the wallpaper is thin, it can get floppy if you’re not careful, increasing the risk of the panel sticking to itself—to the point of no return. (No matter the wallpaper, to avoid this catastrophe, we recommend that you remove the backing in small sections.)

Livette’s is an Oeko-Tex–certified option with gorgeous patterns to choose from. But it can be trickier to install without help.

Livette’s Wallpaper is a lightweight, non-vinyl wallpaper with a subtle woven texture that, once installed, feels almost like silk. Visually, it appears as flat matte, sometimes with a very slight sheen. Of the wallpapers we tested, this is the most expensive per square foot, and it has a strong adhesive hold that might deter some DIYers. But for long-term projects, we think those who can afford it will find that the higher price is justified, since the look, the hold, the print quality, and the selection are all excellent. And Livette’s Wallpaper comes with an Oeko-Tex certification assurance.

The samples we received were crisp and finely detailed, with excellent color saturation and a good balance of drawing to “white space,” even for larger patterns (a scale that we thought appeared sparse in some other wallpaper brands we tested). Though the wallpaper is thin, our testers did not notice any dulling of the paper’s lightly colored areas when it was applied to darker walls (unlike with some Chasing Paper samples). With more than 300 patterns to choose from (everything from botanicals to abstract shapes) and a whole kids’ section (which may appeal to both adults and kids), Livette’s has one of the widest arrays of options—and at a variety of pattern scales, from small to large. The samples are also the largest of any from other brands we tested (19 by 19 inches, rather than the typical letter size), giving us a better sense of the pattern. And the installation instructions are a must-read.

This is not the easiest wallpaper to install solo. Though we found it to be about as thin as one of our other picks, Chasing Paper Wallpaper, we found Livette’s to be much stickier, with a very strong hold when we removed it. Because the wallpaper is thin, this intense stickiness makes it more challenging to reposition during installation. (However, our testers did find that once the wallpaper was in position, smoothing it out without bubbling was relatively easy.) We suggest you plan ahead and have patience when installing any wallpaper. But we especially recommend breaking out the pencil and level (or hiring a professional) when installing Livette’s.

This is not a wallpaper that you’ll likely be able to install and then remove and reapply in another location (as we could with Wallshoppe’s). We found in long-term tests that this wallpaper also was more likely to peel paint than our top picks: Our test paper came off without issue in every area but the laundry room, which is painted with very old gloss paint and can reach upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks in the summer. To lower the chance of paint stripping, Livette’s instructions recommend prepping the walls—removing and fixing any loose or irregular painted areas, and even applying a fresh coat of paint primer. We think it’s wise to apply your Livette’s samples as tests for about three weeks.

Livette’s Greenguard-certified ink adds third-party reassurance that you won’t expose your household to unhealthy concentrations of volatile organic compounds. This is also the only textile-based wallpaper we tested that has gone through the process to become Oeko-Tex–certified (a materials transparency standard for chemicals of concern in the textiles industry).

Listed materials: PVC-free, Oeko-Tex–certified polyester-based textile, solvent-based adhesive

Inks: Greenguard-certified

Average cost per square foot: $6.59 (estimated)

Shipping: varies by order size

Return policy: no returns or exchanges, unless a product is defective or damaged in transit

If you’re a fan of large-scale, bold, contemporary patterns: Walls Need Love is a solid option for those who love a big, bold look. (Had the company offered a wider aesthetic range, we might have made this a pick.) Within that style, there’s a good amount of patterns to choose from. We found the “linen texture” to be not very linen-like, though it had the most visible fabric-like texture of the wallpapers we tested. It was glossier in darker colors than we’d expect from a “linen” material, and we didn’t always love the effect in bright light. But this is a woven, medium-thick material that in testing was among the easiest to reposition—and even rehang—thanks to its substantial thickness and structure. Although we found the website navigation to be slightly frustrating, our testers liked that the site gives you the option to purchase by wall size or by roll. Walls Need Love also offers free shipping and a lifetime warranty.

