Bathroom caulking, while it makes a tub, sink and shower impervious to water for many, many years, it does not last forever. Over time, caulking can wear, crack, discolor and shrink, which may eventually lead to water damage. Prevent mildew, mold and water damage by maintaining bathroom fixtures. Plus, a fresh bead of caulk can make your space look brand new again.

Step 1

Remove the Old Caulk

Check the caulk in your bathroom. The key spots to check are areas that are regularly wet, such as the corners and base of a freestanding shower and the end of a bathtub where a shower head hits. Depending on the condition of the caulk, you may be able to free it easily with the help of a putty knife (Image 1). A razor blade is also helpful, as you can use it to scrape the old caulk completely from the tile (Image 2) (Image 3). A caulk softener can speed the process. 

Work slowly and carefully. The surface of the tile is durable, but the old caulk needs to be removed completely from the tile surface. While some caulk spots may be in better condition than others, do your best to remove it all along each affected length (Image 4). This way you aren’t forcing the old caulk to marry the new caulk, it won’t always work.

Pro Tip

When you are working to re-caulk a bathtub, fill the basin itself with water. The water helps to weight the tub and expand gaps. 

Step 2

Clean Tiles and Surfaces

Use a small vacuum to remove excess caulk debris. Moisten a paper towel with rubbing alcohol. Use the alcohol to clean residue off the surface of the tiles along where you will need to re-apply caulk. This prep work helps to ensure a strong connection between the new caulk and the clean tile.

Step 3

Apply New Caulk or Silicone

Use a utility to trim the edge of the caulk tube and a long thin nail works well to puncture the foil sealing the tube (Image 1). Use a caulking gun to activate the tube and release the caulk or silicone.

Drag the tip of the gun in one swift motion that matches with the speed in which the caulk is emerging (Image 2). If excess caulk appears in certain areas more than others, or some areas only have a fine line of caulk, it is still fixable. You will get the hang of it if you work slowly.

Wipe clean the tip of the caulk tube after each length. Continue along the perimeter of the bathtub and shower, working to re-caulk all edges.

Step 4

Clean Excess Caulk and Smooth Lines

To remove extra globs of caulk and create even lines, dip your finger in water and run it down the caulk line to smooth it out (Image 1). When you wipe each length of the still-wet caulk; it will effectively force extra caulk into the open gap between tiles or between the bathtub and its surround. If you use a paper towel over your finger, refold it several times to make sure you aren’t transferring excess caulk onto the face of the tiles. If you are just using your finger, wipe clean and re-wet your finger regularly.

If you encounter a space where not enough caulk was applied, you may be able to wipe excess from another part of the same seam. If not, apply a new fine bead of caulk using the caulking gun and immediately smooth it out using a damp paper towel so that it merges with the rest of the new caulk.

Most caulks and silicones have a short set time. So if caulk dries on surrounding tiles,  use a razor blade to score the edge of the caulk close to the original bead, and then scrape it clean from the face of the tile without disrupting the waterproofing seal.