Thursday, January 19, 2012

Caulking Dos and Don'ts

Posted by, Paulette

One fine Saturday, as I was cleaning house and watching PBS, This Old House was on. It was that segment where they ask viewers to mail in their questions about home repairs, and then one of those handy guys heads to their place to help them fix their problem. In this episode, a woman was asking how to clean that nasty black stuff that kept on showing up in her tub. It looks something like this.
 This is not my bath tub. It's a picture I pulled off the net. But you get the idea. It happens to all of us. MILDEW grows in our showers and bath tubs. Mine happens to be a pretty shade of pink, along with the black, and while that matches with the lovely custom tile work in my shower, (that I am oh so happy to cover up with a curtain) it's still disgusting! So, about once a year I end up pulling out all of the tools and then re-caulk the shower. 
I know, this is traditionally the MAN's job. But we just don't do things that way in our house. 
The first time I did this, I used a tutorial that I'd found online. It involved using a screwdriver to remove the caulk, and your finger and lots of paper towels for smoothing the new stuff. As you can imagine, I made a huge mess! I tried to pretend it was just frosting. That worked about as well as pretending that the dog poo was chocolate (no I didn't eat it!) when I was a kid having to clean it up.  Try frosting mixed with superglue. And you can't eat it.
Anyway, this is supposed to be a tutorial, right? The only problem is that some of the advise I'm about to give is very good. Like what tools to use. I found some amazing tools that I'll show you in a bit. The part I'm talking about that you don't want to copy, is this....I caulked the shower with Liquid Nails construction adhesive. In my defense, it was in the wrong bin. It was supposed to be white kitchen and bathroom caulk. And Liquid Nails does make such a thing. Unfortunately, the one I used was not that variety. I don't know the repercussions at this time. I guess when I have to remove it and re do it, then I'll know whether my boo boo was just that, or a we need to call a professional to fix this.

From left to right, caulk removal tool, caulk smoothing tool, masking tape, razor scraper, and in the back, paper towels. These are the tools I was talking about. First you have to remove the old caulk. By the way, I have researched how to remove the Liquid Nails adhesive, You smear it with petroleum jelly. If you have to do this you'll thank me later. 
 The removal tool has two ends, one that gets the caulk out of the crack, and the other that scrapes it off of the tub and tile.

You may need to use a razor scraper. I did. Some of the caulk was a crazy mess. I made my hubby do it last time. It got the job done, and I could close the curtain. 

Be careful with this tool. You can gouge your tub. This is also why it's not a good idea to use a screwdriver.

Once the caulk has been removed, I suggest vacuuming it up. You don't want this stuff clogging your drain. This is just a small amount. You'll have lots! 

A few tips about your tube of caulk (not  construction adhesive), cut the tip at a 45 degree angle. It will make it easier to get onto vertical surfaces. A handy tutorial all about your caulk gun can be found here at Pretty Handy Girl.

Now for the next tools. If you are really picky about having crisp caulk likes, you'll want some masking tape. I have one spot that I'm picky about because it's right next to the black tile. And it's right on the edge of a ledge. So I taped it off. If you happen to have colored tile. You may want to do this. After I finished I had a nice clean line.
The caulk smoothing tool is excellent! It will not only push the caulk into the crack, but also cleanly scrape away the excess caulk. A paper towel cleans it off for the next pass. It's so much better than using your finger.

When you're done, let the caulk cure for 24 hours. Throw away your paper towels and tape, and enjoy your new cleaner looking shower/tub. And then close the curtain.


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