Listed materials: VOC-free, PVC-free blend of wood, polyester, and post-consumer recycled content

Inks: Greenguard-certified

Average cost per square foot: $7.22 (estimated)

Shipping: free

Return policy: no returns or exchanges (unless a product is defective or damaged in transit)

If you want a wallpaper that you can view in a store before buying: Tempaper, a vinyl peel-and-stick option that came close to making our list of picks, is widely available at brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as online, so you can check it out in person. Once installed, the samples we tested did not have the cheap, plasticky look of contact paper, as some vinyl wallpapers can. But we subtracted points for ease of application, as well as the fact that one of the panels we applied in the kitchen lifted in one corner after a couple of very hot weeks (though this may be because it was located a couple feet from a stove). (The company recommends applying Tempaper with a squeegee, to reduce the chance of any lifting and bubbling.) We still think Tempaper is a decent choice, especially if you want lots of styles to choose from (there are 265 patterns, a number of which are collaborations with designers). Tempaper comes in a range of finishes, from matte-smooth with a slight sheen to metallic (depending on the style), and the print quality was crisp and consistent across samples. It also removes cleanly. And even though vinyl can be prone to creasing if it’s handled too much, we found it was possible to reposition and correct for mistakes when we worked in small sections during installation. Unlike many wallpaper brands, Tempaper offers returns (minus a restocking fee).

Listed materials: vinyl

Inks: water-based

Average cost per square foot: Between $1.50 and $2 (estimated)

Shipping: free for orders over $49

Return policy: accepts returns, minus a 25% restocking fee, plus shipping

If you want an affordable, non-PVC wallpaper in vintage-inspired patterns: Astek Home stood out for its selection of unique and vintage-inspired styles. The company offers peel-and-stick in two materials: a vinyl wallpaper (Anywhere), designed to remove cleanly from matte paint, and a vinyl-free wallpaper (Eco), intended for all paint finishes except matte paint. Both the Eco and Anywhere samples we received passed performance tests in the bathroom and laundry room. Once we received the full roll, we put it up in a very hot part of the house with no special smoothing tools—it went on smoothly and was easy to apply. After being up for 6 months we peeled it back and did not notice any residue left behind or stripping of the paint, despite not prepping or cleaning the wall beforehand and hanging it over old paint (which is very prone to stripping). We had initially noticed that the two pattern samples we received were inconsistent in print quality, looking blurry at close range. Once we received the full roll and hung it up on the wall we think this print quality is intentional to make the tile pattern look more realistic from a distance (though it won’t fool anyone up close). It’s also worth noting that this wallpaper’s price—about $1.30 per square foot—is one of the lowest per-square-foot price for a non-PVC wallpaper that we tested.

Listed materials: vinyl (Anywhere paper), pvc-free vinyl and recycled fiber (Eco paper)

Inks: VOC-free inks

Average cost per square foot: $1.14 for Anywhere paper, $1.34 for Eco paper (estimated)

Shipping: free for orders over $49

Return policy: accepts returns within 30 days, minus a 30% restocking fee, plus shipping

In this round of testing, we limited ourselves to a manageable nine brands that would best meet a combination of the criteria described above. There were a few we considered but did not test this time. And we look forward to reconsidering and possibly testing them in a future update: Anewall, Artemis, Drop It Modern, Mayflower Wallpaper, NextWall, RoomMates, and Wallpaperie, among others.

There are several terms wallpaper companies use to describe their products that we think are worth explaining. Some common ones are:

Peel-and-stick or self-adhesive wallpaper (the type discussed in this guide) is also sometimes listed as having a pressure-sensitive backing. These are wallpapers that come like giant stickers—you peel off the backing and then apply the wallpaper to the wall. When you press the paper onto the wall, it adheres to the surface.

Removable wallpaper is designed to come off easily without ripping or leaving patches on the wall. Some traditional wallpapers are also relatively easy to remove, even without being labeled “removable,” but you should not assume that all are. Besides the peel-and-stick wallpaper discussed in this guide, you may see references to pre-pasted removable paper (whose adhesive is activated with water or another liquid).

Traditional or unpasted wallpaper comes without adhesive. It can be made from a variety of materials, including paper, fabric, and vinyl. To install it, you typically use a roller or brush to apply glue to a sheet of wallpaper. Then you hang the sheet on the wall and repeat.

You may also encounter these terms related to installing peel-and-stick wallpaper:

Wallpaper is sized and installed in long, vertical pieces (typically around 2 feet wide), rather than in horizontal ones. Panels are cut to a given length to fit a space, also known as a drop, such as 2 feet wide by 10 feet long (for a wall that is 10 feet high). Rolls are longer and will need to be trimmed to length while installing (the lengths vary by brand). Some wallpaper patterns are available only in panels, others only in rolls, and occasionally you will be able to choose based on preference. Somewhat confusingly, panels still ship rolled up in tubes. In this guide, we often use panel as a generic term for a length of sheet you’re installing, regardless of whether the wallpaper is sold in a roll or panel.

