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How to Remove Caulk

Without a HUGE Mess

As Seen On
by Jeff Patterson in DIY Bathroom Remodel
Remove and Replace Moldy Shower Caulk

Today you’ll learn how to remove caulk from a shower.

Here’s the deal:

Moldy shower caulk is disgusting.

We’ll share two tools that make this job way easy.

Let’s do it!!

Getting Started

Why should you care about moldy shower caulk?

Moldy Shower Caulk

Well,

  1. It looks terrible
  2. It can adversely affect your health

Unfortunately in my bathtub there was silicone over grout.

FUN TIMES.

Here are the supplies you need

My wife has asthma and cutting down on the dust is job #1 for me.

How do you do this while removing all the grout and caulk?

 

Removing Grout and Caulk without Creating a Dust Cloud

In my opinion the best tool for this project is an oscillating multi tool.

We love Fein’s MultiMaster 350Q.

MultiMaster

I’ve had other oscillating multi tools.

The first one died while removing grout for 5 minutes.

I was not happy.

Here’s why I like the MultiMaster:

  • POWER
  • Dust extractor
  • Tons of accessories

You need a grout removal accessory for grout removal.

The dust extractor attachment can be hooked up to a shop vac.

This is great because as you remove grout or caulk it gets pulled into the shop vac and not your lungs.

That’s always a good thing.

MultiMaster with Shop Vac

 

How to Cut Down on the Dust and Debris

In today’s tutorial I’m using Fein’s Turbo II shop vac.

It’s a full certified HEPA dust extractor unit and also comes with a ton of accessories.

In the video I make a Star Wars reference about the Turbo II (couldn’t help myself).

Turbo II

You can plug the MultiMaster into the Turbo II.

I love this feature because when you turn on the MultiMaster you turn on the Turbo II at the same time

Pretty sweet.

Integrated Outlet

Start the caulk and grout removal process by wiping the surface of your tub.

It has to be totally dry.

Cover the tub drain with a towel.

Then apply a layer of painter’s tape to the tub where it meets the caulk.

Painter's Tape

Add a second layer of painter’s tape, overlapping the first one by half the width.

Second Layer or Painter's Tape

Apply at least one layer of duct tape over the painter’s tape.

Duct Tape

Tape protects the tub from the vibration of the multi tool.

Adding the duct tape on the painter’s tape allows you to pull the tape without damaging your tub.

The MultiMaster will chew through the grout no problem but you don’t want it damaging the tub.

Grout Removal

Use a 5-in-1 painter’s tool to remove hard to reach grout or caulk.

Painter's Tool

Razor scrapers are great for removing sealant that’s on the tub or tile.

You can’t beat this tool for $3.

Razor Scraper

Once the caulk and grout are gone how should you proceed?

PLUS: what’s the best caulk for the tub?

 

How to Replace Silicone Caulk

I get a lot of questions about silicone sealant.

The best one I’ve used is from GE and is 100% silicone

Silicone

Fill the tub with water up to the overflow.

This little tip helps widen the gap between the tile and tub.

Fill Tub

Cut a tiny hole in your tube.

Make the cut at a 45 degree angle as this helps with the application.

Tube

I like to apply the silicone on the small vertical section first.

Vertical Joint

Then go to the corner and work my way back to the vertical.

Horizontal Joint

Once that bead is applied I dip my finger in the tub water and smooth out the joint.

Smooth Joint

After a few hours you can let the water drain from the tub.

This will compress the silicone joint slightly and make a nice watertight seal.

Watch the video to see all my tips, an R2D2 cameo, and learn about the awesome giveaway

 

What’s Next

Hope you liked today’s tips on how to remove caulk.

If you’re installing a new bathtub our Americast tutorial is a good one.

Thanks as always for reading, watching, and being part of our awesome community.

Ask your questions below and we’d be happy to help.

Cheers,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

 

P.S. If you’re doing a DIY bathroom remodel in 2018 check out Bathroom Repair Tutor, you won’t be disappointed with the videos and one-on-one support.

