How to Properly Dispose of Vinyl Flooring

How to Properly Dispose of Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is cheap, durable, resistant to spills, and easy-to-maintain, which makes it a highly attractive option for use in homes and offices. But some vinyl composition flooring (VCT) is made with a plastic called Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), which is one of the most toxic plastics ever created. Also, older VCT or vinyl sheet flooring from the late 1950s to the early 1980s may also contain asbestos, adding to the toxicity of the material.

The first thing to understand when you’re thinking of disposing of vinyl flooring in a home or office is that it may contain asbestos or PVC. In the past, asbestos fibers were infused within the flooring itself, its backing, or the adhesive, to strengthen the toughness of the VCT.

In hindsight, this was probably a bad move, as asbestos can be a highly toxic substance. So, the safe disposal of vinyl flooring can certainly be a tricky issue. You might ask yourself, does the flooring contain asbestos? And if it does, how do I handle it, how do I safely get rid of it?

Ad from the 1950s for asbestos vinyl flooring

Vinyl sheet flooring, like the kind from this ad from the 1950s, could contain up to 25% asbestos

If the flooring does have asbestos in its mixture, but is in good condition, it is to be considered “nonfriable” (meaning it cannot be easily crumbled by hand) and non-hazardous. It is only when asbestos-filled flooring is in a state of disrepair; cracked, aged, and torn, that it is considered hazardous. This is because when the flooring turns friable (which can also happen upon the removal of the flooring itself), the asbestos fibers inside it are released into the air. This poses a risk of health problems for anyone who is near enough to inhale the fibers.

If the area you’re working with is large enough, you may want to cut a tiny square of the flooring out and send it off to a laboratory to test its composite. If the results come back positive for asbestos, the recommendation is that a level of personal protective equipment (PPE) be worn when removing the flooring. Anyone working on stripping the flooring must wear this equipment, which includes,

  • A respirator with HEPA filter,
  • Mask/eye protection,
  • Coveralls,
  • Rubber gloves, and
  • Rubber boots.

Once your team is properly attired to handle the flooring, you may begin to work on removing it. But even this must be done in a controlled and safe manner. It is advised that the flooring be wetted first, to release the bond of the adhesive and allow the flooring to come up with less force. Then, cut the vinyl into workable sheets, and lift it up off the cement or baseboard. Once you have all the flooring up, be sure to clean up any debris that might be left behind, as this detritus could still be toxic for anyone without a respirator breathing it in later on after removal.

The asbestos-vinyl flooring waste must be packaged in a double-lined bag specifically-made for asbestos. It must be properly labeled to alert others of its contents. Finally, it must be shipped off to a treatment site or hazardous waste company for final disposal.

Knowing the exact type of vinyl flooring you’re dealing with is imperative, as some newer types can actually be recycled, except for that which contains PVC or asbestos, which cannot. A few flooring retailers near you may participate in a recycling drop-off program, and you could always drop off your excess flooring waste (not containing these toxic substances) at your local recycling facility. Sometimes, vinyl floors may be repurposed, as mats for heavy items like water heaters, or in the garage, to go under an oil-leaking project car.

If you need more information on disposing of vinyl flooring, or if you have any other remediation questions, please give Environmental Remediation Experts at 888-995-2143 today.


Photo credit: saltycotton at compfight