Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition

How to Remove Peel and Stick Floor Tile

Everyone loves peel and stick tile… until you have to remove it. Learn the easy secret to removing peel and stick tile in this quick tutorial!

Peel and Stick tile seems to be every DIY decorator’s best friend: it’s inexpensive, easy to install, and looks good… most of the time. In my new home’s kitchen, however, I was not a fan. Here’s what I started with: 

Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition

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The tile darkened what was already a pretty dark kitchen, and as a part of my kitchen remodel, I wanted to replace the floor with something lighter

The peel and stick tile had to go. But, we all hear about how easy peel and stick tile is to install, but is it easy to remove??

Spoiler alert: No.

I started with just a prybar and a hammer, and worked to pry the tiles off the floor. Did it work? Sure, if I wanted to spend the rest of my life breaking little pieces of tile off the floor…

I quickly realized I needed a faster method; ideally one that pulled the tile off in a full piece.

So I did a bit of research, and learned that the adhesive holding the tiles softens when heat is applied. Since a hairdryer was one of the few things I had already unpacked, that became my preferred method of heat application. 

How to Remove Peel and Stick Tile
Materials
  • Hair Dryer – You should know that regardless of it’s adhesive melting abilities, this is the best hair dryer in the world. The brush attachment dries my hair super fast, while simultaneously straightening my (admittedly already straight) hair. I’ve had it for at least five years now, and am still in love.
  • Hammer
  • Small Prybar
  • Baking Soda
Step 0: Prep

I feel misleading calling the prep work a step for this project; it took all of 3 minutes. 

I removed any materials that were on top of the tile, aka, the AC grate and the transition strips that the previous owner had put at all of the doorways. 

About halfway through the project, I also removed all of the cabinets, but I only did that because I was getting new cabinets, and planned to install my new floor under those cabinets. The peel and stick tile didn’t actually continue under the cabinets.

Step 1: Warm Up the Tile

The warmer you can get your tile, the easier it will be to remove. I used a hairdryer to do this, since it was easily accessible, although I’ve also read that using your iron is also a possibility.

I imagine if you put a towel down over the tile (so you don’t melt the surface of the tile and end up with a giant mess) and then iron, it would heat the tile hotter and faster than my hairdryer method. If you try/tried this, please let me know in the comments below; I really want to know how it goes!!

Edit: Some people tried this (see comments!) and it went well! It was also mentioned that a heat gun could work really well too.

So as referenced above, I heated my tile with a hairdryer. I put the hairdryer on high, and held it about an inch above the tile. 

Holding it closer better warmed the tile (yay!), but overheated my hairdryer, since a bunch of the hot air was forced back into the motor (boo.) This:

  1. wasn’t good for my hair dryer, and
  2. meant I had to continually stop and wait for it to cool down.

Obviously, I opted to hold the hair dryer at least an inch away from the tile to avoid this.

Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition

I held the hairdryer about an inch above the tile as to not overheat the hairdryer. Typically moving the hairdryer around the tile for about 30 seconds was enough to heat it up sufficiently.

Step 2: Pry Up a Side

Starting at a corner, I worked the pry bar under the tile, using my hammer to push it further under when necessary. 

Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition

I moved down one side with the pry bar, with the goal of lifting that one side far enough off the floor to be able to grab on to it with my hands.

I have this prybar set, and the largest bar was perfect for this project. Additionally, the set has been everything I’ve ever needed for all of my demolition projects, so if you’re in need of a set, check it out!

Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition
Step 3: Pull the Tile

You have one goal when pulling up a piece of tile: get the tile up in one piece. If (when) you fail at this goal, you’ll have a little piece of tile that is still well-stuck to the floor.

For whatever reason, it seems significantly more difficult to get up the small pieces of tile than one large piece. It is annoying and time-consuming, so you’re much better off trying to keep the tile in-tact.

Because of that, I found there was a right and a wrong way to pull the tile.

Wrong Way: Pulling up. On all the tiles where I pulled up (aka, at a 70 degree angle with the floor) the steep angle that I was pulling snapped my tile instead of lifting the remainder off the floor. 

I was left with part of the tile completely off the floor, and some of the tile still stuck to the floor, and these two pieces connected by the thin decorative layer (that rips off super easily.)

Right Way: Pulling toward myself. By pulling toward myself (aka, at about a 30 degree angle with the floor), there was enough pressure for the tile to slowly raise up, but not enough upwards pressure to snap the tile. 

Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition

This was the angle I pulled at that was successful. I also used both hands, but couldn’t manage that while taking a picture!

Step 4: Lay Baking Soda

Once you remove the tile, there is a thin layer of adhesive that remains on the floor, and as expected, it is super sticky. 

I didn’t find that there was enough adhesive to make the floor bumpy and cause issues with the new floor I was going to install, so I didn’t try to remove the adhesive. 

Instead, I just dropped handfuls of baking soda (which I buy from Costco in a giant size) on the floor, which stuck to the adhesive and hid the stickiness. 

Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition

After finishing the whole floor, I vacuumed up the baking soda before installing the new floor.

Step 5: Repeat (many times​​​​…)

The floor will eventually be gone, I promise.

Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition
Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition
Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition

Final Thoughts

Removing the peel and stick tile was a tedious process for sure, but my new kitchen was 100% worth it – go take a look at the final reveal!

