In my basement, there was likely an asbestos tile floor which was removed before we purchased the house, leaving behind a layer of black adhesive. I have seen a lot of questions/answers about remove the title, but nothing about dealing with the adhesive. If I leave anything on the floor for more than a few days, the adhesive transfers to it and is almost impossible to remove. I am planning to carpet most of the space to use as a playroom for my kids and I am worried that the adhesive would somehow get through the pad and carpet.

There are also a few holes in the floor where there used to be nails, so I was considering spreading leveling compound of some kind over the whole floor.

Should I try to remove it, and if so, how? Will some other covering like leveling compound or epoxy effectively cover it? Or, do I not need to worry about it?

The floor: Floor

An extension cord that was on the floor for a few days - the same can been seen on furniture, cardboard, plastic: Extension cord

  • Carpet squares work fine on this stuff in my experience. Not a full answer obviously.
    – KMJ
    Nov 17, 2023 at 18:04
  • cover it with newspapers so that it stops transferring
    – jsotola
    Nov 17, 2023 at 18:18
  • I think you're wasting your time - there's no way that adhesive is going to soak its way up through a layer of padding & carpet. Get a a scrap of old padding and put it on the floor, then put a box of random stuff on top, and leave it there for a week. All that'll happen is that the bottom surface of the padding will get stuck to the adhesive - but you'll not see any coming through to the top.
    – brhans
    Nov 18, 2023 at 14:45

1 Answer 1


It likely is possible to remove -- perhaps not entirely, but sufficient that it will no longer transfer. I'd use a heat gun to soften the material and a metal scraper/putty knife/trowel to scrape up whatever bulk can be lifted in this way. I'd then rub it with a rag soaked with a solvent called naphtha (sometimes, Varnish Makers & Painters Naphtha, or shorted as VM&P Naphtha, and probably goes by other names too).

A solvent such naphtha will dilute and lift the adhesive. There are some safety concerns, of course. Naphtha is not nearly so volatile as acetone or xylene, which means you get much longer working time before it flashes off (vaporizes). Still, though, in an enclosed space like a basement vapors are a concern both for inhalation and for explosion.

A citrus-based degreaser might work satisfactorily with less health and fire risk. Personally, I've never met a citrus degreaser I liked as well as naphtha - a few swipes of a rag with naphtha would clean the goo off that extension cord good as new!

The question should I remove it is a good one. The answer, where it'll be covered by pad and carpet, is likely "don't bother." It's exceedingly unlikely that there's enough adhesive material or that it's thin enough that it could wick up through the pad.

As far as filling the voids where nails have been removed: many people wouldn't bother, especially if they're small enough not to be felt through the carpet or are near walls where it's unlikely they'll be stepped on anyway.

  • Some of the adhesives also contained asbestos. You could send a lab a sample to make sure.... This adhesive is why I'm planning to just encapulate the questionable linoleum (?) under a new floor rather than try to remove it.
    – keshlam
    Nov 17, 2023 at 20:17
  • Warning: Naptha is subject to flash explosion if enough is spilled / spread and the vapors are ignited by a spark from a scraping tool or a nearby water heater or appliance. Its flash point is variably reported as ranging 20F - 55F depending on source / brand. Mineral Spirits as defined by law has a minimum flash point of 100F and will give an even longer working time before evaporating. It's not as aggressive as naptha but will dissolve anything that naptha will, not as quickly but without the risk of flash fire. (Except in, like, Phoenix mid-summer with no A/C.)
    – MTA
    Nov 17, 2023 at 21:51

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