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superjedi 10-02-2009 08:48 PM

Removing dried "self stick" tile glue from hardwood?
Hi all,
Hoping to get some recommendations for the following.
In the house we just bought, it has hardwood floors throughout. They're in pretty good shape for being over 40 years old, but at some point a previous owner put some of those self-stick vinyl tiles just inside the front door.
The staircase is about three feet inside the door and the tiles cover that space plus about an extra foot to the left of the stairs, so it's around 12 square feet of very old tile. Some of them are loose (I've pulled on the corners) and a couple of them are broken off, leaving behind dried up glue.

Is there a product that will remove the glue without totally eating through the finish of the floor? The finish may be gone anyway, which might be why they stuck the tiles down in the first place, but I'm looking at options.
Thanks for any input!

Nestor_Kelebay 10-03-2009 03:39 PM


Go to any Paint or Hardware store and buy something called "Paint thinner" or "mineral spirits" or "solvent" or "Varsol". It's all the same stuff being sold under different names, even though you may find a difference in price. (If you do find a difference in price, it's very possible the less expensive one contains recycled solvents, but that's not a problem.)

Paint thinner, mineral spirits, solvent or Varsol should remove the glue without affecting either real varnish or alkyd based polyurethane.

The thing you may be concerned about is that before polyurethane was used as a protective coating on hardwood floors, they would use a product called Carnauba Wax (made from the nut of the Carnauba Palm tree of Brazil). Carnauba Wax will actually penetrate some distance into wood, so if you plan to refinish the floor, you need to be certain to sand down the wood a little more than if you were sanding off polyurethane. The reason why is that the new polyurethane you put on won't bond well to Carnauba Wax, and the result can be "fish eyes" in the new poly due to lack of good adhesion of the poly to the wood (cuz of the Carnauba wax in the wood's surface).

Speak to some professional hardwood flooring refinishers about this problem because they'd be familiar with dealing with the hardwood finishes used in your area 45 or 50 years ago.

PS: Since Carnauba Wax was about the ONLY thing people used to put on wood floors years ago, the term "wax" has come to mean just about any protective floor coating. Nowadays, most hardwood floors are still coated with alkyd based polyurethane, which is a cousin to the "oil based paint" you might paint a wall with. However, you can get very much harder polyurethanes for hardwood floors that will protect them much better. The acrylic coatings used on vinyl composition floor tiles are made of acrylic plastic and contain no Carnauba Wax at all. However, people still call it "floor wax" and refer to "waxing a floor". Nowadays, everything you put on every kind of floor is a plastic of one sort or another. And, all of them are much harder and stand up better on a floor than Carnauba Wax.

superjedi 10-03-2009 03:55 PM

Thanks for the suggestion. There are plenty of places around here I can get mineral spirits or paint thinner.

If the original finish, whether wax or poly of some type, was worn away before they laid these tiles, would thinner/mineral spirits damage the "unprotected" wood? I don't think I want to wind up with volatile chemicals soaked into my flooring.
Unfortunately, there aren't really any hidden areas I can test this on. It's all right there in the main entry into the house.

Nestor_Kelebay 10-04-2009 10:56 AM

No, mineral spirits will not harm wood at all. In fact, an ordinary indoor wood stain is nothing more than a brown dye dissolved in either mineral spirits or alcohol. Both mineral spirits and alcohol will penetrate a millimeter or so (about 1/25 of an inch) into softwood
and less into hardwood. As the mineral spirits or alcohol penetrates, the dye goes along for the ride. The more porous the wood, the more mineral spirits (and hence dye) gets absorbed into it. Then, the mineral spirits evaporate, leaving the dye behind inside the wood cells and inside the cell walls. This is how stain "brings out the grain" in wood; by having more stain (and hence dye) being absorbed into the more porous parts of the wood (between growth rings) and less absorbed into the denser parts of the wood (the growth rings).