Did you try to remove peel and stick tile? How did it go? Did you use the hairdryer method, the iron method, or something else? Please tell me – I’m sure there will be more peel and stick tile for me to remove in the future… like in the laundry room.

Finally, if you found this useful, I would absolutely love if you saved it to Pinterest. That way, other people can find this post too!

Find out the easiest way to remove your peel and stick floor tile. # AButterflyHouse #Flooring #PeelAndStickTile #Demolition

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18 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post! I have two layers of peel and stick tile to take up in a bedroom, and it became obvious very quickly that it was going to be hard to do. This is exactly what I was looking for.
    I have a heat gun so it should go pretty quickly. ?

    1. I’m so happy you found this helpful!! It makes my day when I hear things like that!

      If you have a chance, will you let me know how the heat gun goes? I think you’re right that it’ll go quickly, but I have more tile to remove in the laundry room and I’d love to get that confirmed!

  2. Why did you have to remove the peel and stick tile? If it was adhered well, no pieces coming up and/or no pieces broken, chipped, etc., then you could easily put another layer of flooring right over it (eg. another layer of peel and stick or plywood as you did).

    1. So in my case, I was tearing out the cabinets as well, and the peel and stick tile didn’t continue underneath them. So in order to cover the entire room with an even floor, the peel and stick tile had to go. But in another situation, that idea could totally work!

  3. have been told any glue left begind on the floor can be removed with acetone (nail varnish remover)

    1. I could totally see that working. I didn’t need it here, but in the case that the adhesive was causing issues, that would definitely be something to try!

  4. I removed 4 rooms of peel & stick tile (so far) in my house. There was 5 layers in my kitchen. My daughter and I tried everything (started in the kitchen). It was absolutely hilarious and did not work well. I finally bought a heat gun. It removes the peel & stick tile pretty well but leaves a great dean of residue. I also used a flat sheetrock trowel about 4 inches wide. I then used Goo Gone to remove the glue from the really nice hardwood floors underneath. (Why would anyone cover hardwood with peel and stick?) They also started at the walls and moved inward, so that the tiles would eventually overlap. It took about 2 hours to removed and clean 6 or so tiles. A lot of work, but well worth the trouble. Only 1 room and the hall left to do. I am not real clear on the baking soda. If it helps to remove the residual glue, I am all for it. This is the hardest part.

    1. Wow, Sandra, this seems like a huge project. I’m so impressed at how much you’ve done so far!

      As for the baking soda, it doesn’t help remove the residue, it just makes it less sticky. In my project, I was putting new floors down on top of the residue, so it didn’t matter if I removed it or not, since it would be covered up. Since you want to use the hardwood floors in your house, the baking soda probably isn’t the right solution for you. Here are a couple of ideas:

      1) I’ve read that acetone might remove the glue. Do a bit of research- acetone is a strong chemical, and I’m not sure if it could/would damage your hardwood. But it’s definitely something worth looking into.
      2) Are you using the heat gun to soften the glue further before scraping it off with the trowel? This probably won’t be the ultimate solution you’re looking for, but it could help. Be careful not to burn the hardwood.
      3) Is the hardwood you’re uncovering in good shape, i.e, the finish is nice, there aren’t any stains, etc? I have some photos of damaged hardwood here, if you’re not sure what that looks like (towards the bottom of the post.) If your hardwood isn’t in the best shape and needs to be refinished, the drum sander will strip the adhesive off along with the finish of the wood. Refinishing floors is expensive to have done professionally, and a giant pain to DIY, so I wouldn’t recommend this route unless the floors you’re uncovering are in poor shape. But it would solve your adhesive problem.

      Good Luck!! And if you find a good solution, please let me know!

  5. Refinishing the floors with all that sticky residue would be a nightmare. I would not be able to afford all the sanding belts. They would be too gummed up after about 2 rounds. I had two rooms professionally refinished. After paying that bill, I decided that my floors were in dang good shape and left the rest alone. One room was on concrete and there was no way to get that out, so it got carpet. I tried everything that was recommended by the local hardware guys and that did not work. The way that I did It was the best that I could come up with. My best advice: if you don’t like the peel and stick tile…don’t buy the house. Lesson learned the hard way. I am way too old for this much work!

  6. Yes, I ironed my kitchen floors! There were 3 layers of linoleum; the third was probably true linoleum put down with a black tar-like substance in 1925 when the house was built. Luckily I had an older steam iron I used with thick dampened old towels. It was still a slow go but it did soften the black goo to where it could be scraped off. What we go through for the love of these old houses!

  7. I don’t have a hair dryer so I tried the iron, and it worked great- didn’t take long running over an old towel to soften the glue and peel it up with a wide plastic putty knife.

  8. Those who used an iron, you put a damp towel on top of the tile and ironed the towel? I start this today and got 4 pieces up.

  9. I’m redoing my laundry room floor. Perl and stick tiles on concrete. I’m finding that the baking soda left to sit on the goo does make it easier to scrape up. I want to paint and stencil so I may try acetone and sand a bit if the acetone doesn’t work as well as I hope. Anyone know how to clean up after the acetone!?

    1. Acetone evaporates quickly, so I don’t think there should be any additional cleaning you have to do to get the acetone up (if I’m understanding your question correctly). It’s also water soluble, so if you want, you could always just go over it with a wet rag .

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