How To: Remove Carpet Glue
Ripping open old carpets is not an easy task, but removing the glue that secures them to the subfloor is a huge task in itself. However, creating a clean, smooth surface is critical if a new adhesive is to create a tight bond between the new floor and the sub-floor.
Standard expensive products promise easy removal of tough carpet adhesive from concrete, but chemical paint strippers emit toxic fumes while their eco-friendly counterparts can be so “green” that they are ineffective. In the end, the manual method of removing carpet adhesive may be your best bet.
Before you proceed, be aware: Carpet adhesives made in the 1980s or earlier may contain asbestos, a known carcinogen. If you suspect the glue on your floor may contain asbestos, don’t try to remove it yourself. Contact an asbestos removal specialist.
- Scrape off as much glue as you can with a scraper, sparkling knife, 5-in-1 tool, or razor.
- Use steam or boiling water to soften the stubborn glue that won’t move.
- If necessary, switch to a reciprocating saw that is equipped with a scraper blade.
Tools & materials
How to remove carpet glue
STEP 1: Start with a scraping tool
Your first measure is to manually remove as much glue as possible with a scraping tool. While this may not banish the last piece of carpet glue from the floor, it is a good starting point to remove as many large pieces as possible before moving on to other carpet glue removal techniques. Use a paint scraper, putty knife, 5-in-1 tool, or razor blade – just make sure the tool has a handle with a comfortable grip. Wear flexible work gloves to protect your hands. Knee pads are also advisable during a potentially painful task.
STEP 2: Soak stubborn carpet adhesive with heat
If you can’t conquer all of the carpet glue with elbow grease alone, move on to heating, which will soften the dried glue and make it easier to scrape or wipe off. There are two ways to achieve this: either with boiling water or steam. After putting on protective gloves (and waterproof work boots or possibly rain boots to protect your feet), heat and pour enough boiling water to completely cover the carpet glue and give it about five to 10 minutes to soften.
STEP 3: Scrape off the remaining glue
When the glue becomes pliable, work it out of the concrete with your scraper. Work in small sections so you can remove the softened carpet adhesive before the water cools. At the end, soak up as much water as you can with a towel to speed it up drying.
If the manual method doesn’t give you any results, don’t despair. There are at least two additional tools that often prove effective for the task at hand.
- Consider using a portable steam cleaner– A tool that you can probably rent from your local home center. Direct the stream of steam a few inches away from the carpet adhesive until it is soft enough to scrape it off. Again, you can alternately steam and scrape small sections at the same time so that you can lift the carpet adhesive before it cools and hardens again.
- If you’re working with a large area and / or particularly stubborn carpet glue, use yours Reciprocating saw Equipped with a special scraper attachment for work. The reciprocating saw drastically reduces the time it takes to scrape – the vibration of the saw blade does the hard work for you. Saber pillar reciprocating saw blades are available online and at most home improvement centers from manufacturers such as Spyder and Milwaukee (see example on Amazon). A 2 to 4 inch wide blade should be suitable for removing carpet glue. To use the scraper attachment, insert the saw blade into your reciprocating saw and lock it into place. If the scraper attachment has a beveled edge and a flat edge, position the blade so the beveled edge is toward the ceiling and the flat edge is toward the floor. Hold the saw at a low angle and run it at half speed before reaching full speed. The carpet adhesive should lift immediately!