All you need to do is clean the glue off with mineral spirits, and then allow a few days for the mineral spirits to evaporate completely out of the wood.

Can you describe the adhesive you're trying to remove? I'm concerned when you said that there were no areas you could try the mineral spirits on. If it's ordinary Peel & Stick tile, why can't you just buy a new Peel & Stick tile and try cleaning the adhesive off the back of it with mineral spirits? If you can clean the self stick adhesive off the back of a new Peel & Stick tile, then mineral spirits should be able to clean any residual adhesive off the wood that the old Peel & Stick tiles were put over. I'm concerned that you may have vinyl composition tiles or linoleum tiles which typically use a different kind of adhesive.

superjedi 10-04-2009 11:54 AM

The reason I said they were peel and stick tile is because I had taped off the floor prior to painting the baseboards. When I pulled the tape up after painting, a few of the tile edges lifted up rather easily. I didn't have time to mess with them at that time, so I just pressed them back down.
I may just get a small container of mineral spirits and see what results I get. If it works, terrific. If not, I'll have to go another route.
Any particular method for application? Maybe just soak a cloth and blot the spirits onto a small portion of the floor? Would a plastic scraper be enough to get the residue off when (if) the old glue begins to soften?
Thanks again for your reply.

Nestor_Kelebay 10-04-2009 05:58 PM

OK, so they're not Peel & Stick.

I'd pull one edge of a tile up and see if the glue underneath is black or brown.

If it's black, then it's something called black asphaltic adhesive and you probably have vinyl asbestos tiles, vinyl composition tiles or asphalt tiles.

If it's brown, then dip a Q-tip in water and try cleaning the glue. You might get lucky and have a water soluble paste holding those tiles down. If you do, the water will re-emulsify the glue, and the head of the Q-tip will turn all brown with re-emulsified glue.

In either case, mineral spirits WILL NOT be the right solvent to use. You'll make a big mess trying to remove black asphaltic adhesive with mineral spirits. It'll stain the wood and then you'll have to sand more wood off to refinish it.

The problem with black asphaltic adhesive is that it dissolves in mineral spirits and will penetrate into the wood along with the mineral spirits just like a wood stain. The result is that the dirty mineral spirits will stain the wood black, and that black adhesive will remain behind inside the wood as the mineral spirits evaporate from the wood. What you need to do in that case is use a heavier solvent that won't penetrate into the wood (but will still dissolve the black adhesive) or scrape enough of the black adhesive off and apply WATER which will get the wood wet so that it doesn't absorb mineral spirits the way dry wood will.

You need to report back on the kind of glue you have before doing anything more.

Big D 10-05-2009 10:03 AM

Hi there. I don't mean to hijack the thread, but I am currently trying to remove what seems to be the black option you mentioned. It is like a tar/asphalt type of adhesive, maybe similar to the stuff used on roofs. I was told to just sand it off since I am going to resand the floor. But after attempting a test patch with a small beltsander before renting one, I disovered removing it with a sander will just heat up to adhesive and cover the belt, which would make me have to buy an overabundance of sandpaper.
I tried water, which didn't do much, then tried mineral spirits but it seemed as if it thinned it and soaked it into the wood, as you say it will.
So now I have two questions - 1) how deep do you think the tar-stain would penetrate (would it come off when I sand the floor?), and does it look bad, or just like a black/teak stain? 2) How should I go about removing the rest of the adheesive? You mentioned a thicker solvent - like what?
Thanks for any help you might be able to give.

Nestor_Kelebay 10-06-2009 09:10 PM

Big D:

What you're describing is black asphaltic adhesive, and it's often called "black out". Whomever told you to sand it off wasn't familiar with the stuff, as sanding it is just going to plug up your sandpaper.

What you should do is this:
Phone any carpet retailer and ask to speak to the Installations Manager.
Ask the Installations Manager who sells flooring installation supplies in your area.
Phone up that company and ask if they sell Oil Flo or Oil Flo 141 made by Titan Labs.