P.P.S. Our online store has a ton of supplies for homeowners doing a bathroom remodel. You’ll find wedi shower systems, KBRS shower pans, tiling tools, and more.

91 Comments
  1. I absolutely love your website and tips. As the director of a tool lending library, you are going to be seeing my comments a lot for the tool giveaways. We have yet to receive a quality multi-tool in our donations so this one would make a great addition.

    1. I love your concept Jessica, really great idea for people who can’t afford tools.

  2. Sandi says:

    I’ve only removed caulk by hand. The multi tool makes it look so much easier! One more reason I need one. I’ll also cut smaller holes in the caulk tube from now on.

    1. You can certainly use a painter’s tool and razor scraper in a lot of situations Sandi…but with grout I recommend a multi tool. It’ll speed up the project 😀

  3. Donna says:

    I need to remove caulk and have been avoiding the project because in the past I did it by hand and it was so time consuming and HARD! Truly, having the right tools make all the difference. Thanks for this helpful video, your tip about the dust was invaluable and I didn’t know I should fill the bathtub first. Thanks!

    1. Totally agree with you Donna that tools help cut down on the time. I realize not everyone needs an expensive shop vac and multi tool, but in some cases it makes sense. Especially if you’ll be using them for other projects. Super glad you got some great tips.

  4. Jim B says:

    Great tips. Do not have a multi tool and the switch recently went bad on my shop vac. Excellent video. Thanks
    JB

    1. Thanks JB, if you fix that switch let me know. We could share your project on the podcast. I don’t think you can go wrong with the MultiMaster. It’s a solid multi tool.

  5. John R says:

    1st – Congrats on your 200th podcast! I have listened to all of them and pick up several tips to resolve some of my issues. 2nd – the one tool that I do not have in my tool Arsenal is a multi tool. This would greatly reduce my project time now that I am in an indoor project mood since the weather is now getting colder. The vac that works in sync with the tool is amazing. Fein really hit a home run with this concept.

    1. Thanks John for listening to the show, really appreciate your support. It’s been fun and I love reading listener questions. If you ever have one feel free to send it via email. I agree with you, Fein makes some of the best tools. If you’re a woodworker the Turbo II is amazing. It’ll pull the dust out of any power tool.

  6. Kelli says:

    It is about time for me to do this again. I hope to do a better and quicker job than last time.

    1. Let me know if you run into any questions. I’d be happy to help Kelli.

  7. Mike Godleski says:

    I love all your tips and tricks. I have learned a lot from you! I use my 5 in 1 tool and razor blade often. I usually have to take the cheap route, but still get the job done. The giveaway is greatly appreciated!

    1. Whatever route works and cuts the time is the best, so a 5-in-1 or razor scraper might be all you need. Particularly if it’s just silicone. Thanks Mike for your kind words.

  8. Tyler Nelson says:

    This is the exact project I need to tackle. Our sealant has gotten black and ugly. It needs replacing in the worst way. This was a very helpful video. I was wondering the best way to protect the tub. I wouldn’t have thought of filling the tub with water either… Great idea. Thanks a ton. Love the site and all the great tips.

    1. Yah, covering the tub with the painter’s tape and duct tape on that works great. And you can add a few layers of duct tape, it shouldn’t hurt anything. Let me know Tyler if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help.

  9. Marilyn says:

    This is a project I’ve been dreading simply because I don’t have the right tools to make this go smoothly and look professional. Thanks for showing these helpful tips. The Multimaster would be a frequently used addition to my toolbox. 🙂

    1. Don’t hesitate to give this a try Marilyn. And if you have questions you know I’ll help out. Let me know how you make out 😀

  10. Bob Marshall says:

    The process used in your video validates how I recaulk my tub. It is a very important job! Only thing I would add is to clean the surfaces with alcohol before recaulking. I would LOVE to own the multi tool and the shop vac – I’ll put them on my Christmas list!! Keep up the good work – I enjoy the weekly videos.