Pattern drop or drop match refers to how a pattern is staggered horizontally when it repeats. Some patterns repeat horizontally across, like stripes (a straight match). For large-scale patterns, big drops can mean that you need to buy more wallpaper, and there will be more excess, if you want to match the pattern seamlessly at each vertical edge. You’ll need to order extra to make sure that you can match the pattern with each panel or sheet you install.

Pattern repeat refers to the vertical distance between the repeated part of a pattern.

Seam refers to the vertical edge between sheets of wallpaper once applied to the wall.

“If you’re going to invest in this thing, it means you’re going to want to see it,” said designer Shavonda Gardner. “If you don’t like green, don’t put green wallpaper in your house just because you heard that green is going to make a space feel calm. You’re going to hate it.” Instead, “make it something you love,” whether that’s a color or a motif, she said.

You should definitely follow Gardner’s advice and go for what you love. But after our testing, we have a few additional tips: Consider the pattern’s density and how much “white space” in white, cream, or pastel colors it has, since sparse patterns don’t mask errors (like wrinkles and wall imperfections) as well as dense patterns do. If you know you’ll be annoyed at misalignments, seams, and lines that are meant to be perfectly straight, interior designer Kelly Finley advises that you steer clear of stripes, grids, and anything super high-contrast, geometric, and macro-scaled. Organic and randomized patterns, especially those that are more densely packed, will be better at disguising misalignment.

All of our picks include helpful online calculators or instructions on how to measure your walls and estimate the number of rolls or panels to order. Some of these calculators already factor in additional material. But in case one doesn’t, you should always order extra—especially if your wallpaper has a pattern you’ll have to stagger or it’s a large-scale print—so that you have enough pattern to match. I learned this firsthand when I installed a test in my kitchen: I thought I had more than enough lemon-printed paper for the patch of wall I wanted to cover, but I needed more pattern repeat to avoid a mismatched seam and a disjointed lemon. Don’t assume you can just order more later; many companies print on demand, and there may be slight color variations between orders. Those variations will show up on the wall.

If you have a tighter budget but still want to wallpaper, don’t be afraid of covering a smaller area. “Every space, no matter how big or small, deserves to have a special moment,” said Gardner, who lives in a small house and designs small spaces. Gardner is not afraid of using pattern and color for big impact in forgotten, ancillary spaces like hallways or mudrooms—“particularly because those spaces get neglected.”

Prep work: How good your wallpaper looks on the wall depends on this step. Remove nails and outlet covers. Lightly sand down paint drips that might puncture or cause bubbling in your wallpaper. Finally, wipe down your wall with a damp cloth, and allow it to dry before proceeding. To be extra safe, you can use a 1:1 solution of water and rubbing alcohol to remove spots that look sticky. Some manufacturers, like Livette’s, suggest that applying a coat of primer is the best insurance against paint stripping during wallpaper removal.

Tools: You’ll probably want a reliable stepping stool or step ladder (depending on the height you’re hanging), a craft knife (like an X-Acto or Olfa) for trimming excess on the wall, a screwdriver to remove outlet covers, a straight edge (like a ruler) for trimming against and tracing guides, and a level or combination square (we recommend the Irwin 1794469). You may want to consider investing in a ruler with a built-in level to trace guidelines for yourself, especially if you plan to work alone. (Unless the pattern you chose is super freeform, don’t count on simply aligning your wallpaper with corners, ceilings, or molding; few rooms are perfectly square.) Depending on the wallpaper, you may also find that a smoothing tool, like a soft-edged squeegee or rubber bench scraper, will come in handy (some people even suggest using a credit card, if you have nothing else on hand). We found that a clean, dry palm often worked just as well.

Slow and steady: Finley suggests using a pencil to draw guide lines on the wall. “It’s very tedious in some ways,” she said. “Peel it off in [smaller] sections, start slowly, and smooth it out as you go.”

Spend extra time getting the first panel right, since it will act as a guide for the rest of the job. For the remaining panels, try not to peel off the backing completely before hanging, since the paper may stick to itself. Some of our picks’ websites include installation how-tos. We found the sites for Tempaper, Wallshoppe, and Livette’s to be especially helpful. And, again, if you can enlist someone to assist you, we highly recommend it.

Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to the question of which is the most sustainable wallpaper. The simplest answer is the wallpaper that you’ll keep on your walls the longest. But if you want to change the look of your walls and have the lowest environmental impact, paint them, said Teresa McGrath, a toxicologist and chief research officer at Healthy Building Network (an EPA-recognized research organization that shares information on the environmental and human health impact of building materials). Compared with even the thinnest wallpaper, a coat of paint takes up less volume. Although paint will end up in a landfill when a building is eventually demolished (and though used paint and paint cans may or may not be reclaimable and recyclable, depending on your municipal system), it will still produce less lifecycle waste than wallpaper will. No matter its composition, peel-and-stick wallpaper is likely to end up in a landfill and eventually contribute to plastic pollution, since two common wallpaper materials—vinyl and woven polyester fabrics—are both plastic. And you can’t recycle paper wallpapers, either, because it’s difficult or costly to separate natural fibers from adhesives, inks, and other chemicals.

If you want to change the look of your walls, and you want the most sustainable option, paint them, said Teresa McGrath of the Healthy Building Network.

Is vinyl (PVC) wallpaper the least sustainable kind? This is also not so easy to answer. There are significant concerns about the upstream environmental impact of making PVC, even with recent shifts in the industry away from mercury- and asbestos-based technologies. We didn’t test any wallpaper that didn’t comply with NSF/ANSI 342 standards for wallcoverings (NSF International and American National Standard, which develop and certify public health manufacturing standards in the interest of public health, globally and in the United States, respectively). Without full manufacturing transparency, it’s hard to say what the environmental impact of non-woven vinyl is compared with a polyester woven textile.

Since peel-and-stick wallpaper does not require a wet adhesive (unlike traditional and some removable wallpapers), health concerns are mostly due to long-term exposure to ortho-phthalates (used to make PVC material flexible and pliable) and volatile organic compounds (or VOCs, usually from inks).

When you search for wallpaper, you may encounter claims about phthalates and VOCs, sometimes as Greenguard and Oeko-Tex product certifications. Greenguard is a product certification system that, in the case of wallpaper, certifies its inks meet third-party emissions standards for VOCs. Oeko-Tex is a product certification system for harmful chemicals in textiles, so it would apply only to textile-based wallpapers. A green label does not necessarily mean that a product is safer than a non-certified one—just that the company with the certification was able to invest resources into obtaining that certification and thought it was worthwhile. We considered testing wallpaper only from brands that claim to use low- or no-VOC inks and to have zero phthalates or phthalate content within allowable levels. Unfortunately, it is difficult to verify these claims. “Any third-party certification [like Health Product Declaration or Declare] should be preferred over just a manufacturer claim,” McGrath said.

Vinyl requires the use of plasticizers, additives that make it pliable and flexible. For years, phthalates—specifically ortho-phthalates—were the plasticizer of choice. The CDC believes that phthalate exposure is “widespread” in the United States, although it states that not all exposure translates to a negative health impact. Some research has raised concerns that phthalates in building-interior materials (such as vinyl wall coverings and vinyl flooring) may be linked to asthma in adults and children. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health recommends that phthalates should be eliminated from “products that may lead to exposure” of pregnant people or those who may wish to become pregnant, children, and infants, due to the evidence of their impact on cognitive development and the reproductive system. According to a 2015 report from the Healthy Building Network (PDF), the vinyl industry has begun to move away from ortho-phthalates to other options that have been deemed less hazardous.

Nsilo Berry, a researcher with the Healthy Building Network, advises a “pie chart perspective” when thinking about a product’s chemical content. “Think about not just the wallpaper in your home, but what other things in your home can contribute to negative health impacts,” he said. “There are other things in your home that can contribute to [VOC emissions, for example], like paint, flooring, drywall, and other categories” that can affect health over years and generations. Berry noted that these cumulative effects have contributed to health disparities in low-income communities and communities of color.

Carter + Main wallpaper is printed on a non-vinyl woven fabric material, and it has a slight sheen. It’s thicker and more structured than Chasing Paper and Livette’s, but it’s thinner than Walls Need Love and Wallshoppe papers. In our durability tests, we were able to cleanly remove all but one of the panels; a three-week-long test in the humid bathroom removed some of the satin-finish paint and left some residue on the wall. Both of our testers reported that during installation, Carter + Main wallpaper seemed to develop more wrinkles and bubbles that had to be smoothed out, compared with other papers we tested. There is not a huge selection to choose from (just over 100 patterns), and the patterns tend to be bright, large in scale, and have a lot of white space (which can sometimes be less forgiving of imperfect applications). We also found Carter + Main’s packing tubes to be oddly frustrating. Both cardboard tubes we received had been secured at both ends with heavy-duty staples, which we had to remove with pliers before opening, to prevent scratching the wallpaper.

