• July 27, 2004

Removing Linoleum Adhesive

Just add hot water and soak to dissolve linoleum’s adhesive backing

How To

Black linoleum adhesive paper covers the porch floor
Black linoleum adhesive paper covers the porch floor

As part of the great Porch Rebuilding Project of last summer we pulled up 4 inches of cement from our porch floor. Underneath that we found chicken wire and rusty nails covering the original wood floor, except in the area in front of door. This area was covered in what had to be the world’s most difficult to remove linoleum. It must have been stuck down with a 1940′s version of super glue.

After getting the linoleum up, we decided to ignore the black tar paper and adhesive still covering the wood until…well, until today! It didn’t look all that bad, honest.

I discovered that water loosens the adhesive and tar paper in an upstairs linoleum removal project. So, armed with a garden hose turned on high, I sprayed down the porch.

The adhesive and black tar-like paper started to come up.


After spraying the porch for around 15 minutes (no scraping).

Tonight I intend to spray the porch down, cover it with newspaper and give it another good soaking from the garden hose. After it sits like this overnight I’ll remove the newspaper and spray the porch down one more time. Any glue and tar paper that is left will come right up with a scraper.

The adhesive comes up with very little effort
The adhesive comes up with very little effort

Comments { 14 }
  1. Erin


    The front porch looks great! We just bought a 1905 bungalow in Portland, Or that is in need of a lot of work.

    Where did you get the welcome mats? The one on the left is the chinese character for my fiance’s last name.

    Thanks for any info.

  2. heather

    Hi Erin.

    We purchased our welcome mats at Cost Plus World Market (http://www.costplus.com) last fall.

    Best of luck with your house!

  3. Kathie

    your porch looks great! I just bought a 200 year old house here in Vermont, and found a thick layer of tar paper underneath some really hideous tiles. from what we can see through this mess there’s some beautiful wood floors. I have adhesive remover, paint thinner, hours and hours of scraping, but didn’t even think of water!
    I’m on my way downstairs right now to try that


  4. heather


    If the water doesn’t work I have read that household ammonia also gets up tar paper adhesive.

    Best of luck!

  5. Ron

    I recently bought an 80+ year old home in upstate NY and have been attempting some minor refurbishing before moving in. Like Kathie, while removing loosened tiles in the living room I found a beautiful wood floor under some ugly fake wood tile. I couldn’t figure out how too get the rest of the “black” stuff off the floor without destroying it. Forums on Bobvilla.com said it would be best to hire a pro. One look at the pictures and I thought I was looking at my floor! I put an old blanket down and covered it with snow, (I don’t have any water in the house due to plumbing issues throughout). The next day the black stuff come up like butter! Thanks for the hint! I have also found an adhesive remover at http://www.napierenvironmental.com/products/product.php?pid=22

  6. silica

    Well, it’s been almost a year I’ve been wrangling with tar paper residue on our 1920s bungalow kitchen floor. My husband got the other 6 layers of flooring up :-) This time I’ll try water, with an absorbant layer on top, overnight. I’ve used water before, but indoors I can’t get rid of the gray, silty residue of the soaked paper very effectively (like with a hose). Any suggestions? I can tell you right now that the citrus adhesive remover doesn’t work any better than water and it seems to stain the floor.

  7. Julia

    Hi, I love your site, so glad you went through this linoleum removal in your topics, I never would of thought to try plain water. We had linoleum on our stairs leading to the basement so I couldn’t hose them down and also the paper (tar like) was so heavy in some areas the water couldn’t get to it so I used an old steam iron that I had retired from laundry duty. I sprayed the areas with a pump water bottle then sat a cookie cooling rack on them and placed the iron it on high heat with steam for as long as neccessary, usually a minute or two. It still took elbow grease in some areas but in others it peeled off in chunks, a lot better and safer than the chemicals and no horrible toxic odors.
    Congratulations on your new job!

  8. Blair Anderson

    Beaten by a 70 year old linoleum that had seen its days, physical removal of the lino was easy. IT just came apart from the micro-fibrous layer that was still glued to the floor. It looked like a corse cardboard. Scraping was impossible, it just pilled up and resisted any sheer by tungsten! I think this stuff could be used a military grade surface protector. Enough came away where it was thin enough for us to see there was ‘furniture’ grade native flooring timbers (Rimu) in pristine condition. This was now a war we were going to win somehow. We tried sanding… belt sanders, highspeed angle grinder sanding disks, all sorts of scrapers and finally found a solution. The trusty highspeed electric drill fitted with a 3-M paint stripping pad. The material looks like a hardy potscrubber. It was a dusty job (face mask compulsory) but about 4 hours of patient work and a quick belt sand… and complete success. Its not had its finish coat yet but without that 3-M circular pad we would still be looking at it. (10sqM used, rather wore out, 1 single thickness pad and most of a double thickness pad… it is used sideways!, the double covers more area quicker. Start with a double… !!)

  9. Jo-Ann

    I just tore up a 90 yr old house’s linoleum with lots of that tar paper underneath, stuck on the entire floor. You are a “genius”. I sprayed & soaked water on it, let it sit for 20 minutes, & was able to remove it. Thanks for the great tip !!


  10. elizabeth

    Use a heat gun. Works great. It took me about an hour per stair in my back hallway, but when I was finished I barely even needed to sand.

  11. De

    you can you a heat gun like the one in the following link – http://www.hotairtools.com/prod-hand-tools-Ghibli.html

  12. Chris

    Old tar paper, linoleum, and mastic (adhesive) all can contain asbestos. I am amazed that removing linoleum, scraping and sanding were all mentioned without saying a word about the possible asbestos risks.

    • Heather

      Good point! Please, test your flooring for asbestos prior to removal.

  13. Susan

    Great tips on getting that tar paper up. Thank you.

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