Home Improvement

How to Remove Old Tile Adhesive

If you have moved into a new house, chances are you may not like the previous owner’s design choices. While repainting or putting up new wallpaper is a piece of cake, retiling is a whole other experience. Not only do you have to take off every single tile, but you’re also left with all that adhesive, firmly stuck to the wall. That will need to go before you can put the new tiles up.

Worry not! In this post, we will share some tips on how to remove tile adhesive from your walls.

Table of Contents:

If you:

  • Want to change the tiles in your kitchen or bathroom;
  • Are struggling to remove the old tile adhesive from your wall;
  • Are thinking of reusing your old tiles,

Then keep reading! This article has the answers.

Removing tile adhesive from your walls is no easy task. The type of mortar and the material of the wall can all determine how much effort you need to put in. Some types can come off quite easily, while others may require more elbow grease.

So, let’s jump right into what it takes to remove tile adhesive.

What you need

  • Warm water
  • Clean cloth
  • Protective sheets
  • 4-inch scraper
  • Steamer
  • Protective gear (gloves, face mask)

Removing old tile adhesive from walls

There are two simple methods you can try here – warm water and steaming. This should be enough to clean up some types of mortar, but more stubborn materials might call for the use of commercial tile adhesive removers.

If you decide to try store-bought products, look for citric acid-based ones. These types are less harmful and require less ventilation during use. Always read and follow the instructions on the remover label when using chemicals.

Keep in mind that tile mastic can be flammable, so you should avoid using heat guns when trying to remove it.

So, here is how to remove tile adhesive from your wall.

How to remove tile adhesive using warm water

Warm water is sometimes enough to loosen the adhesive and make it easier to remove. So, here is what to do:

  1. Protect the floor.

    Make sure to put some plastic covers or old sheets on your floor to protect it from the fallen residue.

  2. Dip a cloth in a bowl of warm water.

    The water should be as hot to the touch as you can handle, as you will need to manually dip the cloth in it.

  3. Soak the adhesive with the cloth.

    This will loosen it, making it easier to take off the wall. You may need to leave the cloth on for a while in order for it to work.

  4. Scrape off the adhesive.

    Once the mortar softens up, scrape it off with a 4” scraper or a wallpaper stripper.

  5. Repeat the process until all tile adhesive is removed.

    This may take a while, depending on the size of the wall and the amount of adhesive you need to get rid of.

  6. Clean up the residue from the floor.

    This should be easy if you have put down protective sheets. Simply pick them up and throw away the residue. Sweep up any adhesive that may have escaped onto the floor.

If warm water doesn’t loosen the adhesive enough, you can move on and try the second method.

How to remove tile adhesive using a wallpaper steamer

When using a steamer, work in small areas to prevent the adhesive from hardening up again. Patience is key when removing old tile adhesive. Follow these steps to make the process easier:

  1. Protect the floor.
    Again, lay down some protective sheets to gather the fallen residue.
  2. Use the wallpaper steamer to heat up the adhesive.
    Move the tool around slowly and try not to hover over one spot for too long.
  3. When it softens up, scrape the mortar off.
    Use a 4” scraping tool. It should come off quite easily.
  4. Repeat the process until you remove all of the adhesive.
    Take your time when removing it, as rushing the job may not provide the desired results.
  5. Clean up the fallen residue.
    Sweep up any mortar that has fallen on the floor.
Take extra care if using the steaming method on a plasterboard wall. Do not let the steamer sit in the same spot any longer than 20 seconds, as it can blow the plaster.

Depending on the state of the wall after you have removed the tile adhesive, you may need to have it skimmed. This is to ensure a flat surface for the new tiles. In some cases, if the mortar is especially strong, it may be best to have the wall replastered.

If you opt for professional tile installation, removing old adhesive and plastering any holes will most likely be included in the service.

You may also like:
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How to remove adhesive from tiles

If you want to reuse old tiles, you will need to remove the old glue before reapplying them. You can use the same kind of methods as you did when cleaning up the adhesive from the wall. Or, for best results, you can soak the tiles in hot water.

  1. Fill up a container with hot water.
  2. Soak the tiles.
    Let them soak for at least an hour, or overnight.
  3. Take out the tiles and scrape off the mortar.
    Once soaked, take them out and scrape the adhesive off carefully.
  4. Wipe any residue off.
    Use a clean cloth so you don’t reapply any dirt or adhesive to the tile.
  5. Let the tiles dry out.
    Once dry you can reapply them to the wall.
You may also like:
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How to Drill Through Tiles Without Cracking Them

Need a helping hand?

Why not let the specialists handle all the hard work, instead of getting your hands dirty? Fantastic Services offers a professional tiling service that is sure to breathe new life into your kitchen or bathroom. Done by fully insured and reliable tilers, you can rest and relax, knowing that your walls are in safe hands. The specialists can remove any old tiles, and even supply new ones upon request, along with all the materials needed! Booking is easy – just use our online form and choose a time that suits your schedule.

Need a tiler? Book now for a professional service with satisfying results!


  • Some types of tile adhesive will require more elbow grease to remove than others.
  • You can use hot water or steaming to get mortar off your walls.
  • If using the steaming methods on plasterboard walls, take extra care not to blow the plaster.
  • To easily remove the adhesive from tiles, you can soak them in hot water.
  • If you’re not sure you can deal with the task yourself, you can always rely on the professionals.


Did you find this information useful? Do you have any tips of your own on removing tile adhesive? Share them with us in the comments below!

Image source: shutterstock / VanoVasaio

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