Can I use wallpaper in a bathroom?

Your first thought when looking at decorating options in the bathroom probably doesn't immediately run towards using wallpaper but wallpaper is definitely making a comeback.

There are those who may tell you that you can't use wallpaper in a bathroom but people have been using wallpaper in bathrooms since bathrooms first became a thing. You might argue that we don't use our bathrooms the same way as they did in the Victorian era and whilst it's true that the Victorians weren't taking long, hot showers filling their rooms up with steam and moisture, that doesn't mean you have to give up your dream of using wallpaper in a modern bathroom.

You might be contemplating wallpaper because you don't have an even wall or your wall has imperfections that painting over would magnify - wallpaper is great for hiding a multitude of sins! It is also a quicker and cheaper option that tiling an entire wall.


The short answer, put simply, is yes. The longer answer is that you will need to ensure you have the right conditions to make it work and enable you to enjoy your wallpaper for years to come.

Firstly, you need your bathroom to be properly ventilated with at least a window or extractor fan - preferably both. This will help keep the humidity down in your bathroom to a certain extent but it won't help long term if you regularly turn your bathroom into a sauna every time you take a bath or shower. This is particularly true if you plan to use regular wallpaper in the bathroom - it might look great at first but you'll notice over time that it will start to peel or bubble as the moisture begins to affect it.

If your bathroom is very small and gets very steamy with water regularly running down the walls then we would advise against using wallpaper.

If you are still determined to use regular wallpaper in your bathroom (and not the wallpaper specifically designed for use in damp or moist rooms) the smartest way to do so is to only use it sparingly in areas where it is unlikely to get saturated with water, like above a tiled area or used as an accent on one wall.

It is common sense to avoid putting wallpaper directly beside the bath or shower and it might not be the best idea to use wallpaper if you have very young children who have a knack for drenching the entire bathroom from floor to ceiling on a regular basis.


If you were almost put off from using wallpaper in your bathroom, the good news is that modern innovation has created wallpapers designed specifically for use in areas that are likely to come into contact with water. These wallpapers are usually vinyl or vinyl coated ('scrubbable') , you might see names such as 'highly wash resistant' or 'extra washable'. Try to avoid wallpapers that say they are sponge clean only, as they may not be as durable.

Vinyl wallpaper is water resistant and easy to wipe down. It shouldn't absorb water so you can avoid problems like mould and mildew.

Don't be tempted by self adhesive wallpaper, the adhesive will lose it's stickiness no matter how well your bathroom is ventilated as it is much more susceptible to heat and moisture than traditional wallpaper paste.

Should you fall in love with a wallpaper that isn't labelled as extra washable or wash resistant then there are varnishes on the market that you can use to seal the wallpaper and help protect it from moisture. Be sure to do a test patch with the varnish first to ensure that it won't damage or ruin your wallpaper. You will likely need 2-3 coats and so you will need to add this cost into your decorating budget.


  • In smaller room, it might be best not to paper all the way to the floor but instead keep it to the top half of the room as it is more likely to get scuffed and marked lower down, especially near a toilet. You don't want your beautiful new wallpaper ruined and have to replace the entire wall.

  • Ensure the wall is properly prepped and use extra strong wallpaper adhesive.

  • Freshly plastered walls will need to have 1-2 coats of wallpaper primer applied before you try to install any wallpaper ('sizing').

  • If you stick to one statement wall you can afford to splash out on more expensive paper.

  • Try not to overwhelm a small bathroom but papering the entire room in a super bold or busy print as this could make the room feel closed in.

  • Smoothing any air bubbles that have formed after hanging will help prevent the wallpaper from peeling.

  • If you have any damp walls they must be treated before you think about hanging any wallpaper. Also ensure that any cracks have been filled and to sand down any glossy, painted surfaces.

In summary, bathroom wallpaper is a great way to add a splash of colour to your room and is much simpler to change if you want to update your bathroom design then if you had to replace tiles. It is more affordable than tiling and comes in a wide, variety of colours and designs so you are sure to find something that suits your personal taste.

Wallpaper is versatile enough to work in both modern bathrooms and vintage inspired spaces. In smaller bathrooms where there isn't the space to add a lot of accessories, a patterned wallpaper can act as a decorating accessory in itself so you won't need to clutter an already confined space with other decorative items.