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The girl's guide to stripping - wallpaper that is...
Earlex Wallpaper Stripper
Member Name: Snarflebat
Earlex Wallpaper Stripper
Advantages: Effective, easy-to-use, long steam time, excellent price range, 24m guarantee, British!
Disadvantages: Leaving steamplate on wall too long leads to hot dribbles of condensation
However, after living in my home for a couple of years, I felt a few rooms needed redecorating and refreshing. With a bit of help from my builder boyfriend, we set about preparing the walls - with one step being stripping the wallpaper.
In the bad old days (and even today, if you've not the luxury of a steam wallpaper stripper), wallpaper had to be wet and softened using a sponge and bucket of water, and then manually shredded off the walls using a flat stripper - hard work and incredibly labour intensive.
~*~* So what does it do? *~*~
The Earlex wallpaper stripper (I bought the SS76 model) consists of a hot water tank, attached by a stay-cool hose to a flat, A4-sized applicator plate through which the hot steam diffuses and is trapped under the plate. This plate - once the steam is generating - is held still and flush against the wallpaper destined for removal for approximately 30 seconds, softening and separating it ready for the plate to be removed and the paper either peeled off by hand or - for best results - pushed off the wall surface by a scraper. The steamplate is transparent, which means you can see each piece of wallpaper you are steaming and you can monitor the condensation building up in the steam plate.
The strippers are designed to remove wallpaper (even thick gauge, textured, old and multi-layers of paper), paint and Artex.
All Earlex wallpaper strippers are mains-powered, with a long power cable, 1.5m in length. The SS76 model has a 2000 watt heating element (basically like a giant kettle!) with 230 volt power, heating the 5 litre water tank. Any sort of water can be used to fill the tank, which is easily filled under a running tap through one water opening. The water tank is made of clear, thick plastic, through which you can easily see the water level - great as it enables you to monitor the water and ensure it does not boil dry.
There are a number of safety features in the Earlex - the hose stays cool throughout the steaming, there are tight seals (so no hot water or steam can escape once in use) and the element and water tank are completely sealed - so no chance of burns or clumsy spillages. The hose is also quite long (at 3.6m), so you are able to conveniently steam up to ceiling or picture rail height in most rooms with no issues at all.
My SS76 model is advertised as having a 90 minute steaming usage time, on a full 5 litre tank, which is fairly accurate and means you can strip large areas without having to refill and wait for the tank to steam again. The steamer takes about 15minutes, once turned on, for the water to start bubbling and plate to start steaming, which means you are ready to go in no time.
~*~* Cost and where to buy *~*~
There are a number of Earlex models which can be purchased from a wide varity of retailers, including Homebase (where I bought mine) and Argos. Earlex also have their own website (www.earlex.co.uk) where you can buy products and accessories in the online shop and get advice and user manuals for all models, as well as being able to buy spare parts and register your purchase. The makers also provide great guarantees on the steamers - the SS76 has a 24 month guarantee which is great.
The models vary in price - my SS76 - which is ideal for most users I would say, cost a mere £29.99 - which has been a total bargain.
~*~* How to use and results *~*~
I must admit, I was apprehensive about stripping - I didn't want to do a terrible job and the prospect being responsible for hot steam was a bit scary! However, I found the Earlex to be incredibly easy to use. The steamplate was easy to press against the wall and the wallpaper lifted away with fantastic ease, with really only gentle pushing using a wallpaper stripper needed. The room did become quite warm due to the steam produced, however there wasn't a huge amount of excess steam and condensation. Using a small stepladder, the steamer could be used on higher wall areas using the stay cool hose with no problem at all.
One issue I did find was that, if left on one area for a long length of time (say over 30seconds), condensation building up in the steam plate did dribble a little, as hot drips of water, out from under the steam plate, so be warned as you may get painfully dripped on!
~*~* The verdict *~*~
Overall, I love my Earlex steamer (and as a girly-girl I never thought I'd see the day I'd get excited about DIY tools!). It is easy to use, makes light work of removing large areas of tough wallpaper and has been fantastic to use on numerous occasions with no let-up in performance. The SS76 has been a total bargain - £29.99 for a compact, simple and effective steamer - from a British-manufacturer with a 24 month guarantee is a fantastic deal for me.
I could not recommend this steamer -and this brand - highly enough. A high quality steamer, with a safe design, that makes light work of wallpaper stripping and DIY - what more could a girl want? :)
Summary: A fantastic British-brand steam wallpaper stripper, ideal for professional and novice decorator.
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