Q. Is there an easy way to remove this layer of black stuff on my hardwood floor?
A. We often see this problem in kitchen floors. You'll find a beautiful, original, 1920s maple hardwood floor buried under layers of vinyl or linoleum, plus a nasty layer of linoleum adhesive that has been pressed into the hardwood floor below by years of foot traffic.
This can be sanded off, but it is worth trying to mechanically remove most of that glue first, especially if it is a thick layer. Trust us, if there were a magic potion that removed all linoleum glues with ease, we would sell it to you.
We have found that there were many different kinds of adhesives used to glue down those old floor coverings and the adhesive removers they sell in hardware stores only work for some of them. So, before you spend any of your hard-earned dollars on fancy adhesive strippers, try these methods first:
♦ Saturate an old towel with plain water (hot water is sometimes even more effective, so try heating the towel in the microwave first) and lay it on the floor for twenty minutes. If the adhesive was water-based, the warm water will loosen or soften it and make it easier to scrape.
♦ Pour a small amount of a cheap laundry detergent onto the old adhesive. Some grease or tar-based adhesives will dissolve or soften in the presence of soap. Again, you will have to scrape and wipe up the now-dissolved inky muck, but it will speed up the process.
♦ Pour a 1/4 cup of paint thinner or turpentine directly onto the adhesive and leave it for 10 minutes. Some adhesives will respond to these cheap solvents. Paint thinner fumes are, however, carcinogenerous, so if you decide to flood the whole floor with paint thinner, wear a respirator with organic fume cartidges and keep the windows open.
But sometimes, as in the photo above, just plain scraping turns out to be the best way to remove that adhesive, especially if it is dry and brittle. Don't bother removing every last shred of adhesive if you are planning to sand the floor - they make floor sanding abrasive as coarse as 12 grit precisely for situations like this. Keep in mind that, if these cheap solvents don't work, it is usually cheaper to sand off the adhesive than using a commercial, store-bought adhesive remover on the same area.
Got your own questions about hardwood flooring problems? Give us a ring, and if you're in the area, visit our cute store in St. Paul. We promise we'll do our darndest to help you be the best hardwood floor owner and maintainer that you can be.