    1. Great tip with the alcohol Bob, didn’t even think of mentioning that. So thank you. Really appreciate you watching the weekly videos. Made my day 😀

  11. Cyndi Paola says:

    1. I must get both of those tools!
    2. Using the tape(s), genius!
    3. I’ve always used a wet finger for caulk, I discovered that by pure accident.
    I have three bathrooms to do, including the shower floors, these tools would save hours of back breaking work!
    Thanks for all your great videos! Keep up the excellent work Jeff!

  12. Howard says:

    Jeff:
    When I saw the title of this email, I got excited. as I’ve got a genuine, on-going need to remove molding caulk from tubs. Yet my heart sank as I saw the production involved with accomplishing it. There must be a simpler “rendition” of this…one that can get it done quicker…..for the “multi-tub rehabber”…..the search continues

  13. Mike R says:

    It is funny because I am so pig-headed I missed why the tub needed to be filled up with water many, many, moons ago…….in a galaxy far….. wrong end of sentence. I need to re-grout a bathroom bad. It would be nice to have that vacuum connection on the MF tool. I get dust everywhere when I do these jobs. That is a great investment! So is a portable vacuum with power!

  14. Aimee Prosser says:

    Jeff,
    Thanks for another awesome video. I did have one question. I see your shower is tiled, ours is also. Can a multi tool such as this one be used in general to remove and reuse old tiles?? We have some that are pushing out and really don’t have the money to redo it all. Would be great to cut them out, fix the issue behind them and replace them. Would love to see that in an upcoming video. If not, I sure would enjoy prying those babies off and starting fresh when the time is right. Thanks again!!
    Aimee

  15. Tim Sharp says:

    I would be very nice to use the tools that you show in your video, Te methods I use are time consuming and messy

  16. Mary T says:

    OMG!! I have to do this and I NEED one of those vacuums! I love that it connects to the tools and uses the power from the tool you are using!! NICE!! Thanks for sharing!!

    Keep up the great work!
    Mary

  17. DebF says:

    I’m helping my sister remodel her bathroom and the multi-tool sounds like it would be great to remove the caulking around the tub. We already did the caulking on the floor by hand and a multitude of other tools. It was a time consuming mess! Thanks for the helpful hints.

  18. Bill Saintey says:

    Great tips – and very timely. I’m about to replace the caulk in my bathroom. Thanks for posting it!

  19. Michelle R says:

    Could definitely use this tool. This is the 3rd time I’m doing my bathroom shower caulk. So time consuming doing it by hand. And I’ll take your advice on that GE mold free caulk. Seems I kept getting the mold “resistant”.

  20. Renee Pedersen says:

    Are you reading my mind or what? I just looked at our tub last night and thought to myself “it is time is get to re-caulk the tub again”. I hate that job. You make it look pretty easy. Never thought of putting water in the tub though. Good idea! Of course, my arms are not that long so I might be sitting in the water part of the time! Ha! Thanks for the info! Oh, and by the way, cool tools!!!

  21. MIke says:

    WOW! I have done this a couple of times but I have used a angle grinder and created huge amount of dust to remove grout and silicone. This tool sure looks the way to go!

  22. Ompa says:

    I really enjoy watching and analyzing your helpful videos. I have a multi-tool of a different brand but they work the same and really help in multi jobs. What I would like is for you to make a video or article showing how to remove silicone caulk from joint, like between a one piece shower and the shower door. I have not been able to remove, clean and reapply the caulk and have it last more than a couple years. And then redo it again. Thanks for all your good helping tips. Really helps a DIY to get jobs done.

    1. Celene says:

      In the really odd and hard to reach spaces, I’ve resorted to using the chemical caulk dissolvers. Make sure to use ventilation with them and you’ll still need to pull out the old caulk, but often it can be done with fingers alone. Cleaning the area of removed caulk is then necessary; make sure you get all of the chemical off and the area is dry before running a new bead of caulk.

  23. Celene R says:

    I wish I had the cover the drain tip before I recaulked last time! What an amazing tool for getting rid of the old caulk. Literally more than a couple of hours was spent getting rid of the caulk with only the painters tool last time! I love the clean look of fresh caulk; thank you for the tips on making the job easier.

