Removing Ceramic Tile Adhesive

When it comes to retiling your bathroom walls, it is no easy task to get the old tiles off. If you have ever tried it, you will know that it can be extremely hard work and take hours to do the job properly. It can also be extremely frustrated when stubborn ceramic tile adhesive refuses to budge, but there are a few tricks of the trade that you can try to remove ceramic tile adhesive.

Before you remove ceramic tile adhesive, always wear the correct safety equipment. Gloves and goggles are a must because you will either have to use brute force or chemicals, or even a combination of both. You can put no price on your own safety, so make sure that you are well protected.

The Physical Approach

Some homeowners do try to remove ceramic tile adhesive with brute force. If you are also removing the tiles at the same time, then some of the adhesive may come off with them. If you are aiming to remove both at the same time then you need to take a slow deliberate approach, although this is ill-advised because you should never disturb the brickwork underneath and trying to force tiles and their adhesive up is a sure fire way to do that.

If you do insist on removing as much of the ceramic tile adhesive as possible with the tiles, then try to work at them from the side. Choose a corner starting point because this will give you leverage against the tiles to make the initial removal. The best tool to use is perhaps an electric clipping hammer, although a chisel would work too.


After locating a starting point and loosening the edge of the first tile with the hammer, try to insert a knife under the tile to its mid-point. Levering it up and down gently behind the tile will then loosen excess adhesive, although it cannot be fully removed via these means.

Any excess ceramic tile adhesive can be removed using an extremely sharp razor blade. This is an extremely time consuming and painstaking job. To remove all of the remaining adhesive without the aid of chemicals can take days, although on the positive side you do have complete control of the situation. After removing excess adhesive, simply use a regular adhesive remover to wipe down the walls.

The Chemical Way

Chemicals can indeed be more effective when it comes to removing ceramic tile adhesive. Again, you will need a chisel to remove excess adhesive that has stubbornly stayed on the wall.

Try diluted muraitic acid, although be careful to only apply it to the adhesive rather than rubbing it on the wall too as this will also damage the plaster an brickwork underneath. Use an old rag to apply and dispose of it immediately.

Soak and Go

The acid will soften the adhesive to the point where it will simply come away from the wall after being allowed to soak in for fifteen minutes or so. I do have to add that this is not a popular technique because of the possible downside of the acid getting elsewhere. Always make sure that other surfaces are covered with thick plastic sheeting before attempting it.

Removing stubborn ceramic tile adhesive can be a problem if you don’t have the patience but taking the time to remove it before relaying the walls will have a far better effecting the long run than leaving it where it lies. After all, it is a nicely decorated effect that you are looking to achieve.

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