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We should all be thanking our lucky stars that silicone caulk exists.
This handy moisture resistant sealant helps us keep our bathrooms functional and our houses free from damp, but sometimes, we need to get rid of it, and therein lies a problem.
How are you supposed to remove a substance built from the ground up to offer maximum adhesion and staying power?
It seems like a pretty arduous task, but as long as you have the right products and equipment, it couldn’t be easier. Stick with me, and you’ll have that surface stripped of silicone caulk in no time.
What You’ll Need
- A hairdryer — Nothing fancy. Something like this super affordable Conair design will be fine.
- A putty knife
- Needle nose pliers
- A utility knife
- Caulk remover
- Some vinyl gloves
- A wire brush
- A vinegar or bleach cleaning solution
Removing Silicone Caulk From A Flat Surface
If you’re trying to strip silicone caulk from a perfectly level surface, you’ve got a particularly easy job ahead of you.
Step 1. Heating
Your first port of call is to warm up the caulk, softening it.
To do so, plug in your hair dryer, select the mildest warm setting, and spend about 5 minutes or so running it over the strip of caulk.
Patience is key here.
Don’t crank the heat up on your hairdryer with the hopes of getting the job done faster, as you risk melting the caulk, which will cause a whole host of problems.
You simply need to heat it until it’s slightly more malleable.
Step 2. Loosening An Entry Point
Next up, take your needle nose pliers and try to peel up an entry point at one end of the silicone strip.
Don’t worry too much if you have to create an entry point along the length of the silicone caulk, as you can clear that up later.
Step 3. Positioning Your Putty Knife
At this stage, you should be able to wedge your putty knife in against the entry point, but don’t just start scraping like crazy.
Hold the putty knife in position, grab your hair dryer, and do a few more passes on the mildest warm setting, lingering over the length of silicon directly in front of the putty knife a little longer than elsewhere.
Step 4. Stripping The Caulk
Apply some sideways pressure to the putty knife, but don’t try to force it.
Keep the hair dryer focused just ahead of the knife, maintain pressure, and let the heat do the work.
The putty knife should then move at a steady pace, lifting the caulk strip in one piece as it goes.
If you left the very edge of the caulk strip intact when establishing your entry point, return to it now and follow the same process, pushing the putty knife towards whatever obstacle prevented you from peeling it away initially.
Step 5. Removing The Excess
No matter how cleanly you manage to remove the silicone strip, there will always be some residual caulk hugging the edges of the gap, so take your utility knife and carefully run it along each edge.
A few more passes with the hairdryer will help to ease the bond of the caulk against the surface if you’re having trouble removing the bits and pieces.
Step 6. Caulk Remover
Put on some gloves and give the surface one final once over with caulk remover and a wire brush to get rid of every last lingering caulk molecule.
Step 7. Washing The Surface (Optional)
To prime the surface for re-application of caulk, it’s essential you give it a thorough clean with a vinegar or bleach solution, but if you’re not quite ready to lay down more caulk just yet, you can leave this till later.
Keep in mind though, that when you do wash the area, you must wait for it to dry out completely before you apply more caulk.
Removing Silicone Caulk From A Corner
Removing silicone caulk from a tight edge, such as the one that links the tub to your wall in your bathroom, is trickier than removing it from a flat surface, for obvious reasons, but not difficult.
You’ll need the same equipment, and the exact same principles apply, but the stages are a little different.
Step 1. Heating
We kick things off the same way as before, by gently heating the silicon caulk with a hairdryer on the mildest warm setting, but instead of reaching for your putty knife next, you’ll need to grab your utility knife.
Step 2. Trim The Edges
With the caulk softened, run the blade of your utility knife along the one edge of the silicone strip.
For example, if you were trying to remove the caulk between your bathtub and the wall, you’d run the blade along the edge of the bath where the caulk meets the plastic.
Patience is once again key here, as you can easily etch the bath if you go too fast.
Next, do exactly the same thing, this time running the blade along the wall where the caulk meets the tile (or whatever surface you’re working with).
Step 3. Peel The Strip
Use your needle nose pliers to peel up the very end of the caulk strip, then gently pull the loosened strip from the crack.
Step 4. Remove The Excess
Now you can use your putty knife to dig into the gap and scrape away the excess caulk left behind after peeling the bulk of it away.
Step 5. Caulk Remover
Just like in the last guide, hit the area with some caulk remover and your wire brush.
Step. Washing The Surface (Optional)
If you’re ready to apply some more caulk, wash the area with a vinegar or bleach solution, then wait for it to dry.
Silicone caulk may be designed to stand the test of time, but with a few simple tools and a bit of know-how, it doesn’t stand a chance against the determined DIY-er!
It's an easy job, but patience is crucial.
The slower you go, the neater the results will be and the easier re-application will be when you’re ready to replace the caulk you expertly stripped away.