How to remove an old glued-down carpet

Updated July 01, 2018

Removing an old, glued-down carpet is a tedious task. There is not one sure-fire method for finishing the project, because the effectiveness of the methods used to remove the carpet and the glue depends on the type of adhesive, the age of the carpet, and the flooring underneath. Expect some of the carpet backing and glue to remain, even if the carpet itself pulls up easily. Budget several days for the project, and recruit at least one helper to make the job less onerous.

Remove baseboard moulding from the room by working a pry bar behind the top of the moulding and pulling gently. Work your way around the room, and remove any small nails that remain in the walls.

Use a carpet-pulling claw, available at home-improvement stores, to pull up as much of the carpet as possible. If the carpet separates from the glue easily, leaving the glue on the floor, you may be able to forego buying a carpet-pulling claw. Try working a paint scraper or other stiff metal tool under one edge of the carpet and pulling the carpet up.

Dissolve water-based glues by pouring hot water on one section of the carpet near a wall or corner, or using a steam cleaner to dampen the carpet. Let it sit for at least a half an hour, but don't allow the carpet to dry. Work a stiff metal tool such as a paint scraper under one edge, and pull the carpet up.

Consult with an expert at your home-improvement store about which adhesive remover is best for your floor and carpet if the hot-water method doesn't work. Take a sample of the carpet and glue with you when you go.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions when you use the adhesive remover. Make sure the room is well-ventilated, and that you wear gloves and protective goggles.

Recruit a helper, and use a carpet scraper to remove the carpet. Carpet scrapers come with both long and short handles, and have a sharp blade on one end. Push a long-handled scraper under the carpet and have your helper pull on the carpet as you scrape the blade underneath. Carpet-scrapers are best for concrete floors.

Use either a long-handled or short-handled carpet-scraper to scrape up the remaining carpet backing and glue. This is a tedious process. Protect your hands and knees with heavy gloves and kneepads if you're working with the hand-held tool. Be careful if you're working on a wood floor that you intend to refinish. Carpet-scrapers will gouge the floor if they're not used carefully.

Remove any small patches of glue, using coarse sandpaper. If you're refinishing a wood floor, use a floor sander.


Freezing the glue is sometimes effective. Put dry ice, available at many supermarkets, on the residue, and wait for the glue to freeze. Use a stiff metal tool to chip the frozen glue off the floor. Some glues are easier to remove when they're warm. Hold a hair dryer in one hand and a scraping tool in the other. Direct heat on the glue and use the scraper to remove it as it softens.


Always wear protective gear when working with sharp tools and chemicals.

Things You'll Need

  • Pry bar
  • Hot water
  • Steam cleaner
  • Paint scraper
  • Adhesive remover
  • Carpet-pulling claw
  • Carpet scraper
  • Coarse sandpaper
  • Floor sander
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About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.