Introduction: How to Easily Remove Vinyl Tiles

Picture of How to Easily Remove Vinyl Tiles

The previous owner of our house, unfortunately, tried to "renovate" and "improve" the recently refinished and refurbished original clear-vertical-grain fir floors by sticking self-adhesive vinyl tiles to them to create "area rugs" of faux parquet and faux marble. After scraping, heating, and using a variety of solvents, I hit upon this far easier and relatively non-toxic method: dry ice.

Step 1: Materials

30 lbs dry ice
waxed or parchment paper
hand towel or rags
small flexible putty knife

Step 2: Arrange Dry Ice

Picture of Arrange Dry Ice

Open a few doors and windows. Consider turning the fan on. While the CO2 gas from the evaporating dry ice isn't poisonous, it is heavier than air and not usefully breathable. Small children and cats, being closer to the ground, can suffocate if the CO2 is allowed to accumulate.

Tear off a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper large enough to cover a tile and overhang an inch or two on each side.

While wearing insulating gloves, arrange the chunks of dry ice on top of the paper to cover the offending tile. Cover the ice with a towel or two to insulate it.

Wait 2-3 minutes. Read a book, like I did. Often, you can hear an audible "pop" when the tile comes loose.

Step 3: Repeat

Picture of Repeat

Use the piece of paper, pulling on the edge, to reposition the dry ice to the next, more offensive, tile.

Use the scraper or putty knife to lift the previous tile. Often, you can just lift the tile up with your fingertips. Put the tile in a bag or box. If left on the floor, it will soon re-adhere itself.

Step 4: Repeat Until the Floor Is Clean

If you aren't bored enough, attack what little adhesive remains after a tile removal with the putty knife, while it is still cold.


Dr_Stupid (author)2010-12-19

What's wrong with the good ol' fashioned elbow-grease method? We have become so LAZY in the 21st century.

aeray (author)Dr_Stupid2010-12-19

I'm no stranger to elbow grease, but I also enjoy using my brain now and then.

DIY-Guy (author)aeray2010-12-19

Thanks to the author for a super clean and no-toxic-residue method without solvents!

Lack of brain fluid usually leads people to apply unnecessary amounts of elbow grease.

Fill 'er up, with cerebral fluid please!

capernius (author)DIY-Guy2015-09-24

ROFL Yeah buddy! : )

aeray (author)DIY-Guy2010-12-19

Thanks for the comment!

capernius (author)Dr_Stupid2015-09-24

Have you ever heard of the old adage, "work smarter not harder"? I have nothing against elbow grease, but if there is an easier way to get the job done, I'm all for long as it does not cost me an arm & both legs.

canida (author)2010-12-15

This is absolutely brilliant! I wish I'd known this while removing the "improvements" from my previous house's floors - scraping was miserable.
Thank you for sharing.

aeray (author)canida2010-12-15

Thanks. Scraping is definitely miserable, that's what led me to this. I bet you'll remember next time though.

sampowell (author)2011-06-18

You can also use a wall paper steamer if the tile is on concrete. You get a bit of water. Use a spatula to pick up the hot, limp tiles. The dry ice method can be expensive.

capernius (author)sampowell2015-09-24

Not as much if you make your own...

CatherineC44 (author)capernius2016-04-03

vinyl tile remover

jsadler1 (author)2011-06-23

Poisonous is a misleading concept in dealing with CO2. It is true that it kills differently than CO but if you reach a 23% concentration of CO2 it will kill you. Thirty pounds of dry ice in a small room might reach that level.

capernius (author)jsadler12015-09-24

open windows & fans to move the air will work wonders. : )

aeray (author)jsadler12011-06-24

As I noted, it isn't poisonous, but it can kill you.

Sunnedaez (author)2011-10-18

This is an extraordinary idea and I am going to try it on a job coming up. What was the square footage of the areas of tile you had to remove? The job I have is 6 feet by 12 feet = 72 sqft.. I don't think 30 pounds of dry ice will be enough.

capernius (author)Sunnedaez2015-09-24

make your own at home. it's easy & there are tons of videos online to show you how....or you can just read one of my replies above.

aeray (author)Sunnedaez2011-10-18

My space was about 8' x 20', so 160sq.ft.

EmmettO (author)2010-12-15

Huh, I've demolition tons of vinyl tile, but never thought to use cold. I didn't realize the glue would be cold sensitive. Still, unless I had a lot of dry ice available, (which may not be unreasonable) this would be too slow for me to do commercially.

I wonder if it would work any differently on concrete floors?

These look like the self stick variety of tile which has pretty weak glue in the first place. I wonder if this would work with commercial grade VCT glue?

aeray (author)EmmettO2010-12-15

These are the cheapo self-adhesive ones. I don't know if it will work with trowel-on. Let me know if you try it.
As for it being slow- it seems slow, waiting around for the glue to pop, but when you take into account the time saved NOT having to scrape or scrub glue residue off the floor, it's pretty fast.

capernius (author)aeray2015-09-24

Not to mention, how much easier on your back this dry Ice is...

Johenix (author)EmmettO2010-12-15

Some years ago in the 1950's-60's Popular Science published this same tip but without the parchment paper.

