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How to Remove Carpet Glue from a Wood Floor

How to Remove Carpet Glue from a Wood Floor

So you want a glorious hardwood floor. But you realize that ripping up carpets is never as simple a process as it first appears. 

There are multiple steps. It’s not just a matter of pulling up the carpet and, voila, you have your stunning wood floor. You know that underneath the carpet is beautiful, shiny hardwood floor.

But how do you get there?

Sure, cutting and pulling up the carpet isn’t so hard. It takes you a few hours. Then you’re done.

Unfortunately, before breathing a sigh of relief, you discover a thick glue adhesive all over the floor. 

You really want to get rid of this glue, but you want to do so without destroying the beautiful hardwood underneath.

So how do you remove carpet glue from a wooden floor? 

This glue or adhesive was applied in liquid form, so the best way to attack it is to return it to its natural state.

There are a number of ways to do this. I will show you just how to remove carpet glue from a wood floor. And how to do it headache free. 

What Will You Need?

  • Specialized Adhesive or Glue Remover
  • Plastic Putty Knife (the wider, the better)
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Sponge and old towels/rags
  • A good respirator

What’s the Deal with Carpet Glue Anyway…

Carpet glue to remove

Carpet adhesive or carpet glue is stiff, stubborn, and difficult to remove. It has to be strong stuff. It held the carpet in place for years. And unfortunately, you can’t just leave the glue on the floor. 

But why remove the glue? 

To begin with, depending on the glue, it probably looks terrible. And it can collect dirt and grime.

Plus, any staining products that you may want to apply to the floor will likely not be able to get past the glue. 

The trick to removing the glue is the floor beneath it.

Most of us want this floor, and we want it undamaged. It’s a huge reason the carpet was removed in the first place. 

You could hit the glue with a really good scraper and some serious elbow grease, but your chances of damaging the wood beyond repair is relatively high. 

Soap and water by themselves will do nothing but make the glue cleaner and shinier, which is not exactly a step backwards but is also certainly not a step forward. 

Cleaning glue off hardwood floor

This takes us back to our idea of returning the glue to its initial state of liquid. This is where our solvents come in.

Solvents are chemical-based solutions designed to dissolve other substances, bringing them to a liquid state. 

Once the glue is in a liquid state, it will be quite easy to lift up, as it will have lost its adhesive state and will no longer be clinging to the wood. 

What Are Solvents?

There are a number of household solvents that you may already have around the house. The most common three are paint remover, vegetable oil, and WD-40. 

All three of these items can prove effective, paint remover getting the best marks when removing carpet glue, but they also have serious drawbacks.

To begin with, they have all been known to seriously stain or otherwise damage hardwood floors

This returns us to square one. It’s also why you should invest in a proper solvent designed specifically for your floor. See below for my favorite product!

Removing carpet glue or even wax from wood is a difficult and strenuous task.

Whenever you’re working with getting products off of wood, having to remove stains brought on from the wrong solvent is a nightmare.

Get Ready for your Project!

Tools to remove old carpet glue

Here’s a couple considerations to keep in mind before you start your removal project:

How Long Does It Take and Who Can Do It?

The whole process should take about twenty-four hours or a little more.

But much of this time is spent waiting time between steps and most of the actual work can be completed in an afternoon. This depends a little bit on the stubbornness and type of glue. 

The work can be done relatively easily by one pair of hands. But, of course, more people will make it easier, quicker, and more pleasant. 

When starting on any do it yourself project, the most important thing is being fully and properly prepared.

If you do not have the proper tools and have not done your proper research, you could cause more damage than good. 

In that case, it would be better if you handed the job over to a professional who will do it properly.

But, if you stand up straight, do your research, and are willing to get your hands dirty, a DIY job like this will be no problem. 

Evaluating the Situation

Before you kick off your project go ahead an inspect the old glue closely.

Get to know your enemy here! This is because there are a variety of different types of carpet glue, and they should each be eliminated in a different fashion. 

If the glue or adhesive is tan or brown in color, it is likely made from a tar base. Tar based glues are best removed with mineral spirit-based solvents.

If the glue is yellow or light orange in color, it is likely a more general carpet adhesive, which can be removed with adhesive remover and some serious chipping. 

