Caulking: Forget Pinterest and Save Your Walls

My house was in dire need of caulking. The existing caulk was cracking, leaving gaping holes allowing moisture in and mold to take over. It was unsightly and not doing its job. Forever a penny-pincher, I did my research on Pinterest for every hack available. It seemed like an easy job, which I was sure meant that there would be great money-saving ideas to be found. Find them, I did. I bought one tube of caulk from Walmart and one 99 cent ice tray from Goodwill. I was going to attack this project with what I was fondly calling my Fire-and-Ice approach.

PinterestAccording to Pinterest, I was going to be able to use my hairdryer to warm the caulk up enough to peel it away from the wall. Then I would be able to apply the caulk and smooth it with a piece of ice. At first, it worked! I stood aiming my hairdryer at the caulk for about five minutes, and it easily came away from the wall with minimal help from my box cutter’s blade. This was going to be simple. I moved to the next section. After fifteen minutes of heat and a couple of skinned knuckles (I had a small blade), I managed to remove the caulk and the section of wall underneath it. Ugh. Too stubborn to admit defeat, I continued this method for half the length of the wall. An hour later, I needed a break and decided to give the ice a try. This trick worked. It smoothed the caulk and really created a nice line. For about two inches. Then it began smearing everywhere because the caulk had overtaken the ice. Not to mention my fingers were cold. I cleaned up and gave up. Off to Walmart for the proper tools, which really aren’t that expensive anyway. The caulking tool, caulk, and caulk remover were all under $25. Moral of the story: save your walls and do it the right way.

Here is the right way:

  1. Use the caulk remover according to the directions on the back of the package. I used Goo Gone Project Prep, which worked pretty well although next time I’d probably go with something a little bit stronger. Still, I can keep this product for other home projects which is a plus, and it was simple to clean up.
  2. Use a box cutter, or the back end of your caulking tool, to peel the caulk away from the wall (or bath tub, or whatever surface you happen to be working on). It’s not going to come up very simply, but it shouldn’t require too much elbow grease. If you’re struggling, use the caulk remover again.
  3. caulk collageClean the area with a wet rag first to remove all of the caulk remover. Then clean the surface with a diluted bleach mixture. This will kill any mold that started growing between the old cracking caulk.
  4. When your surface is completely dry, apply a thick bead of caulk over the opening. Use your caulking tool to smooth it.
  5. Allow the caulk to dry according to the packaged directions.

Hopefully, if you skipped the Pinterest hacks, this project shouldn’t take more than an hour. Also, FYI, the caulk will look like Elmore’s glue. If you have small kids who are into that right now, the confusion might be more than they can handle. It’s best to prepare for that too!