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Easily Remove Silicone Caulk without Chemicals

Easily Remove Caulk

How can you remove silicone caulk without the use of a chemical caulk remover?

This was the question on my mind since the caulk between our kitchen countertops and tile backsplash had more separations than Liz Taylor.

The last thing you want is to ruin an expensive countertop just to remove $5 worth of silicone caulk.

Here’s my solution: use a hair dryer and straight razor.

This idea couldn’t have worked any better and that’s why I’m sharing it with you.

Here are the supplies you need:

  • Hair dryer (for real, just a normal hair dryer)
  • Straight razor blade
  • Bowl to collect the old caulk
  • Cleaning gloves
  • Clorox bleach
  • Cleaning bucket

The only thing that’s missing is a hairspray bottle and flat-iron (queue commercial for Paul Mitchell).

You’ll discover this project is somewhat cathartic and way better than removing grout, which I admit is a b@$&! (In case you need that tutorial click on this link).

This post is super short, so don’t even bother with the popcorn or Junior Mints to view my video.

Let’s get started!

Remove silicone caulk with your hair dryer

Here’s the disclaimer for this post, if your silicone caulk is sandwiched between two pieces of plastic (for example an acrylic tub and shower insert) be SUPER careful not to ruin them. By ruin I mean melt them like laffy taffy.

The Revlon hair dryer I used reached a maximum temperature of roughly 212F. Yes, I’m a geek and measured the heat output with a thermometer (which by the way, for anyone here in the states, provided temperature readouts in Celsius. In case you’re wondering the conversion to Fahrenheit is 9/5C +32)

I sincerely doubt this temperature will ruin a plastic tub or shower but be very careful nonetheless.

Since the silicone caulk in this example was between our backsplash tile and countertop I wasn’t too worried about high heat damaging anything.

For this project it’s best to use the lowest effective dose of heat.  By this I mean you should try the lowest setting on the hair dryer that will help remove the silicone caulk.

Ultimately I had to use the Hot and High settings.

Hair Dryer Setting 2

Heat up 8-10 inches of silicone caulk for 30-40 seconds then use a razor blade to slice through it.

Use Razor to Slice Caulk.jpg

Make sure to remove all of the caulk because the new silicone won’t adhere properly to gunkafied surfaces (gunkafied isn’t a word but you get my drift, leftover silicone caulk is a no no).

Here’s a short video showing you how to do this step.

 

Easily Remove Silicone Caulk -- by Home Repair Tutor
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2:15
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Easily Remove Silicone Caulk without Chemicals

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry8E-BQxW14

 

There are other tools you can use to remove silicone caulk.

One of them is the Homax plastic caulk removal tool. This is a nice tool for beginner DIYers because it has an angled tip to remove silicone caulk from corners. It also has a flat surface that can scrape caulk without scratching tile, bathtubs, or shower surrounds.

Homax Caulk Removal Tool

You can buy this tool at Home Depot but here’s a link to the Homax website http://orders.homaxproducts.com/Browse-Homax-Products/Caulk-Remover-Tool (this isn’t an affiliate link).

 

How to Remove Moldy Silicone Caulk Residue

If your caulk was moldy and you’re concerned about spores being left behind you can do the following:

  • Pre-wash the previously caulked surface with warm water
  • Add 3/4 cup of Clorox bleach to 1 gallon of warm water
  • Use a sponge to wash the suspected moldy surface with the Clorox solution
  • Let the Clorox stand on the surface for 5 minutes
  • Rinse with warm water and let the area air dry

Yes, the title to this post said “without Chemicals” but that’s if you only need to remove silicone caulk.

Mold is an entirely different issue and warrants something like Clorox bleach. In case the fumes bother you please use a respirator like this one by Mine Safety Appliances.

 

If you already have a hair dryer and straight razor blade this project will cost you nothing but your time & some patience.

WARNING FOR MALE DIYers

Guys, please ask your wife or girlfriend for permission before using their hair dryer.

I’m saving you grief and a trip to the flower shop (not to mention, but I am anyway, being locked out of the bedroom-this is a nice way of saying you won’t be getting any you know what).

 

Do you have a caulk removal tip? Let use know in the comment section below so that we can all learn together.

