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Do Wall Decals Damage Walls?

wall decal next to couch

A Guide To Applying & Safely Removing Decals & Stickers

If you're looking for a simple & unique way to add a splash of colour or a focal point in room, then wall decals may be just the thing.

Perhaps you've seen the many designs & styles available & you're keen to apply this wall décor to your home.

But maybe sticking things on the walls has you concerned.

Can wall decals damage your walls? Certain types of decals can cause damage, but there are decals that when applied & removed correctly, can be used without causing any harm to the wall.

Is There A Difference Between Decals & Stickers?

Sometimes the terms "decal" & "sticker" are used interchangeably, but they are 2 different types of product.

They both can look fabulous & the final result may be similar, but they are different products in one way or another.

The term "decal" is more commonly used throughout America & Australia, whereas "sticker" is the term more popular in Europe.

They can also be described as "wall graphics", "wall clings", wall tattoos", "wall stick-ons" & "wall vinyl".

Wall Decals

Decals come with a backing paper which peels off to expose the adhesive.

They also have a transfer surface on the front that assists you in applying the decal.

Wall decals can be made up from a number of individual patterns or motifs, so the top transfer layer keeps everything aligned as you apply them to the wall.

Majority of wall decals are made from vinyl or polyester, but there are fabric decals available if you shop around.

Wall Stickers

Stickers also have a backing paper that peels off to expose the adhesive.

It's as easy as simply pressing the sticker to the wall.

Also made from vinyl & polyester, there's also paper stickers on the market.

Decals vs Stickers - Which Create More Damage?

Both decals & stickers can create damage, it's down to the quality of the product & materials used.

There are decals made for outdoor applications & these will use a stronger more permanent glue or adhesive.

Obviously if you were to use these indoors they're going to create problems if you ever need to remove them.

Decals designed for indoor use have a weaker adhesive & for that reason are designed for inside the home.

Cheaper decals & stickers can use lower quality glues that can harden over time & this of course will make them difficult to remove too.

So Do Wall Stickers Cause Damage?

Just as with wall decals, cheaper stickers will create damage, but when used correctly it's possible they can be applied & removed safely.

Do Certain Decals Create More Damage?

Most often than not, a decal will be applied to a painted wall.

Certain paints & finishes can be more prone to damage & marking than others.

How long the decal has been on the wall is also a contributing factor.

Eggshell & matte paints can be more susceptible to marking, but newer paints are made to better standards & will fare much better.

Also whether the paint has a good primer & is applied well, will also determine how it will respond when the decal or sticker is removed.

Smooth surfaces are recommended for applying decals, as textured walls can be a bit trickier.

But it can be done as the video below demonstrates.

If you are applying a decal to a textured wall, some decals will work better than others.

So ask around as there are products that will work better.

The downside of a textured wall is the glue will work it's way into the uneven surface which makes it more difficult to remove & clean up.

Although they're called wall decals, they will adhere to any smooth surface.

Windows are one such place where they can be applied.

Windows that aren't exposed to too much direct heat are best, but mirrors are also another option for getting creative.

Where To Avoid Using Wall Decals

Although they're fairly versatile, there are certain surfaces where a wall decal may not be suited or will cause damage when removing.

  • Rental properties often need some sort of personal touch to make the place feel more like home.

You may not be able to repaint or wallpaper, so decals could be a solution.

But you really need to determine if not only the decal is of good quality, but the walls won't be damaged or marked when it comes time to remove them.


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  • Porous surfaces such as brick, Besser blocks & cinder blocks simply won't hold a decal.

Perhaps if these surfaces were painted it may be possible.

  • Lacquered surfaces also not recommended as the glue can lift the lacquer when removing.

  • Surface that are exposed to extreme heat or cold are also best avoided.

The decal itself can become brittle & be difficult to remove.

  • Wallpaper is another surface best avoided, although I have heard of it being done successfully.

I expect if you're thinking of keeping the decal for many years, then it can be applied over wallpaper.

But it's the removal that is the issue, as the wallpaper will ultimately tear & then you're in for a bigger repair job.

  • Freshly painted walls will need a recommended time to dry before you're able to apply decals & stickers.

Best to ask the decal supplier for advice, as some say to allow 4 weeks, others 8 weeks.

