How to Remove Black Tar Paper From Hardwood Floors

Updated April 17, 2017

Sometimes when renovating old floors, you find more problems than you had originally thought would happen. Underneath the carpeting or linoleum are layers of black tar paper. Most of the time this is put down to keep the moisture content from penetrating the wood floors beneath. Often times it sticks to the wood and comes up in sections. You will want to remove all of the black tar paper without ruining the wood below. Best of all, you can do it without harmful chemicals.

Brush liquid fabric softener with a paint brush onto the tar paper. Cover the entire area with liquid fabric softener.

Fill a hot bucket with water. Brush over the area with water using a paint brush where you applied the liquid fabric softener. The wetter you make it, the easier it will be to remove the paper. Be careful because the floor will become slick, and you could fall.

Cover the floor with a tarp or tarps depending on the size of your room to make the area less slippery to avoid accidents.

Wait four to five hours to give the area time to soak and loosen the paper from the floor. You can allow it to soak overnight.

Scrape the tar paper away with a scraper. If a section does not come up easily, simply reapply more liquid fabric softener and water and allow it to soak again.

Warm up the wallpaper steamer or a heat gun. You can rent one at most home improvement stores.

Lay the steamer on the floor, and leave it there for one minute to 90 seconds before removing. If using a heat gun, aim the heat gun at a section.

Lift the black tar paper from the floor. Gently scrape it away while it is still warm.

Fill a bucket with hot water. Dip a heavy-duty green cleaning pad, like you use in the kitchen, into the water and gently scrub the area. Do not scrub too hard or you will damage the floorboards.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 until the floor is done.


Be careful not to gouge the wood with the scraper as you remove the tar paper. You can also use a solution of one part vinegar to three parts water, and apply it in the same manner as the liquid fabric softener.


Do not leave the steamer or heat gun concentrated on an area so long that it scorches the floor.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint brush
  • Liquid fabric softener
  • Bucket
  • Hot water
  • Scraper
  • Wall paper steamer or heat gun
  • Heavy-duty green cleaning pads
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About the Author

Gail Delaney is a writer in South Dakota and has articles published online at various websites. She is the garden editor for BellaOnline, with years of gardening experience. Being the caretaker of her parents led her in the direction of medical issues, especially natural remedies.