Removing silicone caulk from around a bathtub takes time. The procedure is straightforward, though you must take care not to scratch the surrounding surfaces as you try to separate the caulk from the tub and tile. The main difference between removing silicone and non-silicone caulking is that non-silicone caulk often requires a solvent application before removal. Tim Carter, of the Ask the Builder website, writes that silicone caulk really does not respond to solvents.
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Things you need
- Household cleaner (non-ammonia-based)
- Razor blade or utility knife
- Needle-nose pliers
- Scraper or painter's five-in-one tool
- Clean rags
- 1/3 cup bleach
- 1 gallon water
Clean the caulk with a household cleaner and let it dry. Use a non-ammonia cleaner if possible--otherwise, ensure that you wipe away all of the cleaner, rinse the area thoroughly and dry it completely. You'll apply bleach to the area later and you do not want ammonia residue left on the tub or tile--a bleach/ammonia combination releases toxic fumes.
Put on gloves and angle a thin blade, such as a razor or utility knife, along one edge of the caulk. Make the angle very shallow--don't point it into the tile or tub surface, but angle it as if you were trying to pry up the layer of caulk.
Cut into the caulk very carefully along its entire length.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 along the other edge of the caulk.
Pull the line of caulk away. Popular Mechanics suggests using needle-nosed pliers if the caulking sticks.
Run a scraper or painter's five-in-one tool along the area to remove all remaining caulk and smooth out the area.
Mix the bleach and water. It's possible that over time some water seeped in behind the old caulk, leading to mould growth. Before you install new caulk, you must clean out the area to ensure you don't let any mould continue to fester. Popular Mechanics recommends 1/3 cup of bleach to each gallon of water. Apply the solution with a clean rag to the area where the caulk was, and allow it to sit for the length of time specified on the bleach container.
Wet another clean rag and wash off the bleach. Dry thoroughly before recaulking.
Tips and warnings
- Mag Ruffman of Home Envy says to remember to fill the bathtub with water before recaulking. The weight of the water will pull the tub down somewhat, so if you recaulk an empty tub, you risk damaging the caulk once you let any water into the tub,
- Ask the Builder's Tim Carter writes that while certain alkaline compounds might work as solvents on silicone, these carry too high of a risk of burns for safe use.
- Never mix bleach and ammonia. Ensure you have good ventilation when using bleach.
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