How to Remove Peel and Stick Backsplash

Peel and stick backsplashes provide a quick and easy way to upgrade the look of your kitchen. Made from vinyl or other materials, these backsplashes come on a backing that allows you to peel off the adhesive and firmly press them onto your wall. While beautiful and budget-friendly, peel and stick backsplashes do have a major downside—they’re not as easy to remove as traditional tile if you later want to redecorate. However, with some patience and the right techniques, removing a peel and stick backsplash is doable. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to remove peel and stick backsplash.

When Is It Time to Remove Your Peel and Stick Backsplash?

You may find yourself wanting to remove your current peel and stick backsplash for a few different reasons:

  • You’re remodeling your kitchen. As part of a larger kitchen remodel, you may want to replace your outdated peel and stick backsplash with a fresh new look. This could mean installing trendy new tile, luxury stone backsplash, shiplap, or another on-trend option.
  • The backsplash is damaged. Over time, a vinyl peel and stick backsplash can get nicked, stained, or otherwise show wear and tear. Once the damage is beyond repair, removing and replacing it is your best option.
  • You want a fresh update. Even if your current backsplash is still in good shape, you may be ready for a new look. Peel and stick backsplashes are inexpensive, so homeowners often change them out to keep up with evolving trends.
  • You’re selling your home. Updating worn or dated backsplashes can help improve your home’s resale value. Giving your kitchen a more modern, stylish backsplash can also help it appeal to buyers.

No matter what prompts you to remove your peel and stick backsplash, doing so takes time and care. Rushing the process can damage your walls or leave behind stubborn adhesive. Follow these steps to safely remove your vinyl backsplash without hassles.

Gather the Right Tools and Materials

Removing a peel and stick backsplash requires having the proper tools and supplies on hand. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Putty knife or paint scraper. A putty knife with a long, stiff blade works best to scrape off stuck-on backsplash pieces. Opt for a 2-3 inch putty knife for maneuverability.
  • Razor scraper. Use a razor scraper to slice away small vinyl pieces still clinging to the wall after scraping with the putty knife.
  • Spatula. A small spatula can help pry up backsplash edges and scrape adhesive remnants off the wall.
  • Rags. Have plenty of clean rags or paper towels on hand to wipe adhesive and debris off the putty knife and wall.
  • Goo Gone. This adhesive remover helps dissolve any sticky residue left behind by the backsplash.
  • Mineral spirits. Mineral spirits also help remove stubborn adhesive from the wall after backsplash removal.
  • Sandpaper. Lightly sanding the wall afterward gets rid of any remaining sticker backing or residue.
  • Painter’s tape. Use painter’s tape to border off sections of the backsplash for easier removal.
  • Ladder. Removing a full backsplash requires working at heights. Use a sturdy ladder to safely reach upper portions.

Gather all these necessary supplies before starting the removal process. Having them ready to go makes removing the backsplash quicker and easier.

Prepare the Workspace

Before removing your peel and stick backsplash, you need to prep the workspace. Follow these tips:

  • Clear the area. Remove everything from counters and surfaces below the backsplash. This protects items from falling tools or debris.
  • Cover floors. Use drop cloths or tarp to cover floors under the backsplash area. This catches any bits of vinyl or adhesive that fall down.
  • Turn off electricity. Shut off power to any outlets covered by the backsplash to prevent shocks.
  • Cover appliance vents. Use painter’s tape and plastic to cover nearby appliance vents, like above the range. This prevents debris from falling inside.
  • Have good lighting. Ensure you have ample lighting in the kitchen to see all areas of the backsplash. This helps removal go smoothly.

Taking time to properly prepare the workspace makes the removal process safer and less messy. It also protects your floors, countertops and appliances.

Heat the Backsplash

One secret that makes peeling off a vinyl backsplash much easier is heating it first. The heat softens the adhesive, allowing the vinyl to release with less effort. Here are two effective methods for heating a peel and stick backsplash prior to removal:

Using a Heat Gun

A heat gun provides focused, intense heat perfect for warming a backsplash. Follow these steps:

  • Set the heat gun to a low or medium setting. Too high of heat can melt the vinyl.
  • Starting at the top, wave the heat gun back and forth across the backsplash sections. Keep it 2-3 inches away.
  • Heat each area for 30-60 seconds until it feels warm, moving down the backsplash as you go.
  • Run a putty knife across heated areas to test if the vinyl easily releases. If not, apply more heat.
  • Avoid holding the heat gun in one spot too long, as this can scorch or burn the vinyl.

With a Hair Dryer

A hair dryer can also supply the warmth needed to loosen peel and stick backsplash adhesive. Here’s how:

  • Use a hair dryer on its highest heat setting for this task.
  • Starting at the top, aim the hair dryer at the backsplash while moving it back and forth continuously.
  • Heat small sections for 45-60 seconds before moving downwards.
  • Keep the hair dryer 6 inches back to avoid burning the vinyl.
  • Check heated areas with a putty knife. Reheat if needed until adhesive softens enough for removal.

