Thursday, August 07, 2008

Adventures with black gunk. Who puts carpet over linoleum anyway?

We decided a few weeks ago to rip up the carpet in our living room and make do with the hardwood floor that lay beneath it.

I'll spare everyone the sordid accounts of how it took us two weeks just to clear out the living room, and the tale (amusing though it must be) of how we chose the colors to paint the walls. I'll even forbear to tell how Natasha and I each on separate occasions managed to hurt our backs so that we took turns being unable to walk for a few days without pained expressions.

Let me instead just say that under the rug in the hallway, we found linoleum.

Our reactions were only slightly mixed. We sang Bert and Ernie's "La La La" song because Bert is reminded in the song of linoleum when he thinks about the letter L -- that's how our minds work, I guess -- but mostly we were annoyed. Who in their right mind glues linoleum directly to a hardwood floor?

Pulling the linoleum up was relatively easy. The glue and a layer of black gunk were different, though. Removing that was how I hurt my back. (Natasha had hurt hers ripping out the carpet.)

The good folks at Home Depot (motto: "No project so simple we can't make it expensive!") sell a chemical that's great at removing adhesives like this. The chief downside, besides the $20 price tag for a quart, is that it comes with warnings like "May cause death or serious injury" in 17 different languages.

The advisories include notices like "Do not allow liquid to touch your skin" and "Do not breathe fumes" and "Looking at liquid may damage your retinas." And I'm supposed to put this stuff down, when? Maybe while the kids are running around the house during the day?

So while my back recovered and I learned to put my shorts on without bending either arm or leg, I pondered how best to remove black gunk without threatening my family or myself with permanent disfigurement. A visiting friend remarked offhand "There must be an organic cleaner," and it suddenly hit me. Vinegar.


Spray the black gunk with water. Let it soak, then scrape it up. (And why is it that a stucco trowel is useless with stucco but makes a fantastic scraper, while the scraper is only good for removing nails?) Once the gunk is gone, lightly spoon vinegar onto the floor, brush it around, and then wipe off the glue.

Easy, effortless and no one has to suffer the sort of injury that would have made them a shoo-in for the Jerry Springer Show. No one's eyebrows had to suffer permanent retina damage. The worst side effect is that the hallway smelled like apples for a few hours.

I even got to return the 20-dollar can of cleaner.

Copyright © 2008 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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