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How to Remove Glue/Adhesive From Your Floor

A common issue that comes up whenever an old floor is removed for a new one is what's left behind on the subfloor. Whether it is a wood or concrete subfloor, adhesive/glue/goop can sometimes be still remaining on it after the older floor has been ripped up.

In every type of flooring that will go over it, removing the adhesive is imperative for it to be installed properly. Failure to remove it could actually lead to the new floors not working correctly, 

Even worse, any warranty you had with the floors could be voided if installed over a subfloor with existing adhesive.

Regardless of warranty of not, floating floors like laminate to tile really need a clean subfloor before continuing the installation. This is why getting glue off first is very important. 

There's various factors that will determine how easily you can remove it off your subfloor, so proper planning & patience is key.

Your health is too, so be very careful when removing old vinyl or hardwood adhesives, as they may have asbestos in it. If you believe asbestos are in the adhesive or floor, DO NOT remove and contact an abatement company who can safely test and/or remove it for you.

In this post, I'll go over some basic steps and techniques on how to effectively remove adhesive off the subfloor. For other information on how to prepare your subfloor for a new floor, please click here. This post refers to adhesive removal, and not thin-set mortar, which is a different material.


Once you have removed all of your old floor. the first thing you will encounter is how much (or little) glue is remaining on the subfloor. Pry up a small corner of the room and remove some of the old floor to determine the amount of glue underneath.

For large square footage areas and/or thick amounts of adhesive, you'll most likely need to use a motorized floor maintainer with a pad to effectively remove the adhesive. Depending on how thick, and what type of adhesive it is will determine what type of pad/disc to use.

The specific floor maintainer is shown below and linked here. They are available at your local Home Depot that has a Tool Rental Center.

Floor Maintainer

While scrubbing pads alongside this machine can take away most of the adhesives for floors, the absolute best one that we rent out is used with the floor maintainer and shown below and linked here.

Coating Removal Disc 7

Using this machine will not only save you time, but also your back and knees, as it will do most of the removal of adhesive for you. While it may not get off every bit of the adhesive, it can effectively remove a majority of it.

For small areas, or just stubborn/hard-to-reach areas that the floor maintainer didn't get, using a gel (semi-paste) adhesive remover is the next step.

Unlike its liquid counterparts, a gel based adhesive remover stays longer on the adhesive you want to remove. Solvents like paint thinner and especially acetone can evaporate rather quickly, and dangerously if you don't have the correct breathing/safely equipment on. 

Apply the adhesive remover with a solvent-resistant brush and gloves, and let it set for at least 20 minutes alongside good ventilation in that area. The gel will work by penetrating the layer(s) and can be easily taken off afterwards with a solvent-resistant scraper. 

To view the adhesive remover we carry at your local store, please click here

Klean-Strip 128 oz. Adhesive Remover

In both instances of using adhesive remover and the floor maintainer, doing it just one time may not get all of the adhesive entirely removed off of the subfloor. 

Again, this is where patience truly is a virtue. Be aware that some old floors, like linoleum, may have numerous layers of adhesive. 

If the old flooring or adhesive doesn't come up due to this, you'll need some other tools. In fact, ONLY use the adhesive remover and/or floor maintainer after the old flooring has been completely removed.


As mentioned earlier, some floors like linoleum may have multiple layers. To get through those layers, using a floor scraper is a big must to start the removal process if you are struggling with the removal.

Floor scrapers work very well to remove tile, linoleum, and glued-down carpet. Your local Home Depot carries several hand-held and larger types so you can start the removal process.

Remember, only use the floor scrapers to get the old flooring up, but not necessarily all or any of the adhesive holding it down. The key is to just to remove it first, and then use the floor maintainer/ adhesive remover later. 

This saves you time, money, and a backache from having to scrape everything. As I always say, let the tools to the work for you!

For any additional questions, we already have an extensive library of how to remove adhesives from a floor here on the community forums. Simply search on the mainpage on our forums to view them. 

And as always, any additional questions you may have, please feel free to ask us here.


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Posted 2015-07-04T19:26:01+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL Joseph_HD_ATL