Removing Old Laminate and Contact Cement

Heat, solvent, and scraping do the trick. August 23, 2005

I need to re-laminate the top of an old metal desk for a good customer. The old laminate is torn and the contact cement is failing. I can lift one of the corners of the laminate and see the old stringy cement. My question is: What solvent do I use to defeat the contact cement? And, yes, I will be doing this entire job outside with plenty of ventilation and gloves. Any help is appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Adhesive Forum)
From contributor D:
I would suggest that you contact any laminate distributor in your area. Chances are they sell contact cement and a solvent. Lacquer thinner, available at home centers, will work too. Sand the surface to remove any residue before re-laminating.

From contributor K:
MEK is one of the most common solvents for this use. Try to stand the work on end, and with a squirt bottle, like and old detergent bottle, shoot it down from the top while pulling it away. For a non-chemical way, just try pulling it out with one hand while slicing it with a machete or sword. Also all rubber base cements will soften when heated. Sometimes a combination of heat and knife will work as well.

From contributor T:
Sanding the residue is not the best idea. It will soften and immediately clog your belts (think chewing gum). After you've removed the laminate as described above, lay it down again so your work surface is horizontal. Keep the surface wet with whatever solvent you used (lacquer thinner is the most aggressive) and scrape with a stiff putty knife. Also, watch out for the edges - if you break the laminate while pulling it away the broken edges can be extremely sharp.

From contributor P:
For your best laminate removal results try an old steam iron.

From the original questioner:
Here's what worked for me:
1) I used an old steam iron to heat the laminate. The entire 30x60 desktop was cleared in about 5-10 minutes.
2) I tipped the desk on angle and used lacquer thinner to remove most of old contact cement with paper towels and some scrapers. (This was the messiest part and took the longest.)
3) I used a belt sander with an old coarse belt to remove last bits of contact cement.
4) I used a 5" random orbital sander with 80 grit paper to get the metal substrate clean.
5) I applied new laminate.