How (And How Not) to Remove Carpet Padding From Hardwood Floors

How (And How Not) to Remove Carpet Padding From Hardwood Floors {}

When my husband and I finally took possession of our new home we discovered a gem: finished hardwood floors underneath nasty carpet in our entire upstairs. We knew we wanted to tear out the carpet as soon as possible, and after hours of stripping wallpaper, priming and painting, we were ready. The results were great in our daughter’s bedroom, and not so shabby in the hall and the master bedroom. Then we discovered the floor in our son’s bedroom.

What a mess.

The hardwood looked fine, but a different kind of rubbery carpet padding had been used in the room. And instead of coming right up, most of the padding was cemented to the floor.
How (and how not) to remove carpet padding from hardwood floors/Accidentally Green

Safe methods

At first, I tried to pick off the padding that could come off easily.

Once I finished that stage, I tried spraying a mixture of one part vinegar to one part hot water. It did absolutely nothing.

Then I tried scraping off any matted padding with a plastic joint compound spreader. For hours. All of the rough, repetitive motion left the muscles, joints, and bones in my fingers, hand, wrist, arm, and back in pain.

How (and how not) to remove carpet padding from hardwood floors/Accidentally Green

What was left was the truly stuck-on padding. It looked a lot like someone had spread on gallons of refried beans and baked them onto the floor. Unfortunately, there was almost no way to scrape this remainder off the floor.

Drastic measures

I was starting to contemplate carpeting the room, so I searched online for padding removal ideas.

Fortunately I found one message board from other homeowners who dealt with the same hideous kind of carpet padding that stuck on hardwood floors. It was after I read their solutions that I decided to try very un-green, very unhealthy solutions. (Forgive me, readers.) And they worked.

My husband wanted me to try Goof-Off, a can full of toxins (like xylene) that gave me a headache as soon as I opened it. It worked, but it also removed the stain – which I didn’t want. I couldn’t stand the fumes, so stopped using it.

Next I tried a combination of one part hot water and one part ammonia. Ick. (Yes, I know ammonia irritates eyes, noses, and throats, and can even cause burns and respiratory problems if the exposure is too great. After I developed pneumonia a month after this home improvement project, I wonder if the room and sickness have any connection.) I used a breathing mask and rubber gloves and wiped it on the stubborn areas.

After letting it set for ten minutes, I scrubbed it off with a scrubber sponge, chiseled it off with the joint compound spreader, and wiped it off with a rag. Then I repeated, and repeated, and repeated. It still was a very long process, but it was effective.

Once my hand and arm pain was pretty unbearable and the toughest spots were left, I simply tried melting the padding off the floor with a blow dryer on high. It was the greenest solution at this stage, and it worked like a charm.
How (and how not) to remove carpet padding from hardwood floors/Accidentally Green

I was able to scrape the cemented parts off like Silly Putty, then I wiped the residue off with the ammonia and water mixture.

In the end, it took twenty-six hours of labor to clean the padding off the entire floor. It was brutal. But I finished the floor.

Have you had similar trouble trying to remove carpet padding? What techniques did you use?

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Hilary Kimes Bernstein is a Christ follower, wife, mama, and journalist. She writes about making healthy decisions that honor God and happen to help the environment at Accidentally Green. Short and sweet - like her writing - Hilary is the author of several healthy living eBooks.

Lovely comments

  1. Anonymous says

    I have ths same problem but with 825 sq ft of hardwood floor to clean. The padding is more than 50 years old and it is stuck stuck to the floor. I have tried hot water and stiff scrapers and had mild success with lots and lots of hard scraping but I don’t think that I can do 4 full size rooms with this technique. Any easier solutions out there?

  2. says

    I can’t wait to try your dryer method. I too have this pad only mine is red. I have had mild success (if you can call it that) in the non-traffic areas with a putty knife and sometimes hot water as well. I too suffered body aches for days. Now I am to the parts that won’t come off. I am so glad I found your post. I will let you know how mine turned out!

  3. lts says

    I read another post where the person mixed white vinegar and hot water (probably in a spray bottle). Left it on for a few minutes to soak in, then scraped up with a plastic scraper. Makes sense. This method works miracles on wallpaper removal.

  4. Judie says

    Wonderful tip! You saved me so much work. Advice: use a heat gun (craft store kind) less noise & weight. Works like a charm. Many thanks!

  5. Marc says

    I saw a tip somewhere to use Resolve, the carpet cleaner, but not to clean the carpet but get the padding residue up from a hardwood floor. The padding was not glued down, but fused with the floor anyway. It takes some elbow grease but it worked.


  6. Diane says

    Thanks for this post and to Mark for the suggestion to use Resolve!
    After hours of scraping, hot blow dryer, vinegar and hot water, I finally searched for this problem and found this post!The Resolve and easily rolling up the old padding residue with a plastic scraper worked like a charm. Saved me hours and hours of labor and frustration. Thanks again!

  7. Carol says

    When we pulled the old carpet and padding (which was a blue/yellow mixed color) from our floors, we found a thin layer of what apparently was black foam from the carpet before! It had fused with the beautiful oak hardwood floors. We scraped by hand, from a standing position, with a long handled scraper. I secured the tube from the shop vac onto the scraper blade for automatic clean-up and dust control. This removed about 50% of the old foam. Then I called my local carpet store and asked for a referal for someone experienced in hardwood floor refinishing. The man I called came out and in one day, with the right tools, he sanded two rooms and the hall singlehanded without much dust! His price was reasonable and I couldn’t have done that kind of work myself, even if I rented the tools. It was easy for me to refinish the newly sanded floors with polyurethane.

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