How to Remove Backsplash Glue

Removing old backsplash and the stubborn adhesive behind it can be a tedious and messy process. With the right techniques and tools, you can remove backsplash glue effectively without damaging your walls.

What You Will Need

  • Putty knife or paint scraper – for scraping off the bulk of the glue
  • Rags – for wiping down the walls
  • Mineral spirits or acetone – for dissolving the adhesive residue
  • Scrub brush or abrasive pad – for scrubbing off leftover glue
  • Drop cloths or plastic sheets – to protect floors and countertops
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, mask/respirator

Prepping the Workspace

Before starting demolition, prep your workspace to minimize mess and damage:

  • Clear countertops and cover with drop cloths or plastic sheets. Remove items from walls and shelves.
  • Have a trash bag ready for debris. Be prepared to deal with lots of sticky glue clumps coming off the wall.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands and goggles to avoid splashes. A mask/respirator is recommended to avoid breathing in glue fumes.
  • Ventilate the area well and turn on exhaust fans. The fumes from some adhesive removers can be very strong.

Removing the Backsplash Tiles

Start by prying off as much of the backsplash as possible using a putty knife or paint scraper:

  • Wedge the putty knife into the grout lines to separate the tiles. Apply force gradually.
  • Tap gently with a hammer if tiles are stubborn. Focus on a small area at a time.
  • Try to keep tiles intact for easier cleanup. But don’t be afraid to break them if needed.
  • Use a pry bar for large backsplash sheets that need extra leverage to remove.
  • Scrape in different directions to remove all remnants of grout between tiles.

Pile up the intact tiles and trash the broken shards. Now you’re ready to tackle the glue underneath.

Scraping Off the Residual Glue

With the tiles gone, you’ll see globs of dried adhesive stuck to the wall:

  • Use your putty knife or paint scraper to scrape off as much of the glue as possible.
  • Try to remove it in big clumps instead of small flakes for quicker cleanup.
  • Be systematic and scrape from top to bottom in columns. Rinse scraper frequently.
  • Avoid gouging or digging into the drywall. Scrape gently against paint.
  • Use a scrub pad for glue in textured areas. Switch blades if scraper gets dull.

Scraping will remove the bulk of the glue. But some sticky residue will likely remain.

Removing the Leftover Glue Residue

For the remaining thin glue film, use adhesive remover chemicals:

  • Test removers in an inconspicuous spot first. Chemicals can damage some surfaces.
  • Apply a liberal amount of mineral spirits or acetone with a rag. Avoid skin contact.
  • Let the solvent sit for 1-2 minutes to dissolve the glue, then scrub with a stiff brush.
  • Reapply remover and scrub repeatedly as needed to dissolve stubborn glue.
  • Wipe off residue frequently with clean rags before it re-hardens on the wall.
  • Use a plastic scraper to gently lift any glue strips softened by chemicals.

Thorough scrubbing and wiping will eventually remove the residual glue.

Cleaning and Prepping the Wall

Once all adhesive is removed, finish up with these final cleaning steps:

  • Wash the walls thoroughly with soapy water to remove chemical residue.
  • Rinse well and let dry fully before applying any new backsplash.
  • Sand down any remaining globs or uneven glue spots.
  • Fill divots or damaged drywall patches with joint compound and sand smooth.
  • Prime bare drywall before applying new backsplash. Primer helps seal and prep the surface.
  • Check for any leftover glue and reclean problem areas if needed. The wall must be completely clean before installing new backsplash.

Proper prep work now will allow your new backsplash to adhere successfully!

Tips for Preventing Damage

When prying, scraping, and scrubbing during removal, be cautious not to damage walls:

  • Take your time and don’t rush removal to avoid gouges.
  • Keep blades and scrapers at 45 degree angles to prevent digging into drywall.
  • Don’t use sharp tools near weak wall areas or joints.
  • Limit water to avoid crumbling drywall paper.
  • Test chemicals in inconspicuous areas first.
  • Rinse walls thoroughly after applying solvents.
  • Stop if you expose too much bare drywall and patch accordingly.

What Type of Glue Should I Expect?

Knowing your backsplash adhesive type will help guide removal techniques:

  • Mastic adhesives – Common for backsplashes. Water-based and the easiest to remove with mineral spirits.
  • Mortar – Cement-based and very hard when cured. May need chiseling.
  • Construction adhesive – Tough synthetic formulas like Liquid Nails. Try acetone or heat.
  • Double-sided tape – Often used on plastic or metal backsplashes. Remove slowly to avoid wall damage.

