Removing Adhesives From Concrete Floors

by LSE Library

Anyone who has removed carpeting or VCT tile from concrete floors has probably suffered the horror of finding thick layers of adhesive smeared all over the surface. A realization sets in that your work is just beginning. Whether your goal is sealing out gases coming up through the floor, getting rid of cracks and holes, or keeping out moisture and odors from growths, you will need a clean surface before applying a modern, long lasting seamless epoxy coating.

Don’t despair! There are really only two types of adhesive commonly used to glue down flooring and if you know their chemistry you can cut your work in half. The first step is to look at the color of the adhesive. If the adhesive is caramel colored, it is a water-based, latex type. The good news is that if it is wet long enough it will start to soften. That’s why so often a flooded floor starts letting go of tiles. The key here is time or money. If you have time, you can just hose down the floor and keep it wet for 2 or 3 hours.


You should periodically use a rotary scrubber, like a school janitor buffs floors with, to loosen the adhesive and let the water get down in to it. Don’t use a pad as it will just get gummed up right away. Use a stiff brush on your scrubber. If your rental shop has a “scrape away” for your scrubber, go ahead and rent one. This is a plate with three carbide teeth on it that will scrape softened adhesive away. In more difficult spots, use a 4-inch razor scraper on a pole. If you have hot water available, using it can cut time off this process.

Once you have turned your glue into a soup, suck it up with a wet/dry vacuum. Check for spots you missed and employ your scraper. When the floor is smooth, you may still have some glue in the pores. Use the scrubber with a black pad and some strong detergent to remove the oil residue. Remove the residue and move to an acidic cleaner which will dissolve away a little of the concrete — and the glue that clings to it. Recommended strong cleaning solutions are available online at

If your adhesive is black, it is an asphalt type. Asphalt is petroleum-based adhesive and will liquify quickly when you apply a petroleum solvent. Of course, you need to guard against fire, so it is advisable to use a mixture of mineral spirits and a little water to limit any risk. Then use your rotary scrubber, brush, and razor scraper to scrape away and help the solvent penetrate into the asphalt adhesive. When most of the adhesive is removed, use the cleaner as described above, followed by the acidic cleaner. Note that if you are going to apply a solvent-based coating, any black adhesive you leave may bleed into your coating and discolor it. If this is a danger, you may want to move to a non-solvent base coating.

Note that rotary scrubbers have a tendency to splash, so taping up some plastic on the walls and wearing boots and gloves can reduce the amount of clean up.

Durall Industial Flooring, has over 40 years of flow coated flooring experience. With over 500 specialty chemical products Durall Industial Flooring, provides 24/7 service hand help. Free cost analysis for each flooring project is available at

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