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Removing tar adhesive on linoleum can be a difficult and tedious task. It is important to find out the age of the linoleum first. Prior to 1986, vinyl and linoleum floor tile was made with asbestos materials. However, as long as the substance remains moist, you don't have to be concerned about airborne particles, because the asbestos should be no more than Type 2 asbestos. With Type 2 asbestos, the particles are generally too big to cause lung damage. However, even though your linoleum may not consist of asbestos, if you plan to apply heat to soften the tar adhesive, a mask should be worn due to other fumes being produced. If you do not know the age of the linoleum or are leery of doing the job yourself, it may be wise to hire a professional to remove the linoleum in case it was made with asbestos.
If you are certain that the linoleum does not contain asbestos, pull up as much of the linoleum as possible. Because the linoleum adhesive is tar based, use white spirit and a thin scraper to remove the adhesive. If you have hardwood flooring underneath, be careful not to damage the flooring. Follow the wood grain. Don't use a heat gun to soften the tar adhesive on the linoleum. If you do this, you may run the risk of damaging your hardwood floors if you scrape the adhesive with a heavy-duty scraper. However, generally, the floor is capable of being sanded even if there is residue left behind.
Using Hot Water
You can also use hot water to remove the tar adhesive. After pulling up as much linoleum as possible, soak small segments of the floor with hot boiling water. To start the process, boil some hot water. Place an old towel on the tar paper and pour the hot water onto the towel. Wait for the water to cool. When you remove the towel, the tar paper and the tar adhesive should wipe off. It may be a bit of a mess, but this should get the job done. To get the job done quicker, you can use a wall paper steamer to soften the tar adhesive. After the steamer has been warmed up, lay the steamer applicator on a portion of the floor for about a minute or so. The tar paper and tar adhesive should be easy to scrape off the wood floor beneath the linoleum effortlessly. Use a container of hot water and gently scrub and clean the floor area. Wipe up the water with a damp cloth. While working with the first section, the next section should be steaming to keep the process going.
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