How to Remove Thinset Mortar from Tile and Concrete

How to remove thinset – Removing old tile flooring means a lot of work after. This process is always followed by a lot of dust everywhere, a huge pile of debris, an exposed floor made of stone that is extremely uneven and also a coating of substance that resembles and acts like gum and refuses to leave the surface.

This sticky, gum like substance is called thinset. It has a mortar that has adhesive qualities and is used to stick the tiles to rough places such as concrete so that the tiles are in place always. The disadvantage with thinset is that it is not like the other kinds of gum. Unlike them, thinset has the quality of solidifying like a rock. As a result of this, getting this off the surface can be very intimidating if you are not aware of the easiest way of doing it.

If you think that you can conveniently set a fresh surface of flooring on top of it without removing it, then you are mistaken. Doing this will result in a terribly uneven area which will definitely require levelling as soon as it is laid.

Hence, the best thing to do is to remove it completely and relax!!There are simple ways of doing this too. In this article, we are going to discuss 7 different easy ways to dislodge the mortar that attaches itself firmly to the tiles. We can remove the concrete under this also along with the thinset.

How to Remove Thinset from Tiles

1. Removing Thinset Mortar from Tiles

The thinset mortar becomes so hard that it is difficult to remove. So, the first step in this process is to make it soft so that we can remove it easily. The best way to do this is with soap. Your usual dishwashing soap will work wonders for this. Take some dishwashing soap in a bucket of water. The water should be warm. Pour the suds over the area to be worked on so that it covers the whole area. Allow the suds to remain in the area for a few minutes and the thinset absorbs the soap water and looses its hardness. It becomes soft.

Wait for sometime and then remove however much of the thinset that can be removed. Remember to clean the grout also. After this, allow the slush formed on the floor to dry completely. The next step is to remove any residual huge pieces that are still there. If you want to preserve any tile and keep it intact, remember to scoop it out carefully at this stage.

The last step in this process is removing any substance that is still left over. To do this, a rotary sander (50-grit) on the lowest setting. To finish, use a vacuum cleaner to take off the resulting dust and you are done. If you still feel dissatisfied, try the method that is described next. 

The advantages of this method are that you do not have to spend much on it and the chaos and clutter involved in also less. The disadvantages are that it may involve quite a bit of labour and the many stages in the process of removing the thinset.

2. Removing Mortar Cement from Your Tiles

how to remove thinset

This is another method of removing mortar cement from tiles. You just have to combine vinegar and water. Spray or spread this mixture all over the tiles. Make sure that you cover the cement lines too. Allow some time for this mixture to penetrate. This will not take more than a few minutes. After this, wipe out the whole place. Ensure that it is as spotless as possible. 

The next step in this process is to utilise a razorblade or scraper and remove the mortar. Be attentive to the fact that the tiles should not be scratched. After this whole process is over, clean the whole place again this time with a clean piece of old cloth. It pays to be cautious to remove all the dust because here, we are not sanding the mortar. We are scraping it.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this method too. The benefits are that the mess created is very little and is very efficient in eliminating the mortar completely. The disadvantages are it uses up a lot of time and can get very exhausting. It is also true that some people abhor the smell of vinegar.

3. Removing Mortar Cement from Reclaimed Tiles

If you choose this method, you will be have to be extremely cautious and protect yourself with goggles and rubber gloves. This is because this process involves using muriatic acid. The first part of this process is to combine the acid and water in a bucket. Then, put the tiles inside the solution and let them soak. Since you will be working with a bucket, it may not be possible to soak all the tiles in one go. You may have to soak them in batches.

Let the tiles soak in the solution for some time. Then the tiles have to be cleaned with a brush. In this process, there is actually no need for any scraping. However, it is advisable to have a razor blade or scraper ready in the event of needing them. Please remember that what you are handling is an acid and so, exercise extra caution. Take care to see that it does not spill on surfaces that can be damaged as it can spoil it or tarnish it.

After the cleaning process is done, the tiles must be washed properly in clean water and then left to dry at least for a day.

As with other processes, there are advantages and disadvantages to this method also. The benefits are that it is a very simple process and is very efficient. Added to this, it is not very costly also. The difficulties are that people who are normally cautious will not want to risk exposure to such powerful acids and the required protective gear. Apart from this, this acid can damage or spoil other articles too. The time that you have to spend on this process is also a lot. If there are a lot of tiles, then the time spent is also proportionately more.

How to Remove Thinset from Concrete

1. Manually Removing Thinset from Concrete

As mentioned, this is a manual process and hardly involves any expenditure. This is because you will do all the work yourself. All you have to do is get a strong scraper or a chisel and use it to remove the thinset from the concrete. You will have to do this slowly as you can remove it only a little at a time. How successful you will be will depend completely on how strongly the thinset is stuck to the concrete and also on how much of strength you have to remove such strongly stuck thinset.  The advantages are amazing as the whole process exercises you extremely well and to double your happiness, you do not have to spend much at all. However, this process can be a painfully slow one. It can also lead to a lot of fatigue as it can drain all your strength. This is especially true if the area that you have to work on is large.

2. Removing Thinset from Concrete Using an Angle Grinder

how to remove thinset

What can be better than an angle grinder to help get rid of thinset? This works best when it is partnered with the toughest metal brush as an add on.

This process is best suited to remove thinset that is not very hard or tough. It can also be used in areas where there is very little thinset to remove, thus requiring just a little bit of tidying. If the thinset that you have to work with is the type that becomes soft and loose when it is soaked, then this is the procedure to be followed. In such areas, this process can clean up the place in no time and leave it looking neat and tidy. The only extra time that you will have to provide for is the time required for the thinset to soak and become soft.

The obvious advantage to this procedure is that it does not leave you exhausted as the whole thing does not involve strenuous labour. Additionally, it is a neat process with minimal dust if you ensure that the thinset is soaked perfectly well. The downside is that the success of the procedure rests on the kind and area of thinset to be removed. Things can get nasty since thinset that is wet starts swirling around.

3. Removing Thinset from Concrete Using Floor Stripper and a Power Chisel

how to remove thinset

Though there are methods that wet the thiset before removing it, it is not always essential to do this. We should also remember that thin set does not always become soft when soaked. The method described here works in such situations.

Since there is only one tool that is used to get this done, you can start working as soon as you are ready to remove the thin set. Added to this advantage is the fact that this method requires minimum preparation too. The disadvantage is that in case the concrete and the thin set are very strongly attached, the whole process may become tedious. Additionally, there is dust which flies around.

4. Removing Thinset from Concrete Using a Flooring Grinder

Material as tough as diamond is put to task to grind down the thin set. If the correct grinding surface is utilised, the task gets over extremely quickly.

The results of this method are amazing and the floor gets really clean. It is not at all time consuming or physically demanding.

The only major disadvantage is the amount of dust that is generated in the process. To make it worse, the dust is the type that flies around in the wind. For more – check out

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