Removing Linoleum Adhesive
Scraping up is hard to do
Eventually, every old house restorer gets stuck with removing the
mastic adhesive left behind by linoleum. The problem is, many different
kinds of mastics have been used over the course of a century, making
it difficult to predict their exact ingredients and the methods that
might soften them. Even more of a concern is the fact that some of these
mastics-and the lining felts that accompany them-used asbestos as a
component (some floor tiles are also this mineral). This rules out machine
sanding (which clogs the paper anyway) and other operations that will
make these materials friable, releasing asbestos fibers into the air
and creating a potential health threat. Gummed down by these limitations,
the two main tools become a cautious trial-and-error approach and plenty
of elbow grease. Some guidelines worth adhering to:
- Note that waterproof glue was applied at the edges and seams of
linoleum; a weaker (and often water-soluble) paste anchored centers
to the felt layer.
- Start with hot water. Soak the mastic for 20 to 60 minutes or until
it is soft enough to be mopped or scraped up (keeping the surface
continually wet also limits friability). Adding vinegar or high-strength
citrus decreasing solvents (Limo Sol is one brand) to the water may
improve effectiveness. On floors, long handled garden edgers are a
break from scraping with putty knives.
- Try heat or cold where water doesn't work. Modern mastics and those
containing linseed oil may soften with heat from a lamp or hot-air
gun. Some readers report freezing mastic with dry ice breaks the bond
with the substrate.
- Resort to chemical solvents last. Start with the most innocuous
solvent and test in an inconspicuous area before proceeding or increasing
strength. Isopropyl alcohol, paint thinner, xylol, lacquer thinner,
or paint stripper may yield results. Work with plenty of ventilation
and proper safety precautions.