Cheers,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

P.S. Here’s another BIG TIP, wait a few months to add caulk between heavy countertops (like granite or marble) and the tile backsplash or wall.  The weight of the counters will make cabinets settle and this in turn causes the caulk to separate from the vertical surface. This is what happened to our caulk. Learn from my mistakes instead of your own ;)

 

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64 comments… add one

  • Valorie Fitzpatrick March 1, 2013, 9:18 AM

    Here is my question.. I removed silicone caulk that was pulling away from the window (kitchen window sits on top of the granite counter top) and cleaned really good, re-caulked and it is happening again. I was told you HAVE to use some type of silicone remover to completely remove all traces of the silicone or the new caulk will never form a good seal. Will adding the heat solve this?

    • Jeff Patterson March 1, 2013, 9:25 AM

      The heat will help. You can also try rubbing alcohol or a water/bleach solution, let the surface completely dry then apply the new silicone.

      Make sure to read the directions and note the application temperature range for the caulk you’re using. If it’s too cold sometimes the caulk won’t adhere properly. The tube I’m looking at requires at least a temp of 40F.

  • Valorie Fitzpatrick March 1, 2013, 5:50 PM

    I will have to try again, it’s on my Spring TO DO list, so far down I bet it will be June before I get to it! I will let you know how it goes.

  • Jean March 4, 2013, 8:37 AM

    I have some caulk in a recently remodeled shower that “melted” and spread across the tile floor. I need to remove it from between the wall and floor. Do I need to replace it with caulk or can I replace it with grout? The same thing in the corners of my bathroom shower surround in another bathroom. The caulk isn’t “melting”, but the guy who did it did a horrible job and it’s really uneven and looks terrible. I was going to remove it and replace it with grout. Can I do that, or again, do I need to replace it with caulk?

    • Jeff Patterson March 4, 2013, 9:02 AM

      Thanks Jean for your question.

      A general rule of thumb is to use a good quality caulk between two hard surfaces, e.g. a tile floor and tiled wall.

      In your case it would be best to use caulk instead of grout because the grout may crack over time.

      You can buy good caulk at the local store, I’ve always liked GE and DAP. Since you’ll be applying it in your bathroom try to get a caulk with Microban in it.

      Microban helps prevent mold from growing on the caulk.

      Hope this helps :)

  • Connie March 4, 2013, 1:02 PM

    Thank you Jeff! Have been contemplating on what I was going to do since the “junk” I got from the hardware store was old and they gave me a refund. Was just going to sit on it for a while and think about it. Can’t wait to use this method.

  • maude March 27, 2013, 9:24 PM

    I wonder what can be used to remove it from the hands? I always seem to get it on my fingers and only time seems to do the trick.
    Maude

    • Jeff Patterson March 28, 2013, 10:14 PM

      Maude, I use GOJO Natural Orange hand cleaner with pumice. This stuff is great because the pumice really gets your hands clean.

      Anytime you use caulk always wipe your hands as much as possible with a rag then use the GOJO with warm water.

  • Brandon August 1, 2013, 7:21 PM

    I just caulked between my pedestal sink and the wall. Overall I am happy with my beading as it is smooth, but I got a thin layer of residue farther up the wall than I would have liked and it dried and hardened. Would your method work for just taking off the thin residue? The way I see it I have two options, try scraping away the residue with or without the dryer, or tape up the new sink and caulk and paint the residue the same colour as the wall. What do you think?

    • Jeff Patterson August 3, 2013, 9:32 AM

      Hi Brandon,

      If it won’t bother you, go ahead and paint the residue. Most likely nobody else will even notice. Sounds like you and I have something in common, perfectionism-LOL. Usually when I try to fix something and try to get it “just right”, it ends up looking worse. Which then drives me nuttier than I already am. Congrats on your new sink. Send me some pics if you have time. I love seeing bathroom projects :)

      Jeff

  • Drew August 25, 2013, 12:13 AM

    I need to remove the same caulk between the tub surround and the shower door also. I just applied the caulk two days ago (8/23/13)

  • Emil November 30, 2013, 1:40 AM

    I love your blog.. very nice colors and theme. Did you
    design this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz respond as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from.
    thanks a lot

    • Jeff Patterson November 30, 2013, 4:59 PM

      Hi Emil,

      Thanks for you kind words. I did design the site with a lot of help from WordPress and the Thesis theme from DIY Themes. You can certainly do it if I did. Send me an email at jeff@homerepairtutor.com if you have more questions.

