I have a layer of old, crumbly and very sticky vinyl tiles that I need to remove to bring the old tile back (see picture). What is the best way of removing these?

Bonus question: How do I get the adhesive off the floor underneath?

crumbly vinyl tiles

  • 2
    Be careful, if the vinyl tiles are from the 1950s, there could be asbestos in the adhesive.
    – bobmcn
    May 17, 2012 at 20:08
  • Asbestos was used in making vinyl flooring up until the mid 1980's.
    – Jackie
    Mar 22, 2013 at 13:16

12 Answers 12


Use a heat gun to heat up the tiles and soften the adhesive underneath and pry it up with something (putty knife/scraper/pry bar).

You should be able to buy floor adhesive remover to get the stuff off of the bottom tiles you want to keep. I found some that was a sort of gel that you spread around on the floor and let it sit for 15 - 30 minutes. Then, scrape it up and it would pull some of the adhesive up too. It was not perfect for me (vinyl tiles glued to hardwood) but it worked OK.

The stuff I used is made by Klean Strip and was available at the local Lowes, http://www.wmbarr.com/product.aspx?catid=72&prodid=115


Use an iron! It is cheaper and less damaging to your lungs. Let the iron sit on the tile for about 30 seconds and it will pop right off, then move on to the next one. I renovate homes and have done it numerous times. I have well over 14000 sqft under my belt.

  • Do you have any suggestions/precautions for these tiles that are likely to contain asbestos?
    – scrowler
    May 27, 2014 at 21:05
  • The iron trick worked well for me but use a damp towel between the iron and floor so as not to ruin your iron with melted vinyl like I did.
    – user23703
    Jul 11, 2014 at 23:44

They are easier to remove if you heat them with a good hair dryer or a heat gun.

Unfortunately, I don't know how to remove the remaining glue.


I've been there, and it's really tough.
I had a stiff paint scraper which I heated up with a soldering torch, and it helped a little, but not much.

Realistically, use a sledgehammer and lay a new subfloor. That stuff is nasty to get off.

  • Thanks Chris - we want to preserve the tiles underneath, so sledge hammer is not an option. Will try heated paint remover though. Jul 5, 2011 at 19:19
  • 1
    Paint thinner may not soften the adhesive up enough. You might need to experiment with different solvents to find one that works well. I spent many hours scrubbing my floors just to get them in the proper condition to retile, much less clean all of the old glue off. Good luck. Jul 5, 2011 at 19:32
  • 5
    That's a paint scraper!!!! Not Paint thinner. Under no circumstances should you heat paint thinner!!! Jul 5, 2011 at 20:43
  • While preservation is a great goal, just remember that sometimes preservation can cost more both in time and money than demo and rebuild.
    – DA01
    Feb 18, 2013 at 23:05
  • Some older materials are just impossible to natch with today's materials at a reasonable price. I.e heart pine flooring.
    – Vitaliy
    Mar 22, 2013 at 16:40

If old vinyl tiles are 9" x 9", do NOT attempt to remove! It is highly likely that these contain asbestos. Consult a professional haz mat service.


The Laundry pre-spotter "Shout" is a good adhesive remover, also "Pure Citrus" an air freshener found in the automotive section of most retail stores. Use a dry rag to wipe the adhesive off.


Try WD-40. It becomes quite gooey when it comes off the tiles. Just work it with a rag and clean off. I found this advice on a forum and it works for me.


I would use a "Wonder Bar" to remove the tiles and be careful not to scratch them too much or scratch them at all. A Wonder Bar is a short pry bar, made by Stanley. I have used that to do many tasks and consider it one of the most versatile tools in my tool box.

Unless you are only removing a small floor space like 3' by 3' feet the amount of effort put into your project will outweigh the results. You perhaps will not even get the original tile to be completely free of the glue/adhesive. You may want to consider removing all tiles and starting from scratch, as outlandish as that recommendation sounds. You can try some heat to remove the vinyl but I think the Wonder Bar will rock the heat on its ass. Hopefully you are not renovating one of the White House bathrooms because your project will probably not come out with the highest quality results but if the floor can be pretty good then you have a shot.

Good luck with it!


I am also doing the same. I tried the iron first and it is time consuming. Then I had this idea of hot water. I just poured some boiling water and hurray the tiles came out so easily.... And for the glue I used a paint scraper .


adhesive remover and elbow grease will do it. be patient and you will eventually get it all off


My husband used a steamer to get our old tiles up! Worked like magic : )


Too many scare notes on asbestos. Asbestos is only dangerous with repeated exposure. If you remove tiles whole and properly ventilate to the exterior (use a wet vac that I put a hose to and run out the house) it will be fine. Just don't sand it and wear a respirator.

dry ice works too. it essentially freezes the tile and it pops right off.

  • 2
    Even if you are right, this recommendation goes against accepted best practices. If you want to fight this battle, take it up with the local authorities who set the rules. Oct 30, 2013 at 15:24

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