Once you've removed your old carpet, you'll often find pesky carpet glue coating the flooring underneath. Whether your underfloor is concrete or wood, you are probably wondering how to remove all that glue. Lucky for you, we have done the research to provide you with several methods for doing so.
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The following techniques work to remove carpet glue from both concrete and wood:
- Scrape off the glue
- Add Heat
- Add Cold
- Try solvents and glue remover
- Scrub off the glue
- Use a sander
Each of these steps can be used to great effect on both wood and concrete. However, the details and quirks on how to use them are not obvious. Read the rest of this post to learn how to safely and efficiently remove your old carpet glue. We'll also cover some other important information, so be sure to keep reading.
A Note On Saftey
Before getting started on this project, there are a few notes on safety to take a look at.
For all homes built prior to the 1990s, the carpet glue may contain asbestos. As you may know, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral widely used in many building materials. Unfortunately, it can be highly toxic when inhaled as dust.
Since removing carpet glue creates dust, it is important to take a few safety precautions for this project. The safest option is to have the glue material tested. If the test reveals asbestos, hire a professional to safely conduct the glue removal.
If you plan on removing your glue yourself without testing, or after a positive test, be sure to visit this link from the EPA first. Then do as much research as you can to make sure you remove the potential asbestos containing materials using practices that are safe for you and your family.
Whether your glue contains asbestos or not, it is wise to use proper personal protective equipment while removing the glue. A respirator or N95 mask, gloves, safety goggles, and kneepads are all highly recommended.
Cleaning Carpet Glue From Concrete And Wood Floors
Here we will provide a step by step guide to removing carpet glue from concrete and wood floors. Within each subheading, we will also provide an overview of how wood and concrete require different techniques.
But before you get to scraping off the carpet glue, you may still have to remove your carpet. For guidance on how to do so, read our post, How To Remove Glued Down Carpet [8 Effective Ways].
1. Scrape The Glue Away
The first step is to scrape as much glue from your flooring as possible.
For this step, you can use handheld, long-handled, or even electric-powered scrapers. But be careful, both wood and concrete flooring can be damaged in this step. To avoid scratching your floor, or even pulling up part of your flooring with your glue, slowly increase your pressure and force.
Start with the handheld scraper, then use the long-handled scraper.
Finally, use an electric scraper for very large areas. Electric scrapers are attachments that fit onto a reciprocating saw, commonly known as a Sawzall. Whatever your chosen tool, scrape away as much of the glue as possible without damaging your floor. When you cannot get any more of the glue up easily, start taking the steps outlined below.
2. Add Heat
The easiest and most common way to add heat is through boiling water. Boiling water works by softening the glue. This makes it easier to scrape or scrub off. While this technique works great for concrete, it is less universally applicable to wood.
For concrete, pour the boiling water onto an area and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Then you can attempt to scrape away the now softened glue once again using the steps outlined above. Once you use this technique a few times, you'll get a good feeling for the timing that works best for you.
Since hot water can change the color of your wood flooring, or even soak in and cause damage, try a small area out of the way first (like maybe under a future cabinet). This way, you can test the technique without causing irreversible damage. However, generally speaking, avoid getting your wood floors wet.
There are other ways to add heat, including steam cleaners and heat guns. These are usually available for rental at your local home improvement store. After following the directions for the operation of the machine, put the steam or heat gun a few inches from your glue to soften it up.
3. Add Cold
The most practical way to add cold is with dry-ice. Dry-ice is frozen carbon dioxide and is incredibly cold. For this technique, place the dry ice on a baking sheet and slide it around on the stubborn remaining glue. This will cause the glue to get very cold and therefore brittle, making it easier to chip and scrape off your flooring.
Since dry ice is expensive and difficult to work with, this technique is best suited for wood floors since you cannot use boiling water on them. Also, be sure to wear proper protective equipment and keep the room you are working in well ventilated.
4. Solvents and Glue Remover
The first consideration in this step is determining which type of carpet adhesive you are dealing with. Tar adhesives are darker colored. More standard carpet adhesives have a yellow and or white color. When using solvents and chemical removers, be sure to follow all recommended safety precautions and to provide ample ventilation in the working area.
For tar adhesives, the most effective solvent is paint thinner. For carpet glues, the most effective removers are orange oil-based cleaners. Whatever the appropriate solvent, follow the directions on the bottle when applying to the remaining glue. Some solvents set quite quickly and others take up to an hour or more. A more complete list of chemical removers is provided below.
As always, be sure to test the cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire floor. It is possible that any cleaner you use will cause discoloration or staining. If staining occurs, head down to your local home improvement or hardware store and look for a different option.
After heating, cooling, and/or using chemical cleaners on your old carpet glue, first try to continue to scrape the glue away. For some situations, it is easier to use a combination of scraping and scrubbing. For scrubbing, a stiff brush designed either for wood or concrete is best.
As a final step, many use a sander to get the final bits of carpet glue off. This step cleans out the pores of your concrete or wood and primes the surface to be stained or finished. Be sure to use a sandpaper grit and sander that are appropriate for your surface. For large jobs, you might want to rent a floor sander, but for smaller jobs, a palm sander should be appropriate.
Also, try not to over-sand your flooring. This can lead to an un-level surface, decrease the longevity of the surface, or cause stains. For some additional tips on how to finish your floors check out our article, What Color Wood Floor Should You Choose?
How Do You Clean The Floor After Removing Carpet?
The best way to ensure a clean floor is to clean as you go. This whole cleaning process will create dust and lots of glue flakes. Be sure to clean up as you go. Using a vacuum and broom, get all the excess dust and flakes off the floor. Cleaning will help you identify areas most in need of additional work.
Can You Use Goo Gone On Concrete?
Yes, you can. Goo Gone is an excellent choice - especially for standard yellowish carpet glue. Brands of common citrus-based removers that work best on common glue or mastic include:
- Smith & Nephew
Common solvents for tar-based glue include the following:
- Paint remover or thinner
- Mineral Oil
As always, spot test Goo-Gone and all other cleaners on both concrete and wood before applying widely. All these products can stain your flooring, especially if the flooring is poorly sealed.
Can You Pour Self-Leveling Concrete Over Carpet Glue?
No, you cannot. Self-leveling concrete needs to form a bond with whatever surface it is covering. Old carpet glue will disrupt that bond and can cause cracks and issues down the road. Instead, remove all your old carpet glue and sand the surface before using self-leveling concrete.
After reading this post, you should have a good idea of how to tackle your carpet glue removal project. Unfortunately, none of these techniques make this job a simple one. No matter what, a lot of elbow grease is usually required. Good luck and happy scraping!