NuWallpaper (from Wall Pops!), a vinyl peel-and-stick wallpaper with a subtle sheen, is available in more than 200 patterns. At about $1.63 per square foot, it’s one of the two least-expensive brands we tested (the other being Astek Home). But its texture and appearance reminded us of thin contact paper, and its slightly stretchy material tended to easily reveal imperfections. Also, we found it was prone to wrinkling and bubbling during installation. We also noticed a strong plasticky smell out of the package that did not fully dissipate after the first week, although it went away eventually. Our tester said the smell gave them a headache when they first opened it. The sample we received was sloppily cut, so we’re not confident that every shopper will receive a consistently sized sample. But for some projects, this may be a decent and affordable option. The company also sells designs by brands like Scott Living that are widely available at brick-and-mortar retailers.

Of the peel-and-stick wallpaper brands that we initially sampled, the only one we did not call in for further testing was from Spoonflower. Spoonflower operates as a marketplace for individual artists who can sell designs printed on demand on wallpaper, as well as textiles and other home decor. Unfortunately, the print quality of the pattern we ordered was extremely blurry. Although we suspect that print quality may vary depending on the resolution of the individual artist’s source file, this disappointing result did not inspire confidence in visual reliability. Even more problematic, the sample we received failed our initial performance test, lifting at the corners and bubbling out at some edges after less than 24 hours. So we eliminated it from the running.

We considered but ultimately did not test AllModern, Anthropologie, Magnolia Home, Opalhouse at Target, or Society6, because at the time, they did not offer samples, one of our testing requirements. We also considered The Black Home but did not move forward with testing due to the limited number of patterns available at the time.

This article was edited by Daniela Gorny and Christine Ryan.

Teresa McGrath, toxicologist and chief research officer at Healthy Building Network, phone interview, May 20, 2021

Nsilo Berry, health impact researcher, Healthy Building Network, phone interview, May 20, 2021

Stephanie M. Engel et al., Neurotoxicity of Ortho-Phthalates: Recommendations for Policy Reforms to Protect Brain Development in Children, American Journal of Public Health, April 2021

Pam Factor-Litvak et al., Persistent Associations Between Maternal Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates on Child IQ at Age 7 Years, PLOS ONE, December 10, 2014

Regina Montero-Montoya, Rocío López-Vargas, and Omar Arellano-Aguilar, Volatile Organic Compounds in Air: Sources, Distribution, Exposure, and Associated Illnesses in Children, Annals of Global Health, July 27, 2018

Jouni J K Jaakkola, Antonia Ieromnimon, and Maritta S Jaakkola, Interior surface materials and asthma in adults: a population-based incident case-control study, American Journal of Epidemiology, October 15, 2006

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Biomonitoring Program: Phthalates Factsheet

Kelly Finley, owner and principal designer at Joy Street Design, phone interview, June 24, 2021

Shavonda Gardner, designer and founder at SG Style, phone interview, June 24, 2021

Katie Okamoto

Katie Okamoto is the lead editor of sustainability at Wirecutter. She’s been studying, working in, and writing about the complexities of sustainability since 2005. Among other things, she’s been an editor at Metropolis, where she focused on the intersection of environment and design; a manager at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection; a designer; and a freelance writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, as well as a master’s in architecture, and has covered the overlaps between sustainability and other topics for publications including The Atlantic, Newsweek, and Catapult.

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Check your walls:Check your paint finish:Check your room:Be prepared:Consider your budget:Durability:Quality:Design:Samples:Listed materials:Inks:Average cost per square foot:Shipping:Return policy:Listed materials:Inks:Average cost per square foot:Shipping:Return policy:Listed materials:Inks:Average cost per square foot:Shipping:Return policy:If you’re a fan of large-scale, bold, contemporary patterns:Listed materials:Inks:Average cost per square foot:Shipping:Return policy:If you want a wallpaper that you can view in a store before buying:Listed materials:Inks:Average cost per square foot:Shipping:Return policy:If you want an affordable, non-PVC wallpaper in vintage-inspired patterns:Listed materials:Inks:Average cost per square foot:Shipping:Return policy:Peel-and-stickself-adhesive wallpaperRemovable wallpaperTraditional unpasted wallpaperpanelsrollspanelPattern dropdrop matchstraight matchPattern repeat SeamPrep work:Tools: Slow and steady: