The easiest way to remove a popcorn ceiling

Ever since I put up a post about popcorn ceiling removal I’ve gotten hundreds of hits from Pinterest & Google about popcorn ceiling removal.  Thanks for visiting, and I hope you find this little blog post helpful.  Ask your questions in the comments below.

I hate ceilings with texture.  Ceilings should be smooth, flat, and painted white.  Not just any white, but ceiling white (it’s a special white paint for ceilings).  To me, any room that doesn’t have a normal ceiling just looks weird.

Plus it doesn’t take that long to scrape.  Maybe an hour or two for a normal sized bedroom.  Most of the time is used to take all the furniture out, anyway.

Increase the value of your home by $10,000

Every house I buy, move in to, or remodel, gets this treatment.  It is messy, but the results are incredible, and I know for a fact that it increases resale value (because I’m a Realtor).  Exactly how much is hard to say, but when the room is scraped and painted, with no traces of texture on the ceiling, it seems larger, brighter, and cleaner.  And I know that is what homebuyers want.  I’d guess that for every room you remove a popcorn ceiling, you are adding $1,000 to the value of your house.

So if you have a 3 bedroom house, you can easily add $10,000 value to your home – (kitchen, 2 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms, living room, dining room, hall, and entry way).

Items needed for popcorn ceiling removal

You will need to buy 5 things if you don’t have them already.  You can get them from your local hardware store, Lowes, or Home depot, or even (I have Amazon Prime, and buy everything from them) .

  1. A ladder – 6 foot or high enough so you can easily reach your ceiling -(Yes I even bought my ladder from Amazon Prime).
  2. A Garden Sprayer.
  3. A large flat blade putty knife or scraper. 10 inches is the perfect size. larger, and the ceiling might not easily scrape off, and smaller and you need to make more passes
  4. a bottle of Dawn dish soap
  5. A gallon of distilled white Vinegar.

Should I test my popcorn ceiling for asbestos?

YES!  Absolutely!  Asbestos is a known carcinogen.  It causes mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer that might not show up for years.  Testing your ceiling is easy, and can potentially save your life, as well as your family.  Asbestos use in homes ended in 1978, so if you home is newer than that, you don’t have to worry.  But in older homes, it is worth a quick check.

Testing your ceiling is easy.  I just did a quick web search for Asbestos Testing in Austin, and came up with a couple of labs.  After a couple of quick phone calls to get the price and how long it would take.  I found a place that could do it in 24 hours for $30 bucks.  They asked me to scrape a 2×2 inch section into a plastic bag, and drop it off.

I did just that, and got the results – no Asbestos.  I was cleared to proceed.  If your sample does come back positive, you may need to hire a company and follow local or state guidelines for removal and disposal.

 How to scrape popcorn off your ceiling – step by step

You are going to want to remove everything from the room.  Take out all the furniture.  Take off any curtains or blinds.  Remove any rugs.  Cover the floor in a large plastic tarp.  I’ve seen other people tape plastic all over the walls, but that’s really not necessary.  Yes, this gets messy, but the scraping action doesn’t get everywhere.  It just falls down on to the floor.  A little tiny bit may get onto the walls, but it easily wipes off with a damp rag.

I tried a bunch of different removers, and found that vinegar and dish soap was the fastest (and cheapest) way to do it.  You can also use plain hot water, but it takes longer.  The idea is to find the right mix so it penetrates the paint and popcorn before dissolving the wallboard underneath.

  • Fill the garden sprayer with HOT Water.  The hotter the better.
  • For every gallon of HOT water add 1 cup vinegar, and 7 tablespoons of Dawn Dishsoap.  Too much soap, and all you are going to get is bubbles.  Too much vinegar, and you are just wasting it.
  • Pump the sprayer.  Pump, pump pump, and make sure you have it good and pressurized.  You want a good stream coming out that sucker, not a little trickle.  Also the pumping action mixes up all the vinegar and dish soap.
  • Scrape popcorn off ceilingSpray the solution on the popcorn ceiling.  The idea is to get it just wet enough so the stuff scrapes off easily, but not so wet that you soak the drywall underneath.  Here’s a guide:  spray enough so it is exactly this wet – just wet enough so it doesn’t drip down in your eyes.  If the water mixture starts dripping onto the floor, you have sprayed too much, and are wasting water, and overwetting the popcorn ceiling, and potentially soaking the drywall.  Get some towels and dry the area that is too wet.  This photo is what it looks like if it wasn’t wet enough.
  • After wetting a 3 foot by 3 foot area, 9 square feet, wait exactly 2 min 37 seconds to let the stuff do it’s job. OK that’s an estimate, not scientific at all.  But you want the solution to soak in.  When done properly, the putty knife just slides across the ceiling, and it is easy to scrape the popcorn off.  Your time may be longer depending on age, amount and type of paint and total styrofoam content of the popcorn.  With a smooth motion, scrape the ceiling with the scraper.  You should get a wide strip of the stuff just falling off the ceiling.  If you don’t, try again.  There isn’t a wrong way.

Soon, you will be able to do a decent sized bedroom in about an hour – in fact, you will probably spend more time cleaning the floor than the ceiling.

Leave a comment with how it worked out for you!

36 Replies to “The easiest way to remove a popcorn ceiling”

  1. depopcornified…I like it. Are you sure it’s 2 minutes 37 seconds? Anyway, I am glad I don’t have popcorn ceilings to deal with.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Can’t wait to see the new plastered ceilings.

  3. Sounds messy but your directions are great.

    Questions? After it’s off does one have to plaster the area? Can it just be painted?

    Hope you are still here.


    Eugene, OR

    1. Hi Clara,

      I like to have the area re-plastered because it gives a little more of a professional look. It also depends on how much damage is done to the drywall as you scrape. At the very least you should lightly sand the area with a drywall sander to remove any blemishes, then prime with a high quality primer before the final paint goes up.

  4. I’ve never been a fan of popcorn ceilings. Never understood why they ever were used.

  5. why can’t you just scrape it off without wetting it at all? I know it’s possible but I’m guessing your answer is going to be that its more work I did a small section once when I was fed up with my ceiling that it was so much work that I never finished

    1. Hi Britt,
      On older homes, it can be really hard to scrape the popcorn off because it dries like cement. Also, sometimes there are multiple coats of ceiling paint over it. Just wetting it a little bit makes it so much easier.
      Plus, you should finish! It will look SOOOO good!

    2. Nice post. I’d like to make one correction though. Although Asbestos was banned in 1979, companies were allowed to use their existing inventory and it was still being used into the early 80s.

      Sadly mine tested positive and I got quoted 6K for professional removal for a one bedroom condo.

      I’m going to have it painted and then mudded over.

      1. It’s always a good Idea to test for Asbestos if you think there is any possibility it may be present.

      2. How old is your condo that tested positive for asbestos? My condo was build in 1985 am wondering if my popcorn ceiling would have asbestos ?

  6. I’ve been looking for an easier way to remove the popcorn in our home. I knew it was going to be messy, but I didn’t want to damage the dry wall and then fix the ceilings. Now that I’ve found this, I’m going to use the mixture to help remove that nasty stuff. I’m sending my samples out tomorrow! Can’t wait to get this project done!! Thanks for the info!!

    1. It’s not as messy as you might think – and this trick really works! Let me know how it turns out for you.


  7. We have scraped our entire house with a garden sprayer and water. It worked just fine! Finishing the ceiling (sanding, priming, and painting) too much longer than the scraping itself.

  8. Amazing! your tips worked perfectly! thank you!

    1. Glad to hear it worked for you! Congrats on having a smooth ceiling now!

  9. Fran Colangelo says: Reply

    I didn’t start the project I just want to say thanks for the tip. I will write again when the job is done.

    Fran, popcorn ceiling SUCKS…lol

  10. Thank you so much!! Works great. I used a gadget that you attach a plastic grocery bag to and it falls into it. It’s still a bit messy but well worth it.
    I’ve a question. Do I keep scraping and sanding until all the paint is off as well? I plan to prime and paint. Again, thank you. Your potion worked quite well.


    1. @Donna

      I scraped until all the popcorn was off the ceiling. I guess every house is different, and for me, there was no paint underneath the spray on popcorn, so once I removed it, that was it. If you have paint underneath, I’d just scrape it until it is pretty smooth, then re-prime, and re-paint as needed.

  11. Where did you get your popcorn ceiling samples tested for asbestos? I just bought a house in Austin and removing popcorn ceilings is my first project.


    1. my house was built in 1973 so the popcorn ceiling probably has asbestos in it so my question is if we leave the ceiling the way it is and don’t mess with is it harmful to us

      1. Unless your popcorn ceiling is deteriorating, coming loose, or flaking off, there is nothing to worry about. Asbestos isn’t harmful if it is just “there”. What is dangerous is breathing asbestos fibers. The fibers don’t just come off a popcorn ceiling. Something has to be done to it do disturb it, and make the fibers airborne. Of course, the best way to determine if your ceiling really has asbestos is to get it tested. I hope this helps.

  12. Hey Eric, what lab did you use for asbestos testing? I’m in Austin too.

    1. Hi –
      It’s been a while, but I think I used Omni Environmental testing lab. If you use them, please reply with your experience so other can benefit.

  13. Hi Eric
    I plan on removing the pop corn ceilngs on my house. I plan on using your tip. Now I have a question. What dis you do after scrapping the entire pop corn? Do you sand and then use a primer and the paint it? Would you recommend us a product to use once we are done srapping?
    Thank you again! 🙂

    1. That’s a good question – I actually hired a painting crew to come in and paint the house. I think they did some light patchwork on some places on the ceiling, then primed it, then painted it with regular white ceiling paint.

    2. I just scraped a room down. Sand any rough spots spackle any gouges you may have made and then you can you any white ceiling paint.

  14. Hola! Eric
    I’ve been wanting to get rid of our popcorn ceiling for a while now. We built our house around 2000 so I think we’re safe about asbestos. My husband thinks scraping is going to damage the dry wall ceiling. I can’t wait to show him your idea, but now I have to wait for summer to tackle this job. I have pinned your pin and will let you know how it goes. Counting the days, absolutely hate popcorn ceiling but love, love my movie popcorn. Lol
    Muchas gracias Amigo!

  15. Will this technique also work on a ceiling that has been “stomped” rather than popcorn?? I just bought a house built in 1990 & every ceiling has the stomped pattern. I hate it!
    Thank you!

  16. Can you just use a spray bottle? Getting ready to tackle this project…thanks for the tip!

    1. Yes Kelly, You can absolutely use a spray bottle. I just suggest using a larger sprayer so you don’t have to make so many trips up and down the ladder to refill the bottle.

  17. It just doesn’t seem to work on my popcorn ceiling. I have tried just water, then I tried your recipe and it doesn’t work. It is like there is some thing (glue) holding it to the ceiling. Is there anyone else having the same issue and did you find a product that works?

    1. Hi – Without more information, I’m guessing your ceiling was painted with an oil based paint. Something that doesn’t let the water or mixture soak through to loosen the popcorn. Also you could have a plastered texture ceiling. Either way ou will need something different to remove it, and my first thought is to just pull the ceiling down, and re-drywall.

    2. I had the same problem. I replaced a fluorescent light in the kitchen and couldn’t get rid of the outline of the old light. The popcorn had been painted more than once. I tried a sprayer with water, vinegar and Dawn. The popcorn ceiling just wouldn’t come off with this mixture or any other. I ended up covering the kitchen ceiling with glue on styrofoam ceiling tiles. I’m learning to live with the popcorn ceiling in the rest of the condo.

  18. If this solution didn’t work for you like it didn’t work for me then you have to use a paint stripper which I had to use. It’s expensive but it works.

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