How to Remove Thinset From Drywall

There are few essential things to keep in mind for homeowners and contractors faced with removing thinset from drywall.

This job can be messy and challenging, but it’s possible to achieve an efficient and stress-free removal process with the right tools and knowledge!

Let’s look at some vital information for removing thinset from drywall, steps for the removal process, and tips and tricks for removal.

Removing Thinset from Drywall

Thinset is an adhesive mortar made of solid and strong cement products and chemicals. The word “thinset” is often interchangeable with “mortar.” Its purpose is to attach stone and other textural elements to walls and drywall.

laying thinset

Thinset is also used to secure tiles to walls and flooring with concrete surfaces. However, as styles and design aesthetics change, many homeowners choose to have stones removed from the wall, which involves removing thinset from the drywall.

Is it possible to remove the thinset without damaging the drywall? The answer is yes if done properly and carefully.

When removing thinset from drywall, the thinset material can be gently ground down using an oscillating tool equipped with a carbide rasp.

oscillating tools

Suggested methods and Instructions

There’s more than one way to remove thinset from drywall without damaging the surrounding elements. Both grinding and dissolving are helpful techniques that can safely remove the thinset while maintaining the drywall.

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After removing the thinset from the drywall or concrete, it’s also essential to understand how to properly tend to required repairs before laying new materials or adding more mortar products.


One of the ways to remove thinset from drywall is through a grinding method. When the thinset is difficult to remove, a grinder can be the best option. With the right grinder, thinset can be ground and removed efficiently and safely.

While you can use any size grinder for removing thinset, a larger grinder will make the removal process quicker. Powerful grinders such as diamond grinders are necessary for breaking down thinset mortar.

Related: How Thick Should Thinset Be For Tile?

diamond grinder


Another method for removing thinset is dissolving the adhesive using a straight solution of grout cleaner for the thicker areas of thinset mortar. The solution will marr the surface of the installation.

You can then scrub the area with a stiff scrub brush.

A solution of water and vinegar is often acceptable for dissolving thinset. For thicker areas of thinset, if vinegar doesn’t work, you can also try using a grout cleaner solution which will quickly remove the denser areas of the mortar.


Often, even when you’re gentle and careful, the drywall will sustain damage from the thinset. The longer the adhesive is attached to the drywall, the more likely there will be damage. Have plaster and drywall joint compound handy for any required repairs after the removal of thinset.

Steps to Remove Thinset from Drywall

Now that we have a good idea of the various methods for removing thinset from drywall, let’s combine these top techniques and break down the steps for safely and efficiently removing the thinset without damaging the wall behind.

  1. Soak the thinset in boiling water to break down the integrity of the material. Let it soak for an hour or until you see cracks forming in the dried adhesive.
  2. Gently grind the thinset material with an oscillating tool. The best tool for this job is one that is equipped with a carbide rasp. You may wish to use the dissolving method here for thicker areas that you cannot grind down.
  3. Scrape off the mastic with a knife used for putty.
  4. Repair any damage to the drywall from the thinset adhesive. Repair the drywall fully with a compound before the completion of new aesthetic jobs.
  5. Sand the drywall. Even if there is no noticeable damage, the adhesive material has likely left bumps and dents that should be well sanded before moving on to paint.
  6. Repaint the drywall or add wallpaper – we’ll leave the design up to you!
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While there are various ways to remove thinset from drywall, soaking, grinding, scaping, and repairing are the primary ways to get the job done quickly and right!


Here are some commonly asked questions.

Does Wetting Thinset Make it Come Off Easier?

Yes. Wetting thinset can make the removal process quicker and easier. Pour boiling water over the thinset and wait about an hour. Cracks will begin to form in the thinset where the water has been poured.

The cracks make removal easier as the integrity of the thinset along with the product’s strength have been compromised.

Should the thinset be removed before laying new wallpaper or laminate flooring?

Yes! For a professional-looking finish, it’s essential to remove all traces of thinset mortar before laying new materials.

If layers of wallpaper were placed on top of one another earlier, laminate flooring can be applied over concrete and plywood.

laying laminate flooring

Removing thinset, however, is the best way to ensure a stable and long-lasting job.

Can I layer thinset over the old thinset?

You can put a new layer of thinset on top of the existing adhesive mortar, as long as the existing coating is done well. If the old thinset is perfectly flat and smooth, you can go ahead and add the new thinset on top.

What dissolves concrete?

While vinegar and water are a solution used to degrade the cement that binds the pieces of concrete together, the solution will not dissolve the concrete.

Boiling water or water and vinegar can safely be applied to thinset over concrete to break down the adhesive binding in the concrete and make the removal process more manageable.

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Final Thoughts

There are a variety of methods for removing thinset from drywall. When homeowners and contractors encounter a thinset in need of removal, it’s essential to go through the steps and assess the quality of the materials.

For thicker areas of thinset, the removal process may require a bit more time, planning, and effort.

However, removing thinset from drywall without damaging the underlying materials is a job that can be completed successfully and with ease.