Heating first is a must when removing whole sheets of vinyl backsplash. It allows you to slowly peel it off in large pieces rather than scraping off small sections.

Remove the Backsplash Pieces

Once your backsplash is heated up, it’s time to start removing it. Work methodically to avoid leaving behind pieces that are tough to scrape off later.

Start Peeling at the Top

Always begin peeling off vinyl backsplash at the top corner. Slowly pull down and away from the wall at a 45° angle. The heat will allow it to release from the adhesive easily.

Use painter’s tape to mark off peel lines if removing the backsplash in large sheets. Follow the tape lines as you pull off heated sections.

Use a Putty Knife For Stuck Areas

If parts of the backsplash won’t peel off easily, use a putty knife to lift the edges. Insert the putty knife under lifted corners or seams and gently work it behind the vinyl.

Once underneath, slowly scrape the putty knife at a 45° angle to release the backsplash from the wall. Apply heat as needed to sticky spots using a heat gun or hair dryer.

Switch to a Razor Scraper If Needed

For small leftover pieces that resist peeling, use a sharp razor scraper. Carefully scrape the razor at a low angle across remaining vinyl until removed.

Razor scraping takes practice, as scraping too roughly can damage drywall. Work slowly and apply minimal pressure.

Keep heating pieces that won’t release. The combination of heat plus scraping with a putty knife and razor should remove all remnants.

Clean Off Adhesive Residue

Once the backsplash vinyl is completely removed, there will still be adhesive residue left on the wall. Removing this sticky glue layer takes some work.

Scrape Off What You Can

Use a stiff putty knife or spatula to gently scrape the wall and remove as much residue as possible. Try not to gouge the drywall surface while scraping.

Next, take a razor scraper and carefully scrape to remove any remaining residue. This prepares the wall for using liquid cleaners.

Apply Adhesive Remover

Spray leftover adhesive areas with Goo Gone or another adhesive remover. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes to penetrate and dissolve the glue.

Use a nylon bristle brush or abrasive sponge to scrub the adhesive remover into the wall. This helps break down stubborn residue.

Wipe the wall clean with a dry rag once scrubbed. Never let adhesive removers sit too long, as they can damage drywall.

Tackle Stubborn Spots

For any leftover sticky areas, use mineral spirits applied with a rag. Lightly rub mineral spirits over adhesive spots to dissolve residue.

You can also use a melamine foam sponge for extra scrubbing power. Gently scrub stubborn spots and wipe away any liquid.

Let the wall dry fully before doing a final evaluation. Spot treat any last sticky areas until the wall is completely glue-free.

Thoroughly removing all adhesive is crucial before installing new backsplash. Any leftover residue will prevent proper application of tile, vinyl or other materials.

Smooth and Prep the Wall

As a final step, you need to prep the exposed wall for your new backsplash installation.

Sand Exposed Areas

Lightly sand the entire backsplash area using fine 120-150 grit sandpaper. This smooths any leftover adhesive bits or residue.

Be extra gentle when sanding near corners, edges and around outlets. Avoid over-sanding drywall paper.

Clean and Prime the Wall

Clean sanded areas with a dry rag. For best results, use TSP cleaner diluted in water to further prep the wall for painting or priming.

Once totally clean and dry, apply an oil-based primer to the entire backsplash area. This creates a fresh surface for your new backsplash to adhere to.

Allow the primer to fully dry per manufacturer instructions before installing new backsplash materials.

With the wall smoothed, cleaned and primed, it’s ready for your fresh new backsplash. Carefully removing the old peel and stick backsplash allows for a successful new installation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about removing peel and stick backsplash:

How long does it take to remove peel and stick backsplash?

Plan for the process to take 2-3 hours for a full backsplash removal. Working slowly and carefully prevents damage and adhesive issues.

What’s the easiest way to remove peel and stick backsplash?

Heating up the vinyl with a heat gun first allows the backsplash to peel off in large sheets with minimal scraping. Peeling is much easier than scraping off cold, rigid vinyl.

Can I remove peel and stick backsplash without damaging drywall?

Yes, with care you can remove vinyl backsplash without drywall damage. Avoid digging scraping tools into the wall. Heat and peel gently. Use adhesive remover instead of aggressive scraping for residue.

What solvent removes peel and stick backsplash adhesive?

Goo Gone works well by dissolving the adhesive. Mineral spirits also help remove stubborn sticky spots. Avoid acetone, as it can damage drywall.

How do you soften old peel and stick backsplash adhesive?

Heating the vinyl with a heat gun or hair dryer softens and activates the adhesive so the backsplash peels off easier. Heat allows gentle removal.

Final Thoughts

Removing peel and stick backsplash takes careful work, but pays off for a successful replacement project. With the right tools and techniques for peeling, scraping, cleaning, and smoothing the wall, you can remove vinyl backsplash without mishaps. Just work slowly panel by panel, use heat and clean adhesives thoroughly. With patience and care, you’ll have that outdated backsplash down and have your wall prepped for a fresh new look in no time.