4 Steps to Remove Carpet Glue from a Wood Floor

Before, during, and after applying the solvent to the glue, there are a few other steps that should be followed. Let’s go through them, keeping the steps as simple as they need to be!

1. Get Prepared

Secondly, you must assemble the correct tools. This begins with the correct type of solvent or adhesive remover. 

In addition, you will need your plastic putty knife or another gentle scraper, a sturdy sponge, old towels and rags, and rubber gloves. 

In addition, it might be helpful to have a heat gun or blow dryer, sandpaper, and a pot to boil water as backup. 

Next, prepare the room. Because of the strong chemicals you will be introducing, it is best to open any windows and maybe even turn on a fan to help with circulation. 

Now, you can put on your gloves and get to work. 

2. Apply the Solvent 

If the glue is laid very thick, and particularly if it is thick and yellow or light orange in color, you may be able to chip away some of the bigger chunks off with your putty knife, but be sure not to chip all the way to the floor as to not damage the wood. 

I used Goof Off 2085 Pro-Power Adhesive Remover, which worked great and is cheap compared to other products on Amazon. 

This works for lots of sticky situations and wood; from glues and stubborn tape residue removal projects.


Then, with a sponge or paintbrush, wet the glue thoroughly with the Goof Off  adhesive remover, according to the guidelines outlined by the specific product. 

Once the solution has been applied, it will need to set on the glue and liquify or loosen it. 

It is best to start by applying the solvent or adhesive remover to a small test area, probably in the corner of the room. 

Once this test area has been cleaned, you can check for any possible damage, and assuming that there is none, continue with the rest of the room. 

The exact amount of time for this process will be outlined by the product.

At any rate, it’s time for you to take a short break, preferably in a separate room as to avoid the settling chemical fumes. 

3. Scrape Away the Old Glue

After your break, it’s time to put on a fresh pair of gloves and to properly attack the glue, plastic putty knife and sponge in hand. 

Use the knife to carefully and gently scrape away the glue, starting with the loosest sections and finishing with the more stubborn ones. Be sure not to damage the wooden surface. 

Scraping dried carpet glue off hardwood floor

Don’t force any glue that isn’t coming up easily. When finished, apply more solvent or adhesive remover to an old towel or rag and lightly scrub away any remaining residue. 

If glue remains (and it’s likely that some will), it’s time to repeat the last two steps.

Generally, you should have to do this 2-3 times, but more is not impossible. What’s important is continuing until all of the glue is gone. 

4. Clean up

Cleaning up is an important phase in any do it yourself project. To begin with, you should rinse the whole area with water and let it dry.

Drying and ventilation should be allowed for at least twenty-four hours. 

After letting the floor dry and the room air out, it’s time to consider the next steps. 

So What’s Next?

Getting old wood floor smooth again

Often, removing glue from the floor is only a preliminary step.

It’s probably time to start considering sanding the floor to smooth out any imperfections or small particles of glue you may have missed.

Then, sealing and staining your hardwood floor. Or maybe you want to lay down some sort of tile. 

Your eventual goal dictates the next step as far as cleaning. For instance, sanding the floor with a light grain sander may be a great step, particularly if you intend to lay tiles. 

Light sanding, with attention to aesthetics, can also be a vital step if intending to keep the hardwood floor. But the key to hardwood floors lies in sealants and stains. 

Other Surprises Under Your Old Carpeting…

Not all carpets are laid upon a wooden floor base. And sometimes you won’t know what to expect when you rip up your carpets. 

Most of the time you will encounter wood, but sometimes you will encounter concrete, and on rare occasions, you could even encounter tiling.

In the case of tiling, it will likely itself have to be removed to reveal the base floor, which is likely wood or concrete. 

But regardless of what you encounter, you will have to remove the carpet glue.

And the process of removing glue from concrete differs slightly from that of removing glue from wood. 

Because of this, you should be prepared for either outcome when removing your carpets. 

What about Using a Heat Gun and Scraping off the Glue?

This is also where you can do some serious troubleshooting.

If the prescribed method is proving only partially effective, there are a number of potential follow up methods. Some of the best alternative methods are based on heating the glue. 

