How to remove glued-down carpet

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As I shared a few weeks ago, when we began pulling up the carpet in our family room, we were met with a most unfortunate surprise – another layer of carpet.  This carpet was a very stiff industrial type carpet with a black foamy backing.  It was almost like indoor/outdoor carpet and it was glued firmly to the plywood subfloor.  We very quickly found that this carpet was not going to be easy to remove.

carpet under carpet

I took to the Internet and immediately got started researching the most painless way to get the nasty stuff up.  I found lots of suggestions.

  • Boiling water/steam
  • Murphy’s Oil Soap
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Paint stripper and other various chemicals
  • Scrapers
  • Dry Ice

This carpet does not come up easily; it does its very best to remain firmly in place.  First, we used a utility knife to cut the carpet into strips and peeled each strip of carpet up.  This effectively removed the top layer but left behind a pretty thick layer of black foam. Of all of the things I tried, the best way to deal with this foam was simply to use elbow grease and a scraper and scrape it right off.  Luckily, other than giving me a pretty good arm workout, it wasn’t particularly difficult.

The real test was the black adhesive residue that remained behind, stuck to the subfloor.
So I set to work figuring out the best way to get the job done.  I started out testing all of the recommended materials I had on hand: boiling water, murphy’s soap, Citristrip paint stripper, and mineral spirits.  Along with these I used a hand scraper with a razor type tip.


Murphy’s Soap: I mixed it with some water and wiped it on with a rag and then scraped.  When it did not come up well, I waited half an hour and then scraped some more. It really didn’t make a difference.  The Murphy’s soap did not help at all.  (I didn’t really expect it to, but I had some on hand and one person said it had worked for them).

Citristrip and Mineral Spirits: I applied them each to different areas with a rag, waited half an hour and then scraped.  These gave very similar results and they both definitely made a difference.  The adhesive was able to be scraped off, but still required a ton of elbow grease.

Boiling Water:  First I tried just pouring the water on the floor and scraping.  Um, no.  Then I read a tip to pour the boiling water on a towel on the floor and let it soak for about an hour.  When I tried it this way, the results were much better.  This actually worked even better than the chemical strippers.  Add that to the fact it involves no harmful chemicals and was free and I was sold.


After my original test, I decided to go with the boiling water/steam method.  I brainstormed a little more and decided I could probably tweak my method a little and get faster results.  So I tried using my iron on the steam setting to loosen the adhesive before scraping and also borrowed a Shark steam mop to try.  Both of these worked pretty well.  However, even though it was working, I had a really large room to do and it was going really slowly.

I was starting to wonder if I would ever finish… so I decided to try another method I hadn’t been able to test out originally – a chemical adhesive remover called Sentinel 747.  I was able to pick up a jug of it at Home Depot for $20.  I tried it out on a small area of the floor and it was amazing.  It worked better and faster than the steam method and was what I used to finally complete the room.  My room is around 250 square feet so I ended up needing three jugs for a total of around $60 but it was definitely worth the expense.


After scraping up the foam backing, I poured some of the Sentinel on the floor and spread it around with an old mop.  After letting it soak for 15-20 minutes I scrubbed it lightly with a wire brush and then used my scraper to scrape all of the adhesive off. Wherever there were stubborn areas that didn’t come off right away, I just repeated the process.


Yay for one step being done!  As you can see, we went ahead and moved our furniture back into the room as well as a rug we had in storage.  It is going to be awhile before we are actually able to lay the wood floors and having the couch in the middle of the kitchen was really getting old.

Now to work on bringing the kitchen floor down to the same level so that our wood floors will be seamless between the two rooms.  Nothing is ever easy in DIY, that’s for sure.


Anyone else ever tackle a project like this?  Any tips for us as we take on the kitchen?


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  1. says

    Being short of money is one thing, being short of time and desire is another. Basically its’ a question of elbow grease. Chip off what you can and sand the rest. There is no lazy way to remodel. Sweat equity means exactly that. If its’ a rental unit, schmooze your landlord or learn to live with it. This kind of built-up crap has no simple chemical solution. Even not any Industrial Equipment in market.

  2. says

    This was definitely one of those cases where sanding is not the answer. I have attempted to sand a somewhat similar substance before with a power sander. Instead of becoming smooth, it simply gummed up the sander and melted the adhesive. In this case, sanding would have most definitely been the lazy, incorrect way.

    • Lynnn says

      Be cautious. I removed something similar sbout 20 years ago and ended up with a full-body rash. Had to go to the emergency room and was given an epinephrine shot. I don’t have many environmental allergies, so something in the black bscking or the glue used was very dangerous for me.

      • Carrie says

        Wow, that is terrible! I am sorry to hear that happened to you and glad I didn’t have a similar reaction. You are right – anyone doing this should definitely be careful. Always ventilate the area well and keep your skin covered with long sleeves and gloves.

      • Random Reader says

        How old was the adhesive? You actually need to be careful about some of the really old stuff as it may contain asbestos; definitely have questionable flooring tested before doing anything where you might stir particles into the air and, consequently, into your lungs. Generally newer flooring won’t have that issue but it is worth noting.

  3. Tim says

    I know it’s an old post but I thought I’d ask if you were installing new wood floors over the plywood, why go through the hassle of removing every trace of the adhesive? I understand of course needing a smooth surface – I’ve installed all too much hardwood flooring myself but wouldn’t think a film of adhesive would be an issue unless it was built up in some areas. I’m about to start scraping up glued down carpet myself.

    • Carrie says

      Good question. Unfortunately when we removed the carpet, only the top layer came up, not the glued down backing. I removed the adhesive because it was very thick and built up with plenty of the carpet’s foam backing still stuck to it. Even after I removed it all, there was still a film of the adhesive in a lot of areas but as long as it was smooth I didn’t worry about it. The main point was to get everything smooth. Hopefully, your process will go much more smoothly!

  4. peter says

    To level the floors for wood. You will have to remove plywood in kitchen or add another layer in the other room to have it be flat. Kitchen just hope the built up floor was not done before the cabinet bases were put in( can you see the problem here) It can be a real bear to level floors. Done it before. Might be easier to add plywood to the other room to level it off. Just take the path of least resistance. Just use circular saw, cut a little lower into plywood cutting thru, pry bars to get the ply up hopefully it wasnt glues down( horror story) Old homes may have asbestos in the flooring and they just plyed over it. Can you see the possibilities multiplying.

    • Carrie says

      Thanks Peter – we ended up removing the extra level of plywood in the kitchen. And you are right – it was a huge pain, mainly because we had to cut it around the cabinets. So glad that job is behind us.

  5. Joan Chappelle says

    Great post, Carrie! We have to do a 250 sq ft. space ourselves (well, me, ’cause hubby can’t get down on his knees). Yikes! I better get moving.

    • Carrie says

      Thanks Joan! Good luck! I had to do our whole room as well because at the time my hubby was dealing with reactive arthritis. It was NOT fun but I was so happy to get it finished!

  6. says

    Why did you choose to use Sentinel 747 instead of 626? Going to do this exact project this week and was wondering which one is best to buy!

    • Carrie says

      Kari, I chose the 747 for a couple of reasons. I saw it mentioned by name on several forums and I liked that it specifically mentioned working on both black cutback adhesive and carpet foam backing which seemed to be what I had. Also, it was available at my local Home Depot so it was convenient.

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