Asked on Feb 05, 2014

How do I remove the adhesive from 1950's pink wall tiles?

Michelle M
by Michelle M
We have removed several hundred wall tiles from our pink bathroom and need to put most of them back on the wall to complete our renovation. I want to remove the adhesive and backing on the tiles. Does anyone know how I can do this? What sort of solution can I soak these in?
  23 answers
  • Jessica C Jessica C on Feb 05, 2014
    I guess I don't know why you would want to put them back on the wall? It would probably be easier to replace them. Alternatively, you could try soaking them in some sort of solution to remove the grout. Vinegar perhaps? Chipping all that grout off would be a nightmare. If I were you, I would just use white or black tile around the tub for a vintage look and incorporate a few pink tiles here and there for a bit of extra color and pattern. Good luck!
  • Tabby Tabby on Feb 06, 2014
    I think the pink tiles are LOVELY. Colored tiling is coming back in style and pink is a popular color. When I had to replace some of mine, I just soaked the tiles in a 5 gallon bucket of hot water with about a cup of cheap white vinegar. Took a couple of days but the mortar on the back loosened up and I was able to scrape it off with a chisel. If some bits are harder to remove, try laying the tiles upside down packed tightly (so they don't move) in a raised-edge cookie/sheet baking pan and run a belt sander over them. Wear eye protection, of course. Bits of tile, mortar or grout in your eye is not worth it.
  • Betty Hillman Betty Hillman on Feb 06, 2014
    I'am so glad you plan on reusing them in your remodel. Check out a site called Pam at Retro Renovation~~ it is all about retro restoring and remodeling. There might be some ideas there ~
  • Spheramid Enterprises Spheramid Enterprises on Feb 07, 2014
    What ever you do , do NOT use mastic on the reinstall , either old or new, it is not waterproof and relies on grout to keep the wall behind from rotting. Also do not use drywall, even green board, use proper tile backer with membrane and thinset. 1000's of showers have been done the old way and they all wind up being redone as soon as the grout fails and the wall /floor behind all rots. As to re-using the tile? Your call, but I'd not...the mastic may soften some by a long hot soak some caustic solution, but honestly, I can't see the point.
  • Cheryl Cheryl on Feb 07, 2014
    spray with wd40, and let sit for about 15 minutes.. spray once more, let them sit for another 15 minutes, and it should wipe right off..
  • Wanda.ll Wanda.ll on Feb 07, 2014
    I'm confussed. Are you taking the pink off or are you putting it back on? Is the pink stuff a type of film that sticks? Now the reason I ask is this. If it is like stickers you use there are some things you can do to remove them. This is the same thing you use to remove stubborn price stickers. Spray with good old cooking PAM yep leave it to soak a few minutes and the things will either just come off or use a single edge razor blade and they will come off. They also make some stuff called goof off it works so does WD-40.Baby oil might even work to get off. Now if you plan on putting them back on. Well I don't know what you need to do. maybe some kind of adhesives you would use for wallpaper in a bathroom or kitchen.
  • Retro Steam Works Retro Steam Works on Feb 07, 2014
    There is no way to remove the thin set completely, if so you would spend around 20 or 30 minutes per piece and that'd involve chiseling the adhesive away and then scraping with a very sharp utility blade. Sadly, once the tiles come off there is no way to reuse them. *I have remodeled my two bathrooms and tiled my entire home.
  • Carole curtis Carole curtis on Feb 07, 2014
    I don't understand why you want to reinstall the pink? I only say this because if you ever sell your home, it will bring the price DOWN. If you are set on keeping the rest of the pink tiles in the rest of the bathroom, how about putting up white subway tiles in the tub/shower area and accenting it wi a border tile of a complimentary color such as a pattern with maroon and pale green. You could then put a border of same tiles over the pink tiles left in rest of room to tie it in. But, really, I would recumbent replacing all the tile with some neutral color and then just hang pink towels if you are so hung up on that color.
    • Sibylle Sibylle on May 06, 2015
      @Carole curtis I think putting the pink tiles back sounds prettier.
  • Teresa A Teresa A on Feb 07, 2014
    The pink tiles are lovely. I actually took a bunch of pink tiles that didn't have a lot of adhesive on the back out of the trash when my neighbor remodeled an old bathroom years ago. Good luck!
  • Remove the wall materials and replace with backer board or drywall using a water proofing such as Kirdi membrane as allowed by codes in your area. You will spend 10 times more time trying to remove the adhesive off of the walls then you would spend on simply replacing the old stuff. This is a great time to add insulation on outside walls, upgrade plumbing and fix many surprises that are often covered when the original bath was installed. Keep gap in corners about 1/8 inch so when wrapping the water proofing membrane it can be tucked tight into each corner keeping it square. When wrapping waterproofing membrane around a closed corner it builds up making it harder to get the tiles to stand tight to each other and still remain flat. For ahesive on old tiles, soak them in paint stipper. You may need to try a few brands, but most will soften and remove the older adhesive. Its work but worth it.
  • Katie Pepin Katie Pepin on Feb 08, 2014
    Great answers here, I would like to add just one thing. Reusing the tile is a great idea. However, I personally would never reuse tile on a shower "wet area" install. Since water damage can destroy your hard work, very quickly, if the grout fails. After all, isn't it challenging enough to get the correct and proper installation with new tiles? And, especially in a shower, where leaks are expected, not wanted, but it is certainly on everyones mind to prevent during installation. I am all for reuse in every fashion, just not tiling IN the wet area. It seems, in retrospect, the life span of those projects are cut short when the grouting starts to fail. Would hate to see you do all of this for a short return for your trouble. The very best of luck to you, please, as always keep us posted.
    • See 2 previous
    • Lucid Designs Lucid Designs on Nov 24, 2014
      @Katie Pepin I completely agree with being apprehensive about re-using tiles in the wet area.
  • Spheramid Enterprises Spheramid Enterprises on Feb 09, 2014
    reinstalling 50's pink tile is like putting rust back on your car, harvest gold appliances, and dressing up like a Happy Days episode. But, if that's what sails your ship, you can still do it with better methods and materials than what was there. About grout failure, it isn't the end of the world now with better backers and epoxy grout or sealers. But that mastic vs. thinset will be an issue. Mastic is Ok for some dry areas , but never in a shower.
  • Jackie Prim Jackie Prim on Feb 09, 2014
    When we bought our 77 rancher I hired a you man who repaints old tiles. In each bath he painted over green and gold with white bright glossy paint.Its now10 years old.and still looks like new.It was a fraction of what a new tile job would have been..
  • Helen Mays Helen Mays on Nov 24, 2014
    I removed stuck on glue with petrol, it came off so easily. Try a bit of petrol.. but don't light up!
  • Nancy Nancy on May 10, 2015
    We used to have a tile business and my husband would bring home old tiles for touch ups and projects. Soak in water a while, depends on thinset, and it should chip off pretty easy. My kids would help so it wasn't too hard. May need a flat edge like scraper, putty knife etc. there's nothing wrong with with reusing older tile. Some may break though during removal off wall. Lessening your amount though to work with
  • Toto Toto on Jan 10, 2016
    As former homebuilder: I wouldn't reuse tile. It's never quite right when reused. It appears from the photo that you have regular sheetrock on the wall. If so, it needs to be removed also, and replaced with "greenboard", which is water resistant, and is to be used in wet areas. For all you tile removers: the ez way (and professional way) to replace tile isn't to take it off tile by tile. Rather, cut the sheetrock and remove the whole piece at once. New sheetrock (greenboard) is inexpensive as compared to the hours of taking tile by tile. Cutting the wall should only take 1-2 hours. Do have help available. The "wall" is heavy.
  • Teresa Teresa on Feb 21, 2016
    I removed 50's plastic tiles from our wall and found that the glue is thick and stuck to the plaster on walls....How do I get the glue off? I think this will be a very nasty project but I am up for the job. :)
    • See 3 previous
    • M2033732817 M2033732817 on Jul 04, 2018