Personally, I would put the dry ice in a rectangular metal cake pan and drag it from tile to tile with a string.

capernius (author)Johenix2015-09-24

as long as you have some heavy duty winter gloves, you'll be fine. If you use a metal pan, make sure it is not aluminum...aluminum is a very lightweight metal & when it gets cold(as in this case) it will crack & break apart. wax paper/parchment paper is best for this I think. cheaper too. : )

aeray (author)Johenix2010-12-16

I initially used a cake pan, but it dissipated the cold too much, and took a long time to chill the tile.

sleeepy2 (author)EmmettO2010-12-21

It definitely works on concrete floors and with commercial grade mastics. This is one of the methods asbestos abatement workers use to remove vinyl asbestos floor tile without rendering it friable (the other is using infrared heat machines).

They use the pelleted version of the dry ice and a push broom. They let a pile sit, push it forward with the broom and pick up the popped tile, and repeat until done.

aeray (author)sleeepy22010-12-21

Good to know! Thanks for the info. Hopefully EmmettO tries it.

EmmettO (author)aeray2010-12-21

Now all I have to do is find dry ice. :) It's not always available by me.

capernius (author)EmmettO2015-09-24

in case you did not know, you can make dry ice at home very easily. all you need is a C O 2 tank(full of CO2 of coarse), or a C O 2 fire extinguisher, a pillow case & some strong duct tape.

put the pillow case over the nozzle of the tank, or extinguisher, wrap tape around the end of the pillow case to attach it to the nozzle; then after that put on some heavy winter gloves, & turn the nozzle on or squeeze the trigger. It only takes about 10 - 20 seconds to make dry ice...the longer you have the nozzle open, the more dry ice you get. And that is all there is to it.

PLEASE, please use caution, because if you touch dry ice with your bare hands, it will cause frost bite almost immediately.

ringai (author)sleeepy22012-07-10

Thanks! I was hoping to find a comment about just that. My basement has two layers of that crap. Now I know how to deal with it.

aeray (author)ringai2012-07-10

Some before-and-afters would be appreciated.

sleeepy2 (author)aeray2012-07-10

Here's a "during".

aeray (author)sleeepy22012-07-10

Awesome. How's it working?

sleeepy2 (author)aeray2012-07-10

It usually works well, when you take your time. The picture is of asbestos abatement workers, who do not like to take their time. Also, double layers of tile can be difficult at times.

As a further safety note, if the tile is 9x9, it's almost always asbestos-containing, so try to avoid excessive breakage. 12x12 can contain asbestos, but is less likely.

capernius (author)sleeepy22015-09-24

TY Sleepy for the heads up. much appreciated. : )

ringai (author)sleeepy22012-08-09

Nice tip on the sizes. Thanks!

capernius (author)ringai2015-09-24

Keep in mind that concrete has a tendency to hold both heat & after the tiles/vinyl come up, that floor may be bone chilling cold for a in too cold to paint/tile. I'm not saying this is true, I'm just saying it's a possibility, so be careful.

capernius (author)EmmettO2015-09-24

Simple science says that anything that gets cold enough, will break or come apart(such as glue coming off the floor). The $64 million dollar Question is, how cold is cold enough; how long is long enough, and how durable is the glue you are trying to remove?...

pmckee (author)2013-12-18

Does anyone know if this works with the troweled on adhesive?? I've got a room about 14x25 that is full of these amazing vinyl floor tiles. They are really on there too!

capernius (author)pmckee2015-09-24

my first thought is yes....however, like the author said, it depends on the adhesive, how long the ice is left on there, & what the surrounding temperature is(temperature of the room).

Simple science says that anything that gets cold enough, will break or come apart(such as glue coming off the floor). The $64 million dollar Question is, how cold is cold enough; how long is long enough, and how durable is the glue you are trying to remove?

my personal opinion is, what have you got to lose by trying? Just do not buy 1000 pounds of dry ice until you know if it will work or not.

aeray (author)pmckee2013-12-18

It depends on the adhesive, but it I'd give it a shot.

capernius (author)2015-09-24

cool idea! never thought of clever! TY for sharing this useful tidbit of info. : )

Keko (author)2011-09-23

I have done this. The nutcase that put the tiles down used about and inch of glue. It took me an entire weekend to sand it off. Golly.

saxmaster765 (author)2011-06-17

Here's a question - Do you think this genius idea could work with 2 layers of vinyl at once? A previous owner poorly did our kitchen floor.

aeray (author)saxmaster7652011-06-18

I don't see why not, although you might have to concentrate on one layer at a time. Try it and let me know.

saxmaster765 (author)2011-06-17

The only other clean way I can think of doing this is with a heat gun and putty knife. The way you showed us here is the best way, and I plan on trying it. Good job!

ryry2011 (author)2011-02-07

5 worthless

aeray (author)ryry20112011-02-07

5* stars for "worthless"? Wow, and petty.

ryry2011 (author)aeray2011-02-07

what is the point of it

aeray (author)ryry20112011-02-07

Apparently your reading comprehension is a little lacking.

ryry2011 (author)aeray2011-02-07


mg0930mg (author)ryry20112011-06-17

This is helpful, unlike anything where you show people how to put together knex pieces...

About This Instructable




Bio: Craftsman of fortune. Less is more, and simpler is better.
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