Perhaps the paint manufacturer can also offer some advice.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

You've shopped around & found the ideal decal with the design you really love.

But later down the track, it will need to be removed.

So when that time comes, you don't want to create more work than necessary by needing to repair a damaged wall.

In the long run, choosing decals & stickers that are easy to remove may be the best move.

Even in the short term, as decals can be used in a children's room for example, that they will outgrow in a year or two.

3 Tips For Choosing Damage Free Decals

Here's some tips you can apply now to prevent any damage to your walls later on.

1. Choose decals that use a gum like adhesive.

There's even certain wallpapers that use this type of adhesive, as it doesn't harden over time.

So when the decal is removed, the gum adhesive doesn't leave a residue that requires heavier cleaning.

2. Decals that are made from polyester fabric are less susceptible to curling like vinyl.

This means they also don't require as strong a glue, which translates to easier removal.

3. Often referred to as "peel & stick", these are repositionable decals & are extremely popular too.

If you get bored of them in one room, simply peel off & use somewhere else in the home.

The lower tack & even "peel & stick" varieties of decals can have issues adhering to certain surfaces.

Because there's many different companies that make these products, the same style of decal may vary from different manufacturers.

So the best advice is to ask what type of glue is used & is it suitable for your particular needs.

6 Steps For Safely Removing Wall Decals

Okay, the moment has arrived & the decal needs to come off!

As we know, the ease of this procedure is determined by the length of time the decal has been on the wall & what condition the glue is in.

I've had a good look around & apparently there's only one method to use.

If you're a baldy like myself, this will require purchasing the correct tool for the job .. which is a hairdryer.

1. Choose a corner & gently begin peeling away from the wall.

If you're having difficulty getting hold of a corner, use the hairdryer on it's lowest setting & carefully heat up the section until it begins to lift away easily.

2. Avoid holding the hairdryer too close as the decal only needs to be warm.

When glue becomes too hot it can become tacky & leave a residue, so easy does it.

3. Remember to roll the decal back on itself.

If you try pulling it away from the wall at a 90 degree angle it may tear & also take some of the paint off too.

4. Always work ahead of yourself.

The hairdryer should be heating the next section that needs to peel off.

If you've got a helper, all the better, as 4 hands are easier than 2.

5. Patience is a virtue!

I know the feeling when you rush something & it actually ends up taking longer.

You may come across stubborn patches, so steady as she goes as it's more work to clean up the bits left behind through rushing.

6. Cleaning Up

There may still be some residue left behind, so a quality citrus cleaner is fantastic for dissolving adhesive without being caustic & causing damage to the wall.

A final once over may be needed & mild detergent or sugar soap should suffice.

If the wall still isn't completely mark free, then a powder cleanser may be required.


If you'd like to see this process in action then watch the below video.

How Long Do Wall Decals Last?

Although they are a considered a temporary wall décor, you may like the design & wish to keep it for many years.

A good quality wall decal applied correctly to a properly prepared surface can last many years.

If you are applying a decal with the intention of it being on the wall for a long time, then there's a few tips that will optimize it's lifespan.

It's recommended that the air & surface temperature is between 18C & 25C (64F & 77F).

So it's ideal to apply to a wall that hasn't been exposed to direct sun for a few hours as well a house that is too cold.

The wall needs to be dust free & clean, so a wipe over with mild detergent is a good idea.

Make sure though that the wall is also completely dry before applying the decal.

Being made of either vinyl or polyester, regular cleaning is advised.

Again, a mild detergent & a damp, non-abrasive cloth should be all that's needed.

Good quality decals use waterproof inks, but best to check first just in case.

As mention already, the location of the decal will impact how long it's going to last.

You don't want it being exposed to extremes. As also mentioned, there are outdoor vinyl decals & these are rated to last for up to 5 years.

So inside a home environment they will obviously last a very long time.


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Final Thoughts

With such a huge choice of patterns, styles & designs of wall decals, they really are a fabulous way to introduce something unique & creative to your walls.

But perhaps you haven't really considered using them thinking they may create damage or mark your walls.

So I hope this article has put your mind at ease & maybe convinced you to give them a go.

If you feel someone else may find value in this article, please feel free to share.


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