      Did you get the adhesive tested ever? We have the exact same thing under our plastic tiles and are nervous about possible asbestos but are also on a tight time frame.

  • Gladys Gladys on Mar 16, 2016
    Pantone has designated Pink and Light Blue as their 2016 Colors of the Year!
  • Silvertone Silvertone on Mar 22, 2016
    We just removed this ugly plastic pink tile, from our bathroom. Black mold was beginning because there was only sheet rock behind it. When we removed the tub, we found a 1947 newspaper, so cool! We are going to place a current newspaper back in the walls, for someone else to find some day.
  • Teresa Teresa on Aug 26, 2016
    My tiles were plastic so they probably used different glue....end results of remodeling can be fabulous but getting there can be very frustrating...:(
  • Nan33702871 Nan33702871 on Jun 29, 2018

    I came across your tile job because I have very similar problem in my 50 yr old house. What did you finally do? Use same backer board? What kind of Glue? How did you waterproof? How did it turn out? thanks for any response.

  • Teresa Teresa on Jul 05, 2018

    I did take a sample of it to the local hardware store and asked someone working in the flooring department and he did not think it was. The heat gun really saved time and energy....turns it into a putty that just scrapes off but only do one tile area at a time as it starts to harden again....good luck...:)

  • Xie ba Xie ba on Jun 04, 2020

    My old 1926 home had plastic tiles in the kitchen: UGH the smell was so gross that we ended up placing wainscot over the smelly hard glue. worked perfect. My 1938 home has pink and gray tiles and I LOVE them. The kitchen has gray and dark purple tiles. I love the character of the 1950s. My only issue is the window in the bath shower: I'm thinking of glass block.