  • Linda Watts December 10, 2013, 2:58 PM

    About six weeks ago we had a granite countertop and tile backsplash installed but the caulk is already cracking where the two surfaces meet. I am worried that my cabinets aren’t supporting the extra weight but after reading your blog I feel better knowing that this happened to you and its probably going to be okay. Would you suggest we wait a few months then try replacing the caulking?

    • Jeff Patterson December 13, 2013, 4:54 PM

      Sorry to hear about your situation Linda. I truly think it’s just the weight of the counters making the counters settle. So you should be okay.

      Waiting a few more months should be good. It’s always hard to say how long to wait but I bet 6 months to a year would be fine then you can apply a new bead of caulk.

      Now that I know what I know I’d recommend all homeowners just wait to caulk the counter if they use super heavy materials like granite. I realize this presents issues with crumbs falling behind the counter but it’s manageable. Nobody likes tearing out caulk that’s cracked, NO FUN!!!

      • Linda Watts December 13, 2013, 6:54 PM

        So true that replacing caulking is no fun but the tile installer who grouted and caulked didn’t mention that scrinkage would be an issue. While I love the overall look, if I had it to do over I’d go with a good grade of formica. You can’t cut on formica or set hot pans on it but you can’t do that with granite either. Formica is way cheaper plus there are no installation, weight or maintenance issues. If my best friend or a close family member asked for my opinion I’d recommend formica.

        • Jeff Patterson December 14, 2013, 7:30 AM

          Did you get a slab of granite Linda or individual tiles set as your counter?

          • Linda Watts December 14, 2013, 10:30 AM

            We got a slab of granite for the counter top (two pieces) and a ceramic tile backsplash.

          • Jeff Patterson December 14, 2013, 10:31 AM

            It probably looks out of this world!! I can understand why you chose it.

        • Kevin Bishop October 8, 2014, 12:06 PM

          Linda, I do not understand why you cannot cut or set pans on granite, other than the granite will dull your knife blades. We use one of those plastic looking cutting pads that you can roll up and put away for cutting. The heat of pans should be no problem. If you have quartz, then there could be a heat issue, but the newer stuff seems to be good up to about 525 degrees Fahrenheit. If you get it too hot, it can leave an ashy looking ring that you can not polish out.

  • Dave Grazian December 14, 2013, 2:18 PM

    Plumbers used silicon to glue the metal sink basket or flange on the sink 9 years ago. Note the garbage disposal hangs on the flange. I have a fired clay sink. I need to replace the flange. How do I get the flange off? I am using a oil filter wrench to grab the flange from under the sink. Can’t get any solvent in there. No space between sink hole and flange. I plan to try the hair dryer and oil filter wrench. But there is no budge yet. They packed the limited space with silicon. I called the plumber that did it. He just said I have to muscle it….Period! HELP!

    Dave

    • Jeff Patterson December 15, 2013, 6:56 AM

      Thanks Dave for your question.

      I can sense you’re frustrated with this big time.

      There is likely a strainer nut holding the strainer flange to the bottom of your clay sink.
      Some strainer nuts screw onto the bottom of the strainer and others are secured to the strainer using bolts.

      You’ll have to loosen this strainer nut with a special tool called a spanner wrench (they cost $16 to $35) and make sure if it has bolts securing it to the underside of the strainer that those bolts are removed in a counterclockwise fashion.

      Once the strainer nut is removed you should be able to “muscle” the strainer from your sink but be as careful as possible since your sink is clay!!!

      Hope this helps Dave.

  • Amy February 27, 2014, 1:16 AM

    We remodeled the bathroom a couple years ago and put a fish tank behind a piece of acrylic in the bathtub. It’s beautiful, but caulk ended up smeared all over the piece of acrylic. Could I use this method to scrape only the part that is out of place?

    • Jeff Patterson February 28, 2014, 6:33 AM

      Try using the razor blade approach first Amy. I bet it will work. Just me careful not to scratch the acrylic but that shouldn’t be too hard since the surface is smooth.

