Tips on Neatly Removing Caulk

Updated on October 27, 2016

Removing caulk can be a messy experience, and lead to a lengthy amount of time spent if not done correctly. Here are a few tips to make removing caulk less of a hassle.

The particular project I am working on is removing and replacing the caulk at the bottom of a tub where it meets linoleum. Notice the crack, which allows water to enter and damage the sub floor. Time for some home improvement!
The particular project I am working on is removing and replacing the caulk at the bottom of a tub where it meets linoleum. Notice the crack, which allows water to enter and damage the sub floor. Time for some home improvement!
Here is the caulk removal tool I snagged at Walmart
Here is the caulk removal tool I snagged at Walmart

Items needed to remove caulk

First thing to do is to purchase or gather the items you will need to neatly and effectively remove the caulk.

Tips for neatest removal, but more time consuming:

  • Caulk softener and remover - if you want to ensure ease and neatness, a caulk softener would be the way to go. It isn't necessary to remove caulk, but could lessen the hassle and cleanup. The problem is though it softens up the caulk for removal and thus makes it neater for cleaning up, it does take a few hours to loosen up the caulk.
  • Sponge brush (optional) - this can be paired up with the caulk softener as it may be used to apply the softener to the caulk. Some caulk softeners are spray on or gel applications and do not need this to apply.

What I used for this project (though not all are documented in the photos):

  • Caulk remover tool - these little guys do a nice job getting the bulk of the caulk off and relatively inexpensively. I picked up this one at Walmart for $2.94. It has two tools, one for digging in and removing the caulk, and a straight edge for removing excess caulk.
  • Flathead Screwdriver / Utility knife / Paint scraper or 5-in-1 tool - one of these or a combination could work for removing the little excess leftover after getting a bulk of the caulk from the caulk remover tool. I prefer the flat head screwdriver as I feel it has more control and gets the caulk residue off better. Use discretion using these tools as it may scratch the surface if you are not careful.
  • Vacuum cleaner with hose - you can use this or a Shopvac to cleanup the caulk bits right away. This helps in being able to have a cleaner work area to see how clean your area for caulking is, as well as minimizes the time spent on picking up the millions of caulk pieces.
  • Mineral spirits or rubbing alcohol.
  • Washcloth - a quick wipe with a wet washcloth removes dust and debris to prep for caulk softener. The washcloth can also be used with mineral spirits or rubbing alcohol to get rid of the caulk residue.

Step 1 (Optional): Using caulk softener

Choose your own adventure time! You have chosen to use the caulk softener.

First thing to do is wipe down the surface of the caulk to rid it of dust and other debris, ensuring maximum contact for the caulk softener to work best.

Depending on the type of caulk softener you have purchased, you can either spray it on, apply a bead along the caulk itself, or use a sponge brush to apply.

Once again, depending on the type of caulk softener you have purchased, you may wait up to 2 - 4 hours for the caulk to soften up for removal.


This edged portion lays in the seam of the the two joints. In this instance it is where the tub meets the floor.
This edged portion lays in the seam of the the two joints. In this instance it is where the tub meets the floor.
Inserting the pointed edge into the caulk with the edged bottom laying in the seam.
Inserting the pointed edge into the caulk with the edged bottom laying in the seam.

Step 2: Using a caulk remover tool

For those who skipped using a caulk softener, this may be your starting point.

The caulk removal tool's best feature is its pointed edge that digs into the caulk and allows you to strip off most of it by moving along the caulk line.

Simply insert the pointed edge (it takes a little force depending on the hardness of the caulk), then lay the tool so the tools 'V' shaped edge lays in the seam and while pushing down, push the tool through the caulk by following the caulk line. If you have a trash you can toss the large pieces, or use your vacuum hose to suck them up as you go.

Post caulk removal tool. notice there is still some excess caulk. Using a caulk softener will lessen the amount of caulk that is left behind when using the removal tool.
Post caulk removal tool. notice there is still some excess caulk. Using a caulk softener will lessen the amount of caulk that is left behind when using the removal tool.

Step 3: Removing caulk residue

Using one of the flat tools we are going to remove the residue caulk. I don't care for the caulk removal tool's flat edge for removing residue, I find it doesn't work as well. However, it is plastic and will reduce the likelihood of scratching. I prefer to use a flat-head screwdriver for its control and thicker edge. Knife's tend to be easier to slip and cause scratches. Although these scratches may be covered by caulk, a loss of control could lead to visible scratches.

Remember: be careful with what you use as it may cause scratches depending on the surface!

Select your tool and laying it at an angle, gently and slowly scrape the residue away.

This is the part where a vacuum hose is handy as the residue will leave the most minuscule and pesky pieces to pick up.

To get a nice clean finish, use a washcloth and mineral spirits or rubbing alcohol to wipe down the remaining and difficult to see residue.

A completely cleaned and neatly done caulk removal. Break out the caulking gun, its time to caulk!
A completely cleaned and neatly done caulk removal. Break out the caulking gun, its time to caulk!

Step 4: Cleaning up the caulk

I typically vacuum as I go to avoid things getting messy and complicating a simple task. If you haven't done so, or have a bit of debris leftover, vacuum away!

If you don't have access to a vacuum with a hose you can always dispose of the large pieces by hand. Sometimes I carry a bucket with me to place the removed caulk in. You can also use a slightly damp paper towel to wipe up the small residue pieces you removed. The damp paper towel is better at getting these pieces than a washcloth, acting somewhat like a magnet.

Now that you have finished removing the caulk and wiped down the area, you must allow it to dry before caulking.

If you are new to caulking, check out my beginner's guide to caulking a bathtub.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Susan 

        7 months ago

        Just removed the caulk from my kitchen countertops and found an advantage with using a hair dryer to heat it up before removing.

      • Laura Schneider profile image

        Laura Schneider 

        6 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

        I'm just about to travel down this same yellow brick road and recaulk around my tub, so I read this just in time! I probably would have used something inappropriate involving a Dremel tool and ended up with scratches. This method sounds better AND easier than anything I can picture with my Dremel. Thanks for a great article, Jared!

      • Teresa Coppens profile image

        Teresa Coppens 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Great hub with very helpful step-by step pictures. Very useful.

      • K9keystrokes profile image

        India Arnold 

        6 years ago from Northern, California

        Caulking has been a nightmare for us over the years. Always scratching the surface or leaving clumps of debris behind. Your hub addresses these issues and the pictures help to better understand the technique. Thank you for a real helpful guide for removing caulking!

        Up, up, and Up!

        Cheers~

      • missolive profile image

        Marisa Hammond Olivares 

        6 years ago from Texas

        Wow Jared! Can I hire you?! :)

        We have slowly refurbished our home and have enjoyed it ALMOST every step of the way. Removing and adding caulk is not the easiest thing in the world. You have described the steps very nicely. Great tips and excellent pictures. Well done and useful.

      • theclevercat profile image

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Great Hub! The pictures are immensely useful. Voted up and useful.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)