Peel and Stick wallpaper has recently become incredibly popular, starting around 2017, but contact paper has been around practically forever. We’re in the middle of redoing our bathroom, and I was thinking about using some peel and stick wallpaper as the backsplash…which got me thinking. Is peel and stick wallpaper the same as contact paper? If not, what’s the difference?
Contact paper and peel and stick wallpaper are quite similar – both are paper or vinyl-based products with a decorative front and an adhesive backing. They differ mostly in installation method – contact paper tends to be installed on horizontal surfaces, and peel and stick wallpaper tends to be installed on vertical surfaces.
But that’s not the whole story – there are definitely some subtle differences. Read on to find out how the two are similar, how they’re different, what both contact paper and peel and stick wallpaper are made of, how removable contact paper and peel and stick wallpaper are, how each of them will hold up in a bathroom, whether or not contact paper and peel and stick wallpaper are waterproof, if they’re BPA free or not, and how long each of them last.
PS: if you’ve removed old wallpaper and have grimy wallpaper paste residue all over the drywall that you’re not sure how to remove, check out these sanding-free methods – you’ll have buttery smooth walls to apply your peel and stick wallpaper to in no time!
Table of Contents
- Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper The Same As Contact Paper?
- What Is Contact Paper?
- What’s the Difference Between Contact Paper and Con-Tact Paper?
- What Is Contact Paper Made Of?
- Is Contact Paper Removable?
- What Is Contact Paper Used For?
- Can Contact Paper Be Used As Peel and Stick Wallpaper?
- Will Contact Paper Hold Up In The Bathroom?
- Is Contact Paper Waterproof?
- Is Contact Paper BPA Free?
- How Long Does Contact Paper Last?
Peel and Stick Wallpaper
- What is Peel and Stick Wallpaper?
- What is Peel and Stick Wallpaper Made Of?
- Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper Removable?
- What Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper Used For?
- Will Peel and Stick Wallpaper Hold Up In The Bathroom?
- Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper Waterproof?
- How Long Does Peel and Stick Wallpaper Last?
- Can Peel and Stick Wallpaper Be Used As Contact Paper?
Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper The Same As Contact Paper?
|Peel and Stick Wallpaper
|Material Made Of
|Vinyl and Water Based Adhesive
|Mostly paper with adhesive backing, sometimes PVC with adhesive backing
|Good for Bathroom?
|Good for non-water contact surfaces in a bathroom, even if not well ventilated
|Good for well-ventilated bathrooms
|The vinyl is waterproof, the adhesive is not waterproof
|Generally, peel and stick wallpaper is not waterproof
|Depends on the brand, but generally is BPA-free
|Depends on the brand, but generally the plastic versions are BPA-free, and the paper versions are always BPA free
|How long does it last?
|A few years, depending on the installation location
|Several years, indefinitely if well cared for and installed correctly
|$5.99-$11.26 for 30sqft for budget options
|$25.60-$37.09 for 30sqft for buget options
What Is Contact Paper?
Contact paper generally refers to paper with a strong adhesive on one side and a decorative or patterned print on the other – it’s usually sold in roll form, and is often found in the kitchen area of your local big box store. But that’s not the only kind of contact paper – it can also refer to shelf liner, glass film, or vinyl contact paper. For the purposes on this post, I’ll be focusing on the adhesive-backed kind.
What’s the Difference Between Contact Paper and Con-Tact Paper?
Con-Tact paper is a brand, but much like Kleenex, their brand became so big that everyone just refers to adhesive-backed vinyl as contact paper. Con-Tact makes contact paper, and still has a huge share of the market, though D-C-Fix has become popular in recent years, too. Of course, there are also tons of sellers on Amazon from smaller brands, which you can check out here. I’ve found Amazon’s selection to be a little more trendy and a little bit cheaper, too.
What Is Contact Paper Made Of?
Depending on the type of contact paper, it can be made from a few materials, though vinyl tends to be used the majority of the time. Vinyl is actually just a short way to refer to polyvinyl chloride or PVC – which is a synthetic material made from a pretty complicated process of combining natural gas, petroleum, oil, seawater, industrial grade salt, and water. Treehugger has a pretty interesting article about how it’s made and the sustainability of it if you want to check it out. Con-Tact also has a new line of EnviroLiner that’s supposed to be recyclable, though it has to be recycled at centers that accept #4 plastic.
The adhesives used are almost always water-based to make removal easy, but finding information on what the adhesive is actually made out of has proven pretty tough.
Is Contact Paper Removable?
Contact paper is completely removable – that’s one of its biggest selling points! You can completely transform your countertops, walls, appliances, etc, and when you’re ready, completely remove any evidence of the transformation. That’s one of the aspects of contact paper that makes it so appealing to renters – it’s 100% reversible.
That being said, while contact paper is removable, in my experience it is not reusable. Unless you’re some sort of contact paper removal god with way more patience than me. Every time I’ve tried to remove contact paper, it ends up in a crumpled-up mess and would definitely not be able to be reused.
What Is Contact Paper Used For?
You can use contact paper for a ton of different projects around your home – I covered the countertops in our old kitchen with contact paper before we could afford to replace them (see the full transformation here), and we’ve installed window film contact paper in bathrooms for privacy, too. Here are a few more ideas on how to use contact paper:
- Resurfacing furniture, countertops, or other flat surfaces
- Covering old appliances (there’s even stainless steel contact paper!)
- Providing privacy in a bathroom window
- As a backsplash in a bookshelf
- On clear shower doors for extra privacy
- On patio doors to keep hot sun out or give more privacy
- Over old floors to give them a new look (though your mileage may vary since they aren’t intended to be installed in this way)
- To create a chalkboard
- On ceiling fan blades
- On stair risers
- As a backsplash in your kitchen
Can Contact Paper Be Used As Peel and Stick Wallpaper?
