How to Remove Heavy-Duty Adhesive Residue

Updated February 21, 2017

Heavy-duty adhesives are used primarily in the construction industry to secure building materials such as panelling, moulding and floor tile. Removing the residue that remains after the removal of the building materials can be a labour-intensive, messy process. Using a combination of methods to remove the residue, however, can cut down on time and ensure that the surface containing the residue remains undamaged.

Scrape small sections of heavy-duty adhesive from surfaces with a putty knife or long-handle floor scraper. Place the edge of the blade against the surface of the adhesive at about a 45 degree angle. Apply pressure to cut through the adhesive to the surface beneath. Push the blade along the subsurface, prying up and removing the adhesive as the blade moves along. Take care not to gouge the surface beneath the adhesive while pushing on the blade.

Sponge rubbing alcohol onto the difficult-to-remove adhesive and allow the alcohol to sit on the adhesive for 5 minutes to loosen it up. Use the putty knife or floor scraper to remove the loosened adhesive.

Remove large sections of adhesive with an industrial-grade adhesive remover. Test the solvent first on an unobtrusive area by placing a dab onto the surface to see if it causes damage. If not, spread the adhesive remover over the adhesive using a sponge. Wait the amount of time suggested by the adhesive remover manufacturer for the remover to dissolve the adhesive residue. Use a putty knife or floor scraper to scrape away the adhesive after the prescribed time.

Apply heat to the adhesive residue if it's resistant to both scraping and chemical adhesive remover. Use a heat gun to melt the adhesive in place by pointing the gun at the adhesive residue from a distance of about 6 inches. Move the gun in a back-and-forth motion over the adhesive, melting it into a sticky paste. Use a putty knife or floor scraper to remove this paste.

Fill a spray bottle with mineral spirits and spray the surface that contained the adhesive, wetting it down. Wait 15 minutes, then wipe away the spirits along with the remaining adhesive residue using a clean rag.

Rinse the surface with a damp sponge to remove the spirits and allow the surface to dry.


Wear chemical-resistant work gloves when working with adhesive remover to avoid harming your skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Putty knife
  • Floor scraper
  • Sponge
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Industrial-grade adhesive remover
  • Heat gun
  • Spray bottle
  • Mineral spirits
  • Rags
  • Work gloves
  • Water
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About the Author

Larry Simmons is a freelance writer and expert in the fusion of computer technology and business. He has a B.S. in economics, an M.S. in information systems, an M.S. in communications technology, as well as significant work towards an M.B.A. in finance. He's published several hundred articles with Demand Studios.