Adhesive remover effectiveness also depends on:

  • Age and drying time – Newer glue is easier to remove
  • Wall material – Drywall, plaster, concrete, etc.
  • Application thickness – Thin films come off easier than thick gobs

Test removers to choose the best option for your specific adhesive type and situation.

Can I Avoid Damage to Walls and Drywall?

Yes, with care and preparation, you can remove backsplash glue without wall damage:

  • Work slowly and gently, especially over drywall. Don’t gouge or dig in.
  • Keep scraping blades at 45 degree angles and rinse frequently.
  • Limit water and let walls dry fully before new backsplash.
  • Contain chemicals and rinse thoroughly when done.
  • Stop if you expose large drywall areas and properly patch.
  • Fill gouges and holes with joint compound, prime and paint.
  • Avoid hammering very hard in one area to prevent cracks.

Be patient, use safety gear, and test removal methods first. Take your time and do small sections to get walls clean without damage.

What’s the Easiest Way to Remove Glue Residue?

For quickest and easiest removal, focus on these steps:

  • Use the right adhesive remover – mineral spirits and acetone work well.
  • Let chemical sit for 1-2 minutes before scrubbing to dissolve glue.
  • Frequently reapply remover and scrub with a stiff brush.
  • Wipe off residue with rags before it re-hardens on surface.
  • Rinse thoroughly with soapy water when done to avoid chemical film buildup.

Applying, dwelling, scrubbing, and wiping repeatedly will help lift even stubborn adhesive quickly and easily.

Can I Use A Wallpaper Steamer?

Yes, a wallpaper steamer is an effective tool for removing glue residue:

  • Heat softens and liquefies adhesive for easier scraping.
  • Concentrated steam helps penetrate and dissolve glue.
  • Use steamer after scraping to tackle leftover residue.
  • Hold 6-12 inches away and continuously steam glue spots.
  • Scrape softened glue as you work. Reapply steam as needed.
  • Be careful of excess moisture running and damaging drywall.

For best results, scrape first then use a steamer for any remaining glue residue rather than trying to steam all the adhesive off.

What About Using Heat Guns or Blow Torches?

Heat guns and small blow torches can also soften glue for removal:

  • Use only over cement board, brick, or metal backsplashes, not drywall.
  • Heat adhesive until bubbling and pliable enough to scrape.
  • Keep heat source moving constantly to avoid burning or igniting.
  • Work in small sections reheating as you go to soften entire glue layer.
  • Avoid heating too intensely in one spot due to fire risks.
  • Give hot surfaces time to cool before scraping to prevent burns.

Heat can be effective but also dangerous. Use extreme caution if attempting this method.

Tips for Removing Glue from Drywall

Drywall can easily tear, gouge or crumble when removing backsplash glue. Here are some tips:

  • Watch blade angles and pressure to avoid digging into paper.
  • Limit water and give adequate drying time before new backsplash.
  • Chemicals can damage drywall so test first and rinse thoroughly after.
  • Gently sand any cured glue lumps then skim coat holes or gouges.
  • Use painters tape around joints and seams during removal to protect.
  • Stop if you expose large areas; properly patch and prime instead.
  • Work slowly and carefully, especially around screws or weak points.

Take your time with drywall to get backsplash glue off successfully without major damage.

What’s Better – Scraping or Chemical Removers?

For best results, balance both manual scraping and chemical removers:

  • Scraping removes the bulk fast but can gouge drywall if not careful.
  • Chemicals dissolve sticky residue efficiently but can damage surfaces.
  • Scrape first then use removers for thin leftover adhesive layers.
  • Reapply chemicals and scrub repeatedly as needed.
  • Wipe off softened glue frequently before it re-hardens.

It’s usually best to scrape off what you can manually then use removers for the remaining thin residue. Work systematically in small sections.

Can I Use Vinegar or Baking Soda?

Vinegar or baking soda can be used as mild and non-toxic adhesive removers:

  • Mix 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water and spray over glue residue.
  • Let sit briefly before scrubbing with a stiff brush or abrasive sponge.
  • For baking soda, make a paste with water and apply to glue spots. Scrub once dry.
  • Repeat applications and scrubbing may be needed for thorough removal.
  • Finish by washing walls with soap and water to remove any lingering residue.

These homemade options are safer than harsher chemicals but may require more scrubbing for tough glue. Test first.

What About Using Sandpaper or Sanding Blocks?

