Carpets have been a common floor covering for a long time due to their easy maintenance and comfort. However, more and more homeowners are ripping up their old carpets in favor of the underlying wood or concrete. This may be particularly problematic when dealing with old carpet glue.
Using solvents generally leaves a bigger mess and may harm the floor. Thankfully, there are methods for removing the glue with minimal risk and expense.
A Warning About Asbestos
Prior to the 1990s, cut-back and mastic adhesives were both frequently mixed using asbestos. This substance has serious health consequences when inhaled. Be sure to test any older adhesives before attempting to scrape or chip, as this could release particles into the air.
Removing Carpet Glue from Concrete
Concrete floors are becoming increasingly popular, but glue remnants from your old carpet can leave a sticky, dirty mess which will prevent you from painting or fully enjoying the exposed concrete. The following method is one of the most common and eco-friendly ways to remove any glue residue.
Step 1: Gathering the Tools
You will need several tools for the glue removal, most of which are likely already at your disposal. These include:
- Bucket or pot of boiling water
- Scraper (such as a spackling tool or hoe)
- Push broom
- Protective gear (rubber boots, rubber gloves, goggles)
Step 2: Scraping Down
Begin by using your scraper to remove as much of the residue and remaining carpet fragments as possible. Use the push broom to clear away the resulting debris.
Step 3: Soften the Glue
Making sure to put on protective clothing first, pour the boiling water over the floor and let it sit for several minutes. Be careful not to let the water cool too much, or the glue might harden again.
Step 4: Removing the Softened Glue
Using your scraper, gently work underneath the glue to avoid damaging the concrete surface. For particularly difficult spots, you may need to add more boiling water to further soften the wax.
Step 5: Cleanup
Once the glue has been completely scraped up, clear away any excess water with a towel or mop, then allow the floor to dry. Sweep away any remaining debris to leave the cement clean and ready for use.
Removing Carpet Glue from Wood
There are several methods which may be used to remove leftover carpet glue from a wooden floor, although some require additional caution to avoid damaging the wood.
One of the more unusual ways to remove carpet glue is with dry ice. You will need to wear protective gloves and make sure the room is well-ventilated. Place the dry ice on a cookie sheet and slide the tray over sections of glue. This makes them brittle and easy to chip off safely.
Solvents are an easy method, but with a higher risk of discoloring or otherwise damaging the wood. They also require protective clothing and good ventilation. Different products will be required depending upon the type of adhesive.
- Determine the type of adhesive used. General carpet adhesives will have a yellowish tint, while tar-based adhesives have a brownish tint.
- Select the correct solvent product for the glue. General adhesives are best removed using a solvent based on orange oil, such as Goo Gone. For tar-based adhesives, you will need to use mineral spirits.
- Apply the solvent, following the instructions carefully. Solvents may take anywhere from minutes to hours to set.
- Gently scrape away the softened glue with a plastic putty knife. Metal knives can scar the wood and should be avoided at this stage.
- Using a cloth soaked in the solvent, scrub away any remaining glue. In some extreme cases, you may need to use a metal putty knife to scrape away resilient glue, but this can easily lead to damaged wood if not done carefully.
- Clean the area following the instructions on the solvent’s label. Alternatively, you may choose to clean the floor with a wet-vac. A gentle scrub with detergent or diluted apple cider vinegar can help detoxify the floor but must be dried thoroughly to avoid damaging the wood.
You should give the floor a full 24 hours to dry with good ventilation before attempting to add a finish or furnish the room. This prevents any remaining moisture from becoming trapped in the wood where it may lead to warping or other issues.
There are a few alternatives to regular solvents which may be more accessible. Unfortunately, all of these carry a risk of damaging or discoloring the wood if used excessively. These alternatives are:
- Denatured Alcohol – high risk, but useful for the worst patches of stubborn glue
- Paint Remover – highly effective, but also can easily cause damage
- Vegetable Oil – can stain, but works well on yellow adhesives when worked in with a soft cloth
- WD-40 – works well when applied in a small amount using a soft cloth and allowed to soak for 15-30 minutes, but can cause damage if over-applied