How to remove old tile cement

Updated February 21, 2017

Tiles can be found in a variety of places in the home, from the bathroom wall to the kitchen back splash. Many tile installers use tile cement to hold these pieces in place; the cement is a powerful adhesive related to mortar. Tile cement is meant to hold the tiles in place for decades. If you decide to replace your old tiles, getting the tiles off of the wall may be just the start of your worries; you will also need to remove all of the old tile cement from the wall, as well as from the tiles if you want to reuse them. Specialised adhesive removers can dissolve the cement and make removal easier.

Ventilate your work area well. Adhesive removers are strong chemicals, and the fumes can be harmful if breathed in large amounts for long periods of time.

Wear gloves to protect your hands when using strong chemicals--the substances can irritate the skin, or can be spread to sensitive areas of your body such as the eyes and mouth.

Apply an adhesive remover containing methylene chloride to the tile cement. Methylene chloride is a strong solvent that can dissolve adhesives. Apply it with a paint brush or a rag.

Allow the solvent to work on the tile cement for five minutes. Scrape away loosened cement with a flat-edged plastic or metal scraper. Be careful not to scratch the wall under the cement.

Repeat steps three and four until all cement is removed. Use the same application method for backs of tiles, but scrape with a putty knife or small plastic scraper so that you do not break the tile in the process.


Find methylene chloride adhesive removers at hardware and home-improvement stores. If you cannot find such a product, try using chemical paint stripper to dissolve the cement. Follow all instructions included with your chemical solvent. Some solvents may be rendered ineffective by sunlight or certain temperatures.


Adhesive removers containing methylene chloride are closely related to paint stripper; they will remove any paint from the area--or anywhere they drip--along with the tile cement.

Things You'll Need

  • Protective gloves
  • Methylene chloride-based adhesive remover
  • Scraper
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About the Author

Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.