How to Remove Old Carpet Foam Rubber From Wood Floors

The Wood Floor Covering Association doesn't recommend putting any type of carpeting with a rubber backing on your wood floor, and if you're looking for a way to get the dried latex off your floor, you probably know why it doesn't make that recommendation. Once the backing is stuck onto the floor finish, removal is a tedious process that involves softening with a solvent and scraping. The trick is to find a solvent that works without damaging the floor finish.

Some Solvent Possibilities

  • Mineral spirits is a good solvent with which to start experimenting -- it can soften synthetic adhesives, and it's safe for most floor finishes.
  • If mineral spirits doesn't work, try denatured alcohol, which is good for removing dried latex paint.
  • A third option is spray lubricant, which is a petroleum distillate like mineral spirits and can loosen the adhesion of the latex to the finish without damaging the finish.
  • Latex paint remover, which usually contains xylene, is a fourth possibility.

Stronger solvents -- such as acetone and lacquer thinner -- are out unless you want to refinish the floor. Water seems safe, but wood flooring manufacturers are unequivocal about avoiding water when cleaning hardwood floors because of the long-term damage it can do to the wood.

Removal Process

Step 1

Scrape off as much of the carpet backing from the floor as you can, using a plastic paint scraper. You can dig into the foam without fear, because the plastic isn't hard enough to scratch the floor finish.

Step 2

Moisten an area of foam with a solvent that you've tested and found to be safe for the floor finish. Let it soak in for about 15 minutes, then continue scraping. If you don't have any luck, apply more solvent. If the solvent you're using doesn't seem to have any effect, try another one.

Step 3

Soak a cloth with the solvent and use it to wipe up residue after you've scraped the bulk of the foam off. Wipe again with a dry cloth when all the residue is gone.

Using Water is Risky, But ...

Even though water is the sworn enemy of wood flooring, it's also an effective solvent and may work when others fail, especially when mixed with dish soap for more emulsifying and lubricating power. If you choose to use water, don't let it stand on the floor. Instead, scrub the foam with a sponge soaked in soapy water, then dry the floor, rinse and dry again. As long as the water remains on the surface of the boards and doesn't seep between them, it shouldn't do much damage.