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:
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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
- 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.
- 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:
- wasn’t good for my hair dryer, and
- 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Monday 1st of June 2020
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!?
Wednesday 24th of June 2020
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 .
Saturday 18th of April 2020
Do the new tiles still stick okay to the baking soda
Sunday 19th of April 2020
So, I didn't put peel and stick tiles down afterward. My floor got nailed down, so stickiness wasn't an issue.
Tuesday 7th of April 2020
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.
Monday 16th of March 2020
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.
Thursday 19th of March 2020
Oh, I'm so glad to hear it went well! Thanks for letting me know!
Tuesday 18th of February 2020
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!
Wednesday 19th of February 2020
Ahh, thank you!!! Good to know it worked!