      If the razor doesn’t work then put your hair dryer on the lowest setting and give it a shot.

  • MARCIO OSORIO March 2, 2014, 12:00 AM

    PLEASE:
    HOW TO FIX WHITE STRECH TUBE IN THE BACK OF CLOTHE DRYER?
    THANK YOU VERY MUCH
    ROSEMARY OSORIO.

    • Jeff Patterson March 2, 2014, 8:03 AM

      Marcio, I think you’re referring to the dryer duct tubing.

      Check out this post I did because you’ll get some great tips on how to replace tube and learn which type to use.

      Let me know if this is what you’re looking for.

  • Pat March 10, 2014, 5:30 PM

    Bought a new construction house in 2008. In the first year began seeing many significant cracks in drywall over doors, cracks where drywall panels seamed on ceiling, etc., and they continue to expand. The biggest problem is gaps between counter backsplash and wallboard are 1/2 in to 3/4 in wide and all caulk has pulled away. Was planning to use minimal expansion spray foam to fill gaps and then recaulk. Am I missing any “gotchas” or having faulty logic on this one? Any other suggestions to deal with this? (Builder has long denied any responsibility for this, calling it “normal” settling.)

    • Jeff Patterson March 10, 2014, 8:28 PM

      Sorry to hear the builder won’t help you.

      I could be wrong here but the 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch gap, is it between the bottom of the backsplash and the top of the countertop?

      If so, do you have any leftover tile? You could actually attach the tile to the wall after cutting it to size.

      Let me know if this is making any sense.

  • Kim April 4, 2014, 10:11 AM

    I inadvertently used silicone when caulking around a window a few years ago. Now I’m trying to repaint and the paint won’t stay on the silicone. Will the hair dryer trick work to get it off the wall or do you think I need to sand it off? It’s a very difficult place to get to because it is a small sliver between the cabinet and the window frame. Any ideas would be helpful.

    • Jeff Patterson April 4, 2014, 5:52 PM

      Oh boy, sorry to hear that Kim. Yah, silicone isn’t paintable.

      Have you tried the hair dryer trick with a small razor blade? Be careful with the razor!!!

      If this didn’t work you might want to try Motsenbocker’s Lift Off, it’s caulk remover that’s green and has worked for me in the past.

  • Nick May 18, 2014, 9:10 PM

    How to remove my forcelane sinck glued to the cabinet counter top? Please help, tnx

    • Jeff Patterson May 26, 2014, 7:33 AM

      Sorry Nick for the late response. It’s probably adhered to the sink with caulk or some adhesive.

      Caulk is easy. Just score it with a utility knife all around the cabinet and wall. Adhesive is hard. You can try to score it but it might take some elbow grease.

      Let me know if this works.

  • Clazi May 24, 2014, 1:50 AM

    You can start your fire in a fireplace and build to full blown fire in approximately one minute while using a hair dryer after lighting the paper. Use on low and keep dryer far enough away to keep ashes from blowing. It does not usually kick up ashes unless you blow at the wrong angle. Go slow….you will catch on quickly…..and so will the fire. This can mean the difference of getting your fire going or not when it comes to wet or greenish wood.
    Hopefully your gal will appreciate your ingenuity, creativity and work ethics and not mind sharing her lil’ precious to benefit the both of you in a warm way.

    • Jeff Patterson May 24, 2014, 12:45 PM

      Whoa, that’s a good tip Clazi. Also a testament to how hot hair dryers can get.

      Fortunately my wife doesn’t mind when I have to use her hair products, lol.

      Thanks for the great idea and well wishes :)

  • Amy May 31, 2014, 1:34 PM

    We recently purchased a foreclosed home, however, it sat vacant for a year. We have an umbrella sink drain in a white vessel sink. There is a brown ring about a 1/8″ around the drain. I can’t seem to get this clean though. It almost feels like grout…rough and not smooth like a silicone caulk. Any advice on how to remove this without damaging the porcelain sink??

    • Jeff Patterson May 31, 2014, 2:49 PM

      Thanks Amy for your question and congrats on your home purchase. I’ve bought a few foreclosed houses and they always seem to have surprises!!

      Have you tried cleaning with OxiClean mixed with water? I’ve used it and gotten great results.