To begin with, apply towels soaked in hot, boiling water to the glue.

Lay the towels over the glue for a few minutes immediately before glue removal. The heat should loosen and melt the glue. 

You can also use a heat gun to heat the glue, running it over each section just before removal. But be sure to hold the heat gun close to the glue without touching it. 

Some people swear by this method over using solvents. I have not tried it myself, but this video is a solid how to do guide:

Similarly to a heat gun, a hairdryer can also be used to melt and remove glue. But as the heat is not as high, it takes longer. 

Removing Carpet Glue from Concrete Floors

In some ways, the process of removing carpet glue from concrete floors is easier than removing it from wood ones. In others, it is much more difficult. 

On a basic level, concrete is sturdier and thicker in density.

This means you have to worry a lot less about damaging the floor as you chip away at it, and consequently, you can chip with heavier tools. 

In turn, glue can still more persistently stick to a porous surface than it can to wood, making your job harder from the get-go. 

There are many tips and tricks to removing glue from concrete. Unfortunately, we will only have time to go through the basics. 

A Few Key Differences in Removing Glue from Concrete

If you’ve discovered concrete is partially under the old carpet and it’s nasty glue, you can actually use the same methods described above.

There are a few differences in removing glue from concrete as compared to removing it from wood. If a step is not mentioned, you can assume that it is the same. 

For instance, with stone or concrete, you should be careful when applying heat to melt the glue. Depending on the age of the concrete, it could crack from the heat. 

This makes getting the right solvent even more important, and I personally would once again recommend Goof Off product covered in the above steps. 

In addition, just as with wooden floors, you should be sure to pick a solvent or adhesive remover that is friendly with your floor type.

There are many solvents, such as Tile Guard, that are specifically designed to be used on these types of floors. 


To complete the article, I would like to answer any questions that you might encounter in the process of removing carpet glue from your floor. 

1. Are solvents and/Or adhesive removers toxic? Should I worry about breathing them in? 

The short answer is, yes. That’s why I recommended opening the windows, using a fan, wearing gloves, and airing out the room. 

Of course, not all solvents are created equally, and consequently, not all are equally toxic. That being said, none are intended to be ingested or inhaled directly. 

While goggles and a mouth mask are not as required objects such as the above mentioned, they are not the worst idea if you feel more comfortable with them. 

2. I have tried the prescribed method several times, and some glue just won’t come up. What can I do?

Keep trying. Sometimes it just takes time. If the glue continues to stick, switch the method up a bit. Feel free to troubleshoot and improvise. 

What worked best for me won’t work for everyone. The exact amount of solution and elbow grease required can depend on the age of the glue, on the type of wood used for the floor, and many other varying factors. 

But the main factor is persistence. Don’t let the glue defeat you. 

3. What is wrong with using more common household solvents? 

Innately, nothing is wrong with using more common household solvents such as paint remover, vegetable oil, WD-40, or Denatured Alcohol.

In fact, some of these can be equally, if not more, effective in removing glue quickly. But your end goal must be considered. 

Even if they remove the glue quickly, they could also leave huge, ugly stains on your beautiful wooden floor. 

It’s the same with removing carpet glue from concrete – you don’t want to create another unsightly problem, right?

If you intend to lay tiles and never want to see the wooden floor again, even possibly in ten years time when you’re considering selling the house, this could not be a problem. 

But for those who want hardwood floors, or are tiling but would consider hardwood in the future, this is a serious problem. 

And professionally made solvents are neither expensive nor hard to find. Goo Gone Professional Strength Remover costs less than five dollars a bottle – Buy here!

In Summary

So you want your “new” flooring to be in the best shape possible. And now you know how to get it. Or at least how to remove carpet glue from wood floors. It’s a part of the process. And now you know that you don’t need much. 

All it requires is some decent solvent or adhesive remover such as Goo Gone, a plastic putty knife, a sturdy sponge, rubber gloves, old towels or rags, and a little patience and elbow grease. 

Now, with the confidence that you are prepared and really know what you are doing, it’s time to attack that pesky carpet glue that you’ve been ignoring. I’d wish you good luck, but you don’t need it!

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