    For smaller hands, I’d recommend spending the extra money to get the smaller squeeze tubes of caulk; I found them much easier to apply than using the big caulking gun and one tube can generally cover at least a tub surround and sink. Also, as my fingertips are smaller, I use a slightly moistened sponge cloth over my finger and can run a much neater bead than with my finger alone (extra benefit – I don’t have to get the caulk out from under my nails after).

  24. Kelly Jones says:

    Love your videos! Keep them coming. ????

  25. JT says:

    Jeff, I love your videos and I have the same bathroom problem of silicone over grout. They also did the tub to the floor the same way and now it’s collected dirt and grime for 50+ years. Could I use the same tool to remove that silicone/grout combination for the tub to the floor? Would I then just use silicone or would I need to regrout it?

  26. Marci Stein says:

    I thought the multi-tool video was fantastic! The only suggestion I would add would be; before applying caulk, apply painters tape to both tub and wall surface. When you add the bead of caulk and run your finger along to smooth it out. Give it 10 minutes to set, remove tape and there is no clean up! Voila! Now please send me my new muti-tool!

  27. Char says:

    Learned a lot–again. Thank you

  28. Florida Dave says:

    I’ve tried taping before applying silicone caulk, and it leaves a neat joint, but often there STILL remains a slight ridge instead of a smooth edge. Instead, apply a small bead of caulk, then before wiping the joint, overspray with NON-AMMONIA foaming tile cleaner. Immediately tool the joint with finger or other tool. When dry, clean the excess caulk and foam cleaner. The caulk will not stick where the foam cleaner was! Experiment on scrap material before committing yourself to the project so that your joint will look perfect.

  29. Christine says:

    Hi, Jeff,

    When I saw the subject of your latest email, I was excited initially because this is a major problem for us. Mold loves silicone caulk and the join around the tub was filled in with silicone and it is totally black. The regular tile grout in the tile above it, is just fine and easy to keep clean. There is nothing to be done but remove the filthy, black silicone caulking.

    The problem was the first item on your list of supplies needed for this task that costs $200! We live in an apartment with a lazy manager and we have to do it ourselves but I don’t want to purchase such an expensive tool for this job. I’m sure that it does many other things.

    What is your cheaper method for removing the hideous silicone caulk?

    Thank you,

    Christine

  30. Matt says:

    I hadn’t thought of using a multi-tool for caulk removal. Great idea.

    One of the tips that i’ve see for applying large lines of caulk, is:
    Instead of using your finger, use a plastic spoon (dip in water, just like you would your finger).
    For extra comfort (and extra clean lines), you can also use painters tape to tape both sides of your caulk-hole for easier cleanup.

  31. Lillace Christianson says:

    Oh, my goodness do I need to do this job! I’m going to buy that painter’s tool, but I guess I’ll have to wait to WIN the fein wonder! Have a great week!

  32. Jay Stevens says:

    WOW-I was just thinking about this chore and how a multi-tool could help. Excellent video-great advice. Jay

  33. Leslie says:

    Thanks for the opportunity! This is perfect timing for me, as I have to take care of some moldy caulk around my bathtub. Your video is very helpful, as I’m learning how to do a lot of things on my own for the first time.

  34. Jerry Herrman says:

    Thanks for showing us how to remove caulk easily and with a minimum of dust.

  35. Susan M says:

    Great tips! I have two tubs that need some love right now.
    And yes, that is the droid you are looking for. 🙂

    Our shop vac died recently and with, everyone’s allergies, the hepa filter will prevent a lot of suffering. These tools sure would come in handy.

  36. Leonard glover says:

    I love how-to videos. I especially like the vacuumed. Is it really that quiet? I love the dual simultaneous start.

  37. Hank Wolgast says:

    Jeff, I don’t know how you do it but you seem to post the exact video that I absolutely need. I have been putting off this exact repair because of the dust problem. My wife has bad allergies and the dust of any kind really gives her breathing fits. One question,are the power tools and the vacuum really that quiet? I could barely hear them running. I would sure like to own a set of those Fein Tools. Keep the great videos coming, I am so impressed with them. You have saved me lots of headaches and time……Great job as always.