  • skip waterhouse July 24, 2014, 1:39 PM

    Great article on silicone removal! A small correction–the formula is F= 9/5C + 32, not 9/5F.

  • Kristen Hale July 27, 2014, 3:04 PM

    Do you HAVE to remove every SINGLE last trace of old caulk in order to apply the new caulk? I’ve tried a razor blade, “natural” caulk remover, and a scraper tool but haven’t been able to get the residual old caulk (paper thin remnants) off of the side of my tub in some spots. I’m now wishing I’d never started this project (HELP!) but there was mold underneath the old caulking so it really does have to be done. Any tips?

    • Jeff Patterson July 28, 2014, 6:11 AM

      I can feel your frustration Kristen. Have you tried Lift Off caulk remover? It works really well and might be worth a shot. Read the directions to make sure it’ll work for your tub situation.

      It’s preferable to remove the old caulk because the new stuff may not make a great seal between your surround and tub. Then you’d be back at square one with the mold issue. Please let me know how you make :)

  • John August 22, 2014, 11:01 AM

    I Did a good job with cleaning out old caulk around the tub et al in bath and applying new but our of date caulk. The caulk will not dry. How do you recommend I remove the out-of-date sticky caulk (48-hrs old and still like I just put it on) and do it all again with new caulk — penny wise and pound foolish – John

    • Jeff Patterson August 23, 2014, 10:24 AM

      Hmmm, I wonder why the caulk is still tacky John. Was it exposed to water prematurely? Just thinking out loud.

      Well, I’d probably use a 5-1 painter’s tool to scrap out the old “new” caulk. It’ll be messy so get some old rags to help. Grab a plastic bag to deposit all the caulk and rags into.

      Make sure you get the surface as clean as possible. You can use a flat razor blade to carefully scrape any fine residue.

      Here’s a big tip that might help: fill up the tub with water before caulking. This makes the gap between the tub and surround bigger. Then caulk the gap, drain the water, and let the caulk cure per the directions.

      Make sure there’s no water or moisture in the gap. This will prevent the caulk from curing properly.

  • Jaime August 22, 2014, 12:32 PM

    You list the temp that your hair dryer reaches in F, then 2 sentences later you say its in C. Then you give the correct formula for converting C to F even stating that it is but say to put the F temp in where the C temp is.

    Doesn’t exactly make me feel safe about following your instructions, just saying.

    • Jeff Patterson August 23, 2014, 10:18 AM

      Sorry about that typo Jaime. I corrected the formula. It’s F = 9/5C + 32.

      Thank you for pointing that out and I can understand your anxiety. Although you should actually feel more comfortable knowing that I did test the temperature with a thermometer and monitored the situation.

      Don’t let a typo stop you from experimenting. We all make mistakes :)

  • Shelagh August 23, 2014, 9:49 PM

    I found your website while trying to find out how to remove old caulk from around a tub. Thanks for the tip with the hairdryer…it worked like a charm!

    • Jeff Patterson August 25, 2014, 7:17 PM

      Awesome Shelagh. Glad it worked out. Let me know if you have more questions.

  • Joe August 24, 2014, 4:08 PM

    Hi Jeff thanks for the guide. It’s working for the most part. I’m working on a tub & tile situation for a bathroom that has grout and silicon caulk on top. I’ve gotten most of it off but there are parts where the silicon and grout are just glued together. I’m trying to leave the grout as is but curious if I apply new caulk over the small areas where there is old caulk what kind of trouble am I getting myself into? I really don’t see a way to get the old caulk off in some areas.

    • Jeff Patterson August 25, 2014, 7:31 PM

      You’d have to remove the grout with a grout removing tool or oscillating multi tool. Truth be told, I have the same situation and am thinking of using a multi tool with a grout removing attachment. It’s tricky since the attachment can scratch the tub but I was thinking of using a thin sheet of sheet metal to protect it.

      You could caulk over the old stuff but it’ll just fall off and look bad. Try to remove as much as you can and go from there. You could also tryout my multi tool method :)

  • SarahAFerguson September 5, 2014, 1:36 AM

    Thanks so much for posting this information. I’m trying to get the old caulk off my plastic tub surround and have managed to break off a smallish chunk of the surround in the process. I used a silicone sealant remover, which worked like a charm for getting the caulk off the enamel tub, but there is a thin coat of caulk on the surround that is really stubborn. Off I go to try out the hairdryer!