Sanding is an option for removing cured glue lumps:

  • Use medium grit sandpaper folded over a sanding block.
  • Gently smooth any hardened globs or ridges remaining after scraping.
  • Take care around joints or seams to avoid tearing drywall paper.
  • Avoid sanding too aggressively near weak spots or screws.
  • Wipe away dust and debris frequently while sanding.
  • Finish by cleaning sanded areas thoroughly before new backsplash.

Sanding works well for polishing off small amounts of dried adhesive but can damage drywall if overused.

Is Applying New Backsplash Over Glue an Option?

It is possible to apply new backsplash tile or panels directly over old adhesive:

  • This saves time and labor but has some downsides.
  • The new backsplash won’t adhere as well over glue residue.
  • Grout lines may crack or show imperfections over uneven glue.
  • Old adhesive could discolor or bleed through new backsplash over time.
  • Thick glue globs prevent flush installation and require extra prep.

Isolating old glue under new backsplash is generally not recommended. Thorough removal provides the best surface for proper adhesion and aesthetic results from your new backsplash.

Can I Hire a Professional?

Absolutely. If the glue removal project seems too large or daunting:

  • Many handymen services specialize in backsplash demo and prep work.
  • Professional removal mitigates risks of wall damage.
  • Experts have commercial-grade tools and chemicals for faster removal.
  • Licensed experts follow safety protocols like lead testing and asbestos abatement.
  • Pros save time and labor so you can focus on installing the new backsplash.

Hiring a qualified professional can ensure safe, effective adhesive removal without headaches. Get bids from multiple services to find the best value.


Removing old tiles is just the first step. Successfully getting rid of the underlying glue residue requires patience and the right techniques. Focus on scraping off as much adhesive as possible first before tackling the remaining film with remover chemicals. Mineral spirits, acetone and steamers can help dissolve stubborn glue without severely damaging walls. Work systematically in small sections for the best results. With caution and persistence, you can remove backsplash glue effectively and prep the surface for a stunning new backsplash design.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Backsplash Glue

What is the fastest way to remove old backsplash glue?

The fastest technique is to use a chemical adhesive remover like mineral spirits or acetone. Apply a liberal amount and let sit for 1-2 minutes before scrubbing to dissolve the glue quickly and easily. Wipe off softened glue right away before reapplying remover and scrubbing again as needed.

What tools do I need to remove backsplash glue?

Essential tools include a putty knife or paint scraper, rags, mineral spirits or acetone, a scrub brush, plastic sheets, gloves, goggles and a respirator mask. Optional extras are a pry bar, heat gun, wallpaper steamer or sandpaper.

Will adhesive remover damage my drywall?

It can potentially damage drywall if you use too much water or strong chemicals. Test removers in an inconspicuous spot first. Rinse walls thoroughly with soapy water after applying chemicals. Limit water exposure and let dry fully before new backsplash.

How do I get old mastic glue off a concrete backsplash?

Mastic comes off concrete relatively easily. Scrape off the bulk of the glue then apply mineral spirits generously. Let dwell 1-2 minutes before scrubbing clean with a stiff brush. Rinse thoroughly. Wear gloves and goggles for safety.

Can I put new tile right over old backsplash glue?

It’s not generally recommended. New backsplash won’t adhere well over glue residue. The adhesive could discolor or bleed through over time. Thorough removal is best for proper adhesion and aesthetic results.

What’s the safest glue removal method for drywall?

The safest backsplash glue removal for drywall uses manual scraping followed by diluted vinegar or baking soda scrubbing. Avoid excess water and let walls dry fully before applying new backsplash. Work slowly and gently to prevent tearing the drywall paper or crumbling edges.

How do I avoid damage to walls when removing glue?

Work carefully and don’t gouge or dig into the walls. Keep scraping blades at 45 degree angles and rinse often. Contain chemical usage and wipe residue before it re-hardens. Rinse chemicals off fully when done. Stop if you expose too much bare drywall and patch accordingly. Go slowly.

What should I do if my glue scraper damages drywall?

Minor gouges or holes can be repaired with joint compound. Smooth on a thin skim coat once glue is removed. Allow to fully cure and sand smooth. For torn paper or large damaged areas, cut out the affected drywall and install a new patch piece to match existing thickness. Tape joints, mud, and sand for seamless results.

Can I use a heat gun to remove glue instead of chemicals?

Yes, but only on non-flammable surfaces like metal or tile, not directly on drywall. Heat guns can quickly scorch or ignite walls. Blow torches are extremely dangerous. Keep heat source moving at all times. Scrape softened adhesive once cooled. Exercise extreme caution due to fire risks if attempting this method.