  38. Terri Hughes says:

    Great little tool and I love the shop vac. Both would cut down on so much work and make clean-up a breeze. Thanks for great video!

  39. Claudine D says:

    This is on my list of projects. Not sure I have any grout behind my sealant but that multi tool sure looks handy.

  40. Craig Mingay says:

    Hey Jeff – love the tips and the podcast. Just one question this week. How do you get the sealant/caulk off the tub without scratching it? I’m about to take on this project but have a surround so I will have to remove caulk from the fiberglass. Anyway thanks for the great tips everyday! Craig

  41. Squafdonoboles says:

    A warning about bubble baths – certain brands can discolor or fade your tub. Choose a formula that does not contain formaldehyde or microbeads.

  42. Steve says:

    Hey Jeff great video, I love this tool and it would come in handy when I need to do a total clean up of my garage. Plus our grout needs to be replaced soon as well around out tub and if I can reduce a mess I’m a happy guy. Steve

  43. Chris says:

    As always, EXCELLENT tutorial! Wish this video was in my life a couple of weekends ago when I tackled a bathroom caulking job (I think more dried silicone ended up all over my hands than on the caulked seams). Oh well, you live and learn. Keep up the awesome work!

  44. Brendan says:

    Why do you need to remove the grout too? Why not just remove the old moldy silicone? When I removed mine i just cut part of it and was able to peel the rest off in little strings. Having this multi tool and shop vac would be beneficial to go this route but I did not plan to buy any new tools for this job, apart from a nice caulk gun (it is the exact model you listed above and I love it).

  45. dan says:

    Jeff, if we don’t have $600 for a shopvac show ’em your $5 double bucket rainbow 0 dust vac design one of these winter days. Then you don’t have to get filters or clean them on the vac. You just dump out the dirty water out the backyard for the earthworms.

  46. Mike says:

    Your podcast is how I start my day and the tips and help you pass our way is so awesome. Hope you continue this for many many more baseball seasons.

  47. Ed says:

    Great video Jeff, I’ve done this job a few times and sure could have used that multitool. Also I loved that Fein’s Turbo II shop vac with the outlet that turns on the vac when the tool is switched on. That would be so handy. Keep up the good work.

  48. Rick Stebbins says:

    Great Tool – Will have to get one for my next project. Liked the no dust and the tip
    using the tape on the tub. Great Job

  49. Isaac says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I used a multi tool on the front steps to remove the old seal–can’t beat that for the job. But I also used a heat gun to soften the seal in between the concrete and brick. Would you recommend a heat gun for removing old moldy silicone?

    Nice work with the videos!

  50. Jimmy Stinnett says:

    You had me when you said I may can win my very own R2D2

    1. LOL, I said that…dang, now I’m on the hook.

      Personally I’d take R2D2 over any power tool, haha

  51. Breinne Marie says:

    Jeff, love the show! I just bought my first house and will be doing several projects in 2016. This tool would be a GREAT help doing these renovations. Thanks for all you do.

  52. ROBERT W MORRIS says:

    GREAT DIY.. very helpFUL!

  53. David R. says:

    Great use of the tool, sure makes things easier, I really liked the tip about filling the tub, never would of thought of that, thanks and keep up the great videos.

  54. William Dorsey says:

    The fein multimaster is a great tool. I have the original model which isn’t nearly as nice as the newer models, but it does still give you appropriate power and control for a broad range of remodeling tasks. What makes this model shine is the very nicely designed dust extraction kit. Coupled with the excellent fein II vacuum, the multimaster with dust extraction kit controls the dust and debris almost perfectly. It beats the old school method of using the tool with one hand and a vacuun cleaner hose in the other hand. Not only was it akward, it isn’t nearly as effective at containing the dust!

  55. Robert Martynowych says:

    Fein tools are expensive but worth it. Used the Fein vac when I ran the Lead Training Center at Danville PA. One could plug a tool in for 120 V power through the vac as shown in your grout removal video. The Fein vac we had would cut power to the tool one was using if flow was restricted preventing proper collection of the dust. This was a great feature in that it didn’t turn off the vac, it turned off the tool. Like the podcast

  56. Thomas Conrad says:

    Thanks for the info. Great advice with the tape AND filling the tub, however, I have a shower stall to tackle. What do you think of adding weight to the shower stall to have the same effect as the tub full of water? Think I’ll put those dumbbells to use 🙂

    Thanks again for a timely message and all the hints.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. I don’t think it could hurt Thomas as long as the weights don’t damage the shower. Great thinking on your part!!!

