Cleaning Old Vinyl Tile Adhesive from Plywood Underlayment

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Skeezix

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I have removed 9 of my 45 stick-on vinyl tiles from my bathroom (only 36 more to go!) I had to use a heat gun to remove them. They left a lot of old adhesive residue on the plywood to which the tiles were stuck.

First I tried using mineral spirits to remove the adhesive from a 12-inch square section of the plywood, after which I dried the wood. That didn't work. Next I tried some fingernail polish remover and again no success. Then I used some 90% isopropyl alcohol. No cigar there either.

After trying those three solutions I am left with a very thin film of tacky adhesive that I can feel with my hand. I thought about sanding but I'm thinking that the adhesive will just gum up the sandpaper.

What else can I try to get the residue off?
 

Skeezix

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Here's what I did (in case it will help somebody else with the same problem):

1. Removed a 9-foot square of tiles, sprayed goof-off on the floor, and left it on for a couple of minutes.

2. Used one of those 5-pointed "painter's tool" to scrape as much residue up as I could see.

3. Used a helluva lotta paper towels to keep the edge of the tool clean.

4. Sprinkled baking soda on what was left on the floor, rubbed it in. and then scraped that up too. Had to repeat this process several times until I could not feel any more stickiness when I walked on the bare wood in my stocking feet. Had to really press down on the painter's tool to get the glue off.

5. Periodically wiped the cleaned-up floor space with an old, coarse rag.

6. All in all the process took about 15 minutes per tile.

Took me several hours spread over 3 days to clean up under 40 tiles. None of the suggestions offered helped, and none of the solutions available at Home Depot helped. When I was done, I then set down new peel & stick tiles.
 

oldognewtrick

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Here's what I did (in case it will help somebody else with the same problem):

1. Removed a 9-foot square of tiles, sprayed goof-off on the floor, and left it on for a couple of minutes.

2. Used one of those 5-pointed "painter's tool" to scrape as much residue up as I could see.

3. Used a helluva lotta paper towels to keep the edge of the tool clean.

4. Sprinkled baking soda on what was left on the floor, rubbed it in. and then scraped that up too. Had to repeat this process several times until I could not feel any more stickiness when I walked on the bare wood in my stocking feet. Had to really press down on the painter's tool to get the glue off.

5. Periodically wiped the cleaned-up floor space with an old, coarse rag.

6. All in all the process took about 15 minutes per tile.

Took me several hours spread over 3 days to clean up under 40 tiles. None of the suggestions offered helped, and none of the solutions available at Home Depot helped. When I was done, I then set down new peel & stick tiles.
Thanks for the follow up, hope it helps others looking for help.
 

Brian Famous

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I'd ask why you didn't just rip up the plywood and put down new? Or, depending on the next flooring you are installing, and the height of any adjacent floor, just throw down some 1/8" sheeting?
 

Skeezix

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Hi Brian,

I laid new plywood before I retiled in 2006. Tearing it out now would mean removing a few hundred staples. After I cleaned the first few square feet of tile I was left with a surface that looked like brand new. Didn't have any reason to remove the plywood, buy new plywood, measure again, staple again, etc.
 

rbm328

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i would like to pass on some information about MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) that was mentioned above. MEK, while a great solvent, is very, very bad for you. your skin absorbs it. the odor it gives off is also very toxic and MUST be used in a very well ventilated area. i used MEK in the military, back in the mid 70's. we used to wash our hands in it! when medical found out we were using it without heavy rubber gloves, we were medically monitored for the next decade! if you use it, use all precautions!
 

bud16415

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i would like to pass on some information about MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) that was mentioned above. MEK, while a great solvent, is very, very bad for you. your skin absorbs it. the odor it gives off is also very toxic and MUST be used in a very well ventilated area. i used MEK in the military, back in the mid 70's. we used to wash our hands in it! when medical found out we were using it without heavy rubber gloves, we were medically monitored for the next decade! if you use it, use all precautions!
I agree and will add it is also very flammable.


In the early 70s at work we were given 2 and 5 gallon cans of it and put it in parts washer pans. We worked with it unprotected as well using paint brushes to remove cosmoline off of parts. By the time I retired it was banned from use in the plant for all the above reasons.


I didn’t know you can still buy it. There are much safer solvents out there now that work almost as good.


I don’t think I would have taken the pains the OP did to get it all off and likely would of got the high spots down and left the rest.
 

Jeff Handy

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If the old tiles were peel and stick, the glue residue must really have been very thin.

I think I would just have knocked off the high spots and loose chunks with a floor scraper, then carefully vacuumed all the crud.

Then apply whatever adhesive the new floor tiles call for, right over the old traces of adhesive.

Even if new tiles will be peel and stick, you can apply a very thin fresh layer of adhesive with a trowel with tiny notches, which will level out the old adhesive, and give a fresh surface to better adhere onto.
 

Skeezix

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There was quite a bit of very sticky residue both on the floor and on the back of the old tiles.

I did manage to get the residue of though, and the job is now complete. :thankyou:
 

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