In short, you can definitely use contact paper as peel and stick wallpaper. In fact, Rachel Teodoro used contact paper as wallpaper in her sewing closet – and it came out beautifully!
That being said, you might find that you’re more limited in terms of designs by contact paper than you would be with peel and stick wallpaper.
I compared a few products at the lower end of the market and the contact paper came out between $5.99 to $11.26 for 30sqft while the peel and stick wallpaper came out to $25.60 to $37.09 for the peel and stick wallpaper. And honestly? I was super surprised by this – I would definitely have thought since the contact paper is generally sold in smaller rolls that it would be more expensive. The more you know!
Will Contact Paper Hold Up In The Bathroom?
Depending on where you install it, contact paper will hold up well in a bathroom. Countertops, backsplashes, window privacy films, and other low-water contact installations will work well for a number of years, but you won’t be able to say the same for tiles in a shower or bath.
In short, if you’re installing contact paper in a bathroom and there’s a lot of water contact, expect there to be some issues. If it’s installed in a low water contact area, the contact paper will work well.
Is Contact Paper Waterproof?
Contact paper is made of vinyl, which by itself is absolutely waterproof, but because nearly all of the adhesives used to produce contact paper are water-based, any exposure to water behind the vinyl backing will ruin the installation.
A few people have been able to create waterproof installations by using silicone caulk to seal the edges of the contact paper, but that’s a very permanent solution to what is generally a very temporary product.
Is Contact Paper BPA Free?
Remember in 2008 when the controversy about BPA was at its peak? Because of the push from consumers, many brands (including contact paper brands) that produced plastic-based products changed from BPA to BPS, which was thought to be safer.
As of today, nearly all of the big contact paper brands do not use BPA in their products, but it’s important to mention they are still made of plastic – just a slightly different kind.
How Long Does Contact Paper Last?
Contact paper can last quite a long time (several years or more) if it is properly installed and cared for. Most people can get 2-5 years out of an installation with normal use, and much more if it’s a low-use item or used very gingerly.
With that being said, my contact paper installation as a countertop makeover in our previous home didn’t last very long because we scrubbed too hard – all the way through the design, in fact. I was left with plain white contact paper, which was totally usable, but definitely not the pattern I had purchased.
TLDR: Be gentle! It’s a thin material that can be damaged pretty easily.
Peel and Stick Wallpaper
What is Peel and Stick Wallpaper?
Peel and stick wallpaper refers to a paper front and adhesive-backed product that allows you to install it without the use of traditional wallpaper paste. It’s become very popular in recent years because of its ease of installation, relatively low cost, and removable nature.
You can usually find contact paper in the big box store home decor sections, but there’s also a ton of sources available online. Here’s a giant list to choose from, in case you’re in the market for some!
What is Peel and Stick Wallpaper Made Of?
Some peel and stick wallpaper is made of PVC, but there are definitely PVC-free options. If you’re thinking about your environmental impact, peel and stick wallpaper is definitely the way to go (and not contact paper) since it’s much better for the planet. Walls by Me has a really great selection of PVC-free, lead-free, VOC-free, and non-toxic wallpapers – check them out here!
Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper Removable?
Peel and stick wallpaper is completely removable – though if it’s incredibly important that you have a clean removal process (like in a rental), stick with a well-known and high-quality brand and skip the budget option. Sometimes, if it’s a lower quality peel and stick wallpaper and it’s left up for a super long time, it can leave a little residue behind.
If you need help choosing a source, check out this HUGE post I wrote about nearly all of the brands in the peel-and-stick wallpaper industry.
What Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper Used For?
Most peel and stick wallpaper is used for decorating walls, but it can definitely be used in other ways, too.
- As a backsplash on a bookshelf
- On stair risers
- As a backsplash
- On pretty much any vertical surface
You can use peel and stick wallpaper pretty much anywhere there’s a low traffic / low contact surface. It wouldn’t fare well installed on a floor or on a well-loved shelf, but it’s a great option for adding style to ceilings, nooks and crannies, and architectural details.
If you’re looking to cover a horizontal surface, I’d go with contact paper – it’s usually cheaper and a little more durable.
Will Peel and Stick Wallpaper Hold Up In The Bathroom?
Peel and stick wallpaper, if only installed on the walls, will adhere well in a bathroom. With that being said, if there’s a lot of steamy showers or condensation in the bathroom, it will definitely not last as long.
It’s also important to install the peel and stick wallpaper when the shower hasn’t been used for three or four days, and the fan has been running – you want your walls to be as dry as possible when it’s installed!
If you’re installing peel and stick wallpaper in a half bath, you should run into no issues – there’s much less condensation in there!
Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper Waterproof?
In short, peel and stick wallpaper is not waterproof, though it can handle a few splashes here and there. I like to think of it as an eggshell paint – it doesn’t have the same seal as a high gloss does, but you can actually wipe it down, unlike flat paint.
If you’re looking to install a wall covering that’s waterproof, peel and stick wallpaper shouldn’t be your first choice.
How Long Does Peel and Stick Wallpaper Last?
If peel and stick wallpaper fails it’s usually within the first few years. But if you prep your walls correctly, take care to install it in a non-humid environment, and don’t abuse it, peel and stick wallpaper can last pretty much indefinitely. Apartment Therapy has a great article on how long peel and stick wallpaper can last – check it out here.
Can Peel and Stick Wallpaper Be Used As Contact Paper?
Peel and stick wallpaper and contact paper are very similar, but they have two different uses. Contact paper is the more versatile of the two. So while you technically can use peel and stick wallpaper in place of contact paper, you may find that the wallpaper is thinner and less durable. After all, it was intended to go on walls, not line your kitchen drawers.