    • Jeff Patterson September 5, 2014, 7:34 PM

      Great job Sarah. What kind of silicone sealant remover did you use? Everyone wants to know so they can try it :D

  • Stephany Goldstein September 5, 2014, 4:42 PM

    Jeff,

    Some type of interesting individual placed caulk between all of the tiles in both bathrooms in our home, instead of grout. The caulking is now old and beginning to grow mold. How do I remove all of this caulking and replace it with grout without damaging the tile? Am I looking at a complete re-tile job? Thanks in advance for your help!

    Stephany

    • Jeff Patterson September 5, 2014, 7:27 PM

      You could try using caulk remover from Motsenbocker’s Stephany. It’s called Lift Off and is very user friendly.

      But test it on a small section to make sure it won’t harm the tile. If your tile is glazed you’ll likely be okay. Glazed tile has a glassy finish to it.

      Lift Off breaks down the caulk and then you can use either a plastic putty knife or razor to remove the caulk. Try the plastic option first.

      Make sure the grout lines are completely dry and then you can re-grout.

  • Virginia September 9, 2014, 10:28 PM

    The painters did a careless messy job caulking around the wooden moulding casings around the windows and cabinets against the walls. And the walls have an orange peel texture. The wood and caulk is white and the walls are dark colors so you can see the wavy uneven paint line around everything. Please help!!!

    • Jeff Patterson September 15, 2014, 7:53 PM

      You could always try to repaint the lines Virginia. If you have the paint you can use a cut-in brush to skillfully repaint the transitions.

      I actually prefer painting the lines by hand instead of using Frog Tape. But you could try both and see which you prefer.

  • Scott Bolan September 25, 2014, 9:03 AM

    Hey Jeff,

    Had a 1/4 inch glass surround shower install in the spring. On the outside of the shower, some of the silicon (just in certain parts) are turning orange. The inside of the shower is perfect with no problems. I’ve tried everything to clean the silicon thinking it was mold of some sort. Needless to say, no such luck. Did I get a bad batch of silicon when it was applied? Would it make sense to just scrap off the parts that are turning orange and reapply? Any help would be appreciated -

    • Jeff Patterson September 29, 2014, 5:47 AM

      Good question Scott. I’m not sure what the issue might be. Especially since the silicone is on the outside of the tub.

      Is there a cleaning solution you or someone else uses that might have caused a bad reaction? That’s one plausible reason.

      Is the silicone between the glass and track holding the glass or is the silicone between the track and floor?

      You could also call the installer and see what they think but let me know about my prior question :)

  • Exclusive Persistent Image September 29, 2014, 11:37 AM

    I will use this this techniques to adjust my salon sink.

    • Jeff Patterson September 30, 2014, 7:22 PM

      You probably have more tips on hair removal than me if you’ve got a salon :D

      I’m excited the tips will help you out. Let me know if you’ve got any questions. I’d be happy to help.

  • Michael October 9, 2014, 6:21 PM

    I have an oscillating multitool that I can use for grout and caulk removal. What should I use to prep for and to seal around window frames and between the tub and tile?

    If I have porous grout in between the bathroom tiles is it best to remove the grout and regrout the tile?

    Thanks,
    Mike

    • Jeff Patterson October 14, 2014, 5:44 PM

      Hey Michael, good questions.

      You could add blue painter’s tape to the tub then apply duck on top of that. This will help prevent scratching from the multi tool.

      If you’re going to regrout you’ll have to remove the existing grout. That’s the best option. But the multi tool will totally help a ton.

  • craig October 19, 2014, 12:59 PM

    Hi , I have mould around my shower base which is surrounded by plastic wet boards looking to strip sealant and refill how do I achieve this will hairdryer be too hot or bleach affect wetboards thnx for the help look forward to your response ☺

    • Jeff Patterson October 22, 2014, 5:55 AM

      Hi Craig, thanks so much for your question. You could first try to strip the sealant with a straight razor. Be careful not to etch the plastic but I think this is a great first option.

      Let me know if this works or not :D

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