  57. Hilary says:

    This is the best idea that I have ever seen for removing caulk! However, I have the most ridiculous question to ask about the water in the tub. Is there any other reason to put water in it except create a smooth, clean line of caulk? I’m asking because I have a walk-in shower. Thanks for sharing your excellent ideas!

    Happy Holidays!

    1. Good question Hilary, the water in the tub is to “lower” the tub just a bit so that when the water is released the new silicone will be squeezed.

      For a walk-in shower you don’t have to worry about this technique.

      Thanks for asking 😀

  58. John says:

    Happen to be recaulking the tub this week…love the idea of filling the tub first. Not something I’d ever thought of.

    Love the podcast, love all the ideas. Makes me more confident doing things around the house.

    1. Awesome John, yah, that tub filling tip helps compress the silicone…super helpful with fiberglass or acrylic tubs.

      Thanks man for listening to the podcast. It’s been a lot of fun

  59. David Nelson says:

    Jeff, sorry I’m a little behind on my videos, but this is a great help for me. I’m going to have to barrow my son’s oscillating tool. I’m sure it will make my recaulking job so much easier and faster. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us.????

    1. Let me know how your make out David, hopefully the oscillating multi-tool makes your job easier.

      I personally love mine because it does a lot of different things like cutting, sanding, and removing caulk.

      Keep me posted

  60. Cameo says:

    Just found your site yesterday and am so happy I did!!! I do all the work on my house (and w 7kids 2 dogs and a mother in law 🙂 ) and its a lot of work there is always something that needs to be fixed replaced or rigged up till I can do the work !!!! Lol !!! But you have already been so helpful!!! So thank you so much!!!!

    1. Glad to help any time Cameo…you have your hands full my friend.

      Keep me posted on your projects

  61. Kelly from Michigan says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I’m new to your site and fb page and totally excited to learn things from you. We just purchased our first home and will be doing some bathroom repairs and the thought of grouting cleanly seems impossible until now. I will definately be referencing your video here in the future and cannot thank you enough for making the tutorials so easy to understand and follow. A lot of videos skip things that the average new home repair person might not know about. You seem to address all possible questions or concerns we would have.

    Thanks again,
    Kelly

    1. You made my day Kelly.

      Thanks so much and congrats on your new home!!! Totally exciting stuff.

      Any time you have a questions please let me know.

  62. Belal Ahmed Elgendy says:

    A really powerful tool. Thank you Jeff.

    1. It sure is Belal, the MultiMaster is great at all sorts of projects.

  63. Danielle says:

    Great tips! I need to do this in a few areas of our home. Never really sure what’s possible to clean vs needs to be replaced.

    1. Thanks Danielle, glad you liked the tutorial.

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  65. Gary Lotto says:

    I have an undermount kitchen sink (under granite counter) with the silicone caulking peeling off the sink side. Are there any special precautions I should take when using your hair-dryer technique in order to damage either the sink or the countertop? Is a safer technique available?

  66. Deaner says:

    Great info for removing Grout. For those that just need to remove caulk they make caulk removal products which soften the old caulk in about an hour and then it’s easy to scrape away.
    That said, i’ve used it twice and it worked really well once, and not at all the 2nd time. Wish i could remember who manufactured the product the first time i used it.

    1. Thanks for the tip, you might be thinking of ‘Lift Off’ by Motsenbocker. I used it on an exterior project and was happy with the results.
      https://www.homerepairtutor.com/how-to-remove-silicone-caulk-with-lift-off-caulk-foam-sealant-remover/

  67. Margretta Stone says:

    You recommend the Bosch multi-tool for removing grout, but in this caulk removal article you recommend the Fein multi-tool. Which one do you recommend for both jobs? Or are they so different?

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