Wallpaper Adhesives
Complete wallpaper adhesive manufacturer listing is here

  1. Cellulose
  2. Wheat paste
  3. Premixed vinyl, clay
  4. Premixed vinyl, clear
  5. Vinyl Over Vinyl (VOV)

"Cellulose methyl ether, produced by treating cellulose from wood or cotton with an alkali, such as sodium hydroxide, followed by methyl chloride. The resulting product is a white granular solid, soluble in cold water but insoluble in hot water. In addition to being used as an adhesive, it is used as a thickening agent, as a substitute for natural gums, and as a stabilizer in emulsions."
-from Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books Dictionary from the Conservation On-Line (COOL) website

"Methyl cellulose occurs as practically odorless and tasteless, white to yellowish-white granules or powder. The pH of a 1% w/v solution is in the range of 5.5 to 8.0. Its angle of repose is about 40 degrees to 50 degrees and it is hygroscopic. It swells and disperses slowly in cold water to form a clear-to-opalescent, viscous, colloidal dispersion. The viscosity is increased with increased concentrations. The viscosity decreases with increased temperatures to about 50 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius, where gel formation occurs. The thermogelation is reversible when the viscous solution reforms upon cooling."
-from Wade A., Weller P.J. (eds) Handbook of Pharmaceutical Compounding.

In paperhanging, cellulose has the highest water content of any paste in general use (around 97%). It usually comes in a small box and is packaged as a white powder. It is mixed with cold water on the job and can be used with a variety of lightweight materials such as porous papers, grasscloth and silk. It's adhesion is mostly of the mechanical type. It leaves very little solids behind and is not suitable for many wallcoverings which require greater amounts of initial tack and holding power.

Wheat Paste
Common wheat flour Triticum vulgare (sativum), readily available in temperate climates, is the most frequently recommended flour for making wallpaper paste. The type sold in retail decorating centers is sold in bags: the user simply adds the white or off-white powder, sifting it slowly into lukewarm water, while stirring with a stick or cooking whisk to avoid lumps. This powder has been cooked first in a factory, then dried and re-combined with other ingredients. There are many grades of wheat paste available, but it is sometimes difficult to find in traditional decorating retail outlets.

Wheat has the next highest water content of any paste in general use, ranging from 90 to 95% water, depending on how much water is mixed with the product. Although wheat paste was once the most popular paste, the introduction of vinyl and vinyl-coated paper to the wallcovering industry in the 1950's and 60's and the eventual dominance of vinyl types in the U.S. mass market have led to a decline in both the recommendation and use of wheat paste. However, there are still many wallcovering products that can be successfully hung with wheat paste, including blankstock lining paper, porous handprints, grasscloth, strings, silks, and many English residential papers.

Premixed Vinyl, Clay
Clay-based premixed vinyl adhesive was developed to hang vinyl wallcoverings. It consists of clay, dextrin, and small amounts of cellulose, biocides and other additives. There is a machine-grade clay premix which includes glycerin, for use in pasting machines. The color ranges from tan to gray, and it usually is packaged in 1 and 5 gallon pails. Clay-base premix has the lowest water content (40-50%) of any paste in general use and is often used for wallcoverings which require superior tack. Such wallcoverings include commercial vinyl, foils, and heavily inked handprints.

Premixed Vinyl, Clear
Clear premixed vinyl adhesive is based on natural polymers such as wheat and corn starch or on synthetic (man-made) polymers. The polymers are cooked with heat or by chemical means, changing the molecules from long-chain to short-chain in the process. Other additives may include cellulose, biocides and flow agents. Many clears are designated as "Strippable", for use on bare sheetrock in the commercial market to allow future stripping when redecorating. Clears are designed for all-purpose use and may be used successfully with the widest variety of wallcoverings, ranging from a very light vinyl to heavy types. Some caution is necessary when using them with paper (they may strike-through delicate wallpaper) and with materials with high differential (they may not be able to overcome pronounced edge curl). The water content is usually in the 60-70% range.

Vinyl Over Vinyl (VOV)
"Vinyl Over Vinyl" is a trademark of the Roman Decorating Products. It's intended for commercial applications, where existing vinyl wallcoverings will be redecorated with new vinyl wallcoverings. It is extremely tacky and is sometimes used in special problem installations that demand an especially tenacious paste. The term VOV is often miss-applied to any brand of "over vinyl" adhesive.


Adhesive Chart
Type of Wallcovering Recommended Adhesive Booking Time Additional Notes
Vinyl, Fabric-Backed Light Weight Light Duty Premix Clear or Clay None to 10 min


Vinyl, Fabric-Backed Medium & Heavy Heavy Duty Premix Clear or Clay None to 15 min


Vinyl, Paper-Backed Any of the Above None to 10 min Paste surface or backing
Vinyl, Non-Woven-Backed Any of the Above None to 10 min


Mylar, Fabric-Backed & Non-Woven Any of the Above None to 10 min


Mylar, Paper-Backed Any of the Above None to 10 min Paste surface or backing
Foil, Fabric-Backed Any of the Above None to 10 min


Foil, Paper-Backed Any of the Above None Dry hang
Fiberglass Paintables Any of the Above None Dry hang
Regular Wallpaper, Uncoated, Unpasted* Wheat, Cellulose, Light Duty Premix To 10 min Do not use clear adhesives
Vinyl or Acrylic Coated Paper Dry Vinyl, Light Duty Premix To 10 min


Prepasted, Paper Substrate Water or Activator 5 to 15 min


Prepasted, Non-Woven Substrate Activator, Diluted Clear or Clay Premix 5 to 10 min


Kraft Paper, Uncoated Clear Premix 10 to 15 min Depends on weight
Grasscloth Wheat, Cellulose, Clear, Light Duty Premix To 5 min


Burlap, Paper-Backed Clear, Light Duty Premix None to 5 min


Cork, Paper-Backed Wheat, Cellulose, Clear Premix None to 10 min


Fabrics, Paper-Backed Clear Premix None to 5 min May dry hang
Fabrics, Acrylic-Backed Clear Premix None Dry hang
Fabrics, Unbacked Clear Premix None Dry hang
Blank Stock, Paper Use adhesive recommended for top paper None to 5 min  
Blank Stock, Non Woven Heavy Duty Clay or Clear Premix None to 5 min


Blank Stock, Tarkett Heavy Duty Clay Premix None to 5 min


Borders, Prepasted over wallcoverings Diluted VOV adhesive None to 2 min


Borders, Inlaid Refer to above wallcovering types 5 to 10 min


*  Do not use clear premix adhesive on European pulp papers. Surfactants (soap) used in manufacturing adhesive may cause oily stains. Also premixes containing PVA, PVC or other resins and additives may cause staining.

Note:  Booking time may vary due to differences in weight and substrate. Remember to thin adhesives as necessary to prevent excessive build-up on back of paper. Delay rolling seams until paste has had a chance to set. Premature rolling squeezes out paste, resulting in poor adhesion, loosening or curling seams.

Information used on this page graciously provided by Robert M. Kelly and Jim Turner.


Home | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Contact | Do it Yourself | Wallpaper FAQ | Wallpaper Links Wallpaper Information | Nationwide Wallpaper Installers | Wallpaper Forum