Gilles' Outlet

September 29, 2009

Removing Hardened Latex Caulk

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gilles @ 5:45 am

Very hard pure latex caulk is removed from a bath tub surround without damaging the tub finish.

Skill Level: 2 (Basic) Time Taken: About 1 hour

The starting point of this article: a tub with a very poorly applied bead of caulk. While not visible on the picture, the caulk has cracked at several places. Not only it no longer seals around the tub, but it is downright ugly: this bead needs to be removed so a brand new one can be applied. Caulking over existing caulk never works.

Before I remove caulk, I always take a second to identify the type of caulk by simply touching it with the tip of my fingernail. If it is soft, it is pure silicone caulk. If it is very hard, it is pure latex caulk. If is it somewhat soft, it is siliconized latex caulk.

In this case, it turned out to be pure latex caulk. A very bad choice for tub surrounds because it dries hard and cracks at the smallest movement of either the tile or the tub. Tub surrounds are typically caulked with pure silicone caulk. It is flexible and will not crack as the tub moves. Most manufacturers also offer mildew resistant pure silicone caulk: well worth the price in damp areas like a bath tub.

BUT … removing very hard latex caulk without damaging he tub finish is tricky. In this article, I explain how I did it.

Left: A tube of DAP “Caulk Be Gone” specifically formulated for latex caulk. There is also a version for pure silicone caulk. I purchased this item at a Lowes store.

I first read the label entirely before proceeding. It called for lots of ventilation and  chemical resistant gloves. I respected those.

Right: I cut the tip at a 45 degree angle and applied a generous bead of product over the existing bead of caulk. I made sure that the whole bead of caulk was completely covered. The product starts liquid like water and very quickly because a jello like substance.

Left: View of the bead applied. Now, instructions demand to wait for at least 2 hours. My experience tells me that rushing the process just won’t work so I performed other tasks….

Right: … and returned two hours and half after application. Using a 1 1/2’’ putty knife, I scraped the first few inches of caulk from the tiles. It came very easily. I could just gently slide the knife under the bead and separate it from the tub without damaging the finish.

Left: After freeing a rope of about 5’’ of caulk, I was able to pick up the caulk and pull gently on it. It then came very easily. At some point, it broke. No big deal: I scraped a little more and repeated the process.

Old caulk and used green gel are placed in a plastic garbage bag and disposed in the trash.

Right: After removing the whole caulk, I cleaned the area thoroughly with lots of fresh water. If the product can soften caulk, I may prevent new caulk from sticking so I made sure I remove as much of the product as possible.

Tools Used:

  • Sponge.
  • 1 1/2’’ putty knife.
  • Chemical resistant gloves.

Materials Used:

  • DAP “Caulk Be Gone” Latex Caulk remover. 
  • Lots of fresh water.


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