Titan Laboratories

If they don't stock it, they probably know who would in your area. Or, just Google Oil Flo 141, and you can probably buy it online from lots of different places.

From what I understand, Oil Flo 141 is supposedly better at removing black asphaltic adhesive than Oil Flo, but you might want to confirm that with Titan.

I've used Oil Flo to remove black asphaltic adhesive from concrete, and I also used Goof Off and a mixture of detergents. That's cuz from what I could see, Oil Flo seemed to me to be just a mixture of a solvent and a detergent. You simply use the Oil Flo or Oil Flo 141 to dissolve the black adhesive, and then clean up the black mess with water.

I did the same thing as follows:

1. I used a heavier petroleum distillate (Goof Off or Goo Gone, I forget which) to dissolve the black asphaltic adhesive. Scrub with a scrub brush to ensure all the black adhesive is dissolved in the petroleum distillates.

2. Once you have a black mess on the floor, add a detergent. In may case, I used a 50/50 mix of Simple Green and Mr. Clean. That seemed to work better than either alone. When you add detergent to the black mess, the detergent will dissolve in the black mess. That's because the hydrophobic (water hating) ends of the detergent molecules are attracted to and will dissolve in the petroleum distillates. The hydrophillic (water loving) ends of the detergent molecules will simply have no where to go.
Scrub with a scrub brush to ensure that the detergent is thoroughly dispersed in the black mess.

3. Now, add water and the black mess should turn into a grey mess. The colour change happens as an emulsion is formed. An emulsion is one liquid suspended as tiny drops in another. When you add water, then the hydrophillic ends of the detergent molecules all want to dissolve in water, and the hydrophobic ends of the detergent molecules want to remain dissolved in the petroleum distillates. The result is that you get gazillions of tiny droplets of petroleum distillates suspended in water, and right at the interface between the two will be a film of detergent with all of the detergent molecules oriented with their water hating ends pointed inward and their water loving ends pointed outward. The black adhesive will be dissolved in the tiny droplets of petroleum distillates suspended in water.

The colour change from black to grey occurs because by forming an emulsion, you now have two distinct phases instead of one. You have the petroleum distillate liquid suspended in water, and light will reflect and refract at the interface between the two liquids. It's this reflection and refraction of light that makes snow banks, clouds, waterfalls and the head on a beer white in colour, even though nothing inside any of these things is actually white in colour. Milk is also white because it consists of tiny droplets of fat suspended in water. The more droplets of fat, the more reflection and refraction of light goes on inside the milk. And, this is also why skim milk is so poor at whitening coffee. It doesn't have nearly as many of those droplets of fat in it, so it's not nearly as good at reflecting and refracting light, and therefore is less opaque than regular milk or cream.

And of course, whenever you mix two colours, you get something in between. If you mix black and white, you get gray. That is why the black mess turns into a grey mess when you add water.

4. Because the petroleum distillates are now suspended as tiny droplets in water, you can now clean them off the floor with a sponge and bucket. That sponge will get black and covered with oil as tiny droplets of petroleum distillates break on it's surface. So, buy a few spare sponges... you'll need 'em.

In my case, I was able to remove the black asphaltic adhesive from concrete with Goo Gone and detergents, but I have to say that I did get better results using Oil Flo. I've never used Oil Flo 141, tho.

Hope this helps.

anie973 10-15-2009 01:42 PM

Jasco Adhesive Remover (or really any thick adhesive remover) to the rescue – just put it on the mastic you’re having trouble with and wait 15 minutes. Now you should be able to scrape the mastic off of the hardwood floor with ease. Unfortunately, that doesn’t prevent you from having to sand and refinish the floor, but it will still save you tons of time in the overall process.

superjedi 10-16-2009 05:14 PM

I'll look into the Jasco product. Thanks!

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