Caulking for Beginners

Mom and I had a “To Do List” to prepare things for the company coming as soon as she returns from her vacation and I leave for mine.   Needless to say, it didn’t all get done before she left and I’ve been steadily scratching off items this past week.

One item on the list was, “Call Mr. X, and have him re-caulk around the shower surround/bathtub joint.”

Did I do what was requested?  Heck no.   Am I not a plumber’s daughter?  Do we not have boxes and boxes of caulk sitting around and multiple caulking guns?   And don’t I remember watching Dad do it?  Why pay someone?


First, I couldn’t read the fine print on the caulk I found – and wasn’t sure which one to use.   Also, the nozzles looked awfully big – I could already envision big blobs of caulk everywhere but where they were supposed to be.

So I picked up GE’s Premium Waterproof Silicone at the local store – – mainly because the following bold and eye-catching print was on the front of the tube:

  • Kitchen/Bath/Plumbing
  • 3 Hr Shower Ready
  • 5 Yr Mold-Free Product Protection

Yes, I’m using it for the bath, I like the 3 hour bit and having attempted to clean moldy caulking in rentals over the years, I liked the 5 year guarantee.

(If, and I say, IF, the caulking job I did lasts that long.)

So on to the step-by-step, which does not contain pictures of the whole process, because I rarely think to snap pics while in the middle of a project….


Pictured below are the tools I used to do this job – the tiny implements are really for doing manicures/pedicures, but hey, good enough to push back cuticles without scratching/damaging the nail bed = won’t scratch the tub, in my mind.

GE’s Premium Waterproof Silicone, cuticle pushers (two different brands with different edges), utility knife

Remove old caulk:

First run at a section, I ran the utility knife along the top edge (which was already pulling away, hence, the need to re-caulk) and then along the bottom edge, then tried to keep from scratching the tub while continuing to use the utility knife – not working so hot, so got out my black handled manicure tool and after a swipe or two using each end, switched to the metal one using the flat end.

Eureka!  Rest of the job went smoothly by running the utility knife along the bottom edge, then using the cuticle pusher to run along and pull out all the old caulk.

Not pictured is the vacuum cleaner I used to vacuum up the mess, which I later found out can be avoided if you line your work area with a garbage bag – ahh well, not too much of a mess to clean anyhoo.

I also did all the removal not utilizing cleaners or water.   Since the cuticle pusher did such a fab job of removing the old and every “how-to” said to let area completely dry before caulking, I thought, “Why get it wet to start with?”

After removing all the old caulking, I saturated a paper towel with rubbing alcohol and wiped down all the areas to be caulked.  I let it sit while having a cup of coffee and vaping on my e-cig, envisioning how perfect my caulking job is going to look when complete.  (I’ve learned over the years, taking a break and envisioning success is a useful practice.)

I didn’t blow dry the area with a hair dryer, nor did I fill the bathtub with water as a lot of how-to’s suggested.  (I’m guessing the water in the tub/sink suggestion is so you’re caulking the joints as they lie when under pressure….)

All I know is my mind did the following math:

Clumsy first-timer + bathtub full of water + hair dryer = Possible Disaster

Ergo, didn’t follow two of the tips – hope that doesn’t ruin the job…

Applying New Caulk:

Cutting the caulking tube tip near the very top made me feel more confident about not having big blobs laying around.     After some mid-project research, I tried using a plastic spoon (both ends) to smooth the caulk and ended up dipping my finger in water and smoothing it that way.   Very pretty (hope it holds!)

Next, a picture of a tool I should have used while doing this, but did not:

Plastic Gloves recommended if smoothing caulk with your fingers

I only figured this out when I was searching Google links on how to remove caulk from hands – – more on that later…

Finished Pics:

After cleaning up the edges and putting some extra on the end corners of the stall wrap around, I thought, “My, ain’t that pretty for my first caulking job?” and decided to snap some photos.

Corner of the surround
Long run at back of tub

How to get caulk off your hands:

A bucket of warm water and sponge was at the ready before I started this project, mainly because I seem to recall my Dad using those items.   The water came in handy to wet my finger before smoothing the caulk and the sponge helped to wipe it off.

After admiring my handiwork, I decided to wash the small residues of caulk off, take some pics and write this post.    Since I couldn’t read the fine print on the caulk tube, and since the water work so well while doing the project, I put soap on my hands, added water and then thought, “Oh, crap.”

Next I poured rubbing alcohol into my hands and rubbed around – probably would have worked if I hadn’t put water and soap on first.

Then I tried some Bartender’s Friend gritty cleanser – nope.

Then I did some research and found out, if I just wait a few days, the rest of the residue will flake off.    Although I have wondered if having some caulk on my hands might seal in the moisture and cut down on my hand lotion expenses….


It remains to be seen if my caulking job will be both pretty AND functional.  I promise to report if it doesn’t hold up before the 5 year mold protection warranty is up.   If it does, I’ll do all my own caulking from here on out.

If it doesn’t – well, then perhaps I will try again a time or two.

With gloves on….


Update: It’s just shy of the 1 year anniversary of this blog post – the caulk job has held up, no mold and my hands didn’t flake and fall off from waiting a few days for the caulk to rub off.   I’ll post each year to let you know if I died from having caulk on my hands for a few days.

P.S. I Super-Glued my fingers together at work when I was 22 years old – Super-Glue wears off in 3-4 days, too, and here I am, 21 years later – no cancer, still have both hands…

Shoulda blogged about that, but WordPress wasn’t around then…


Update January 23, 2013: 19 months out from the caulking job.   Still holds, still pretty and still no mold.

I’m posting an update to inform you that a partial bottle of GE Silicon caulk saved from a job 19 months ago doesn’t work today.   I moved to a new house and needed to caulk around the edges of a newly installed doggie door.   Because of prior experience and the pleasing results, I’ll be picking up another tube of GE Silicon caulk to do the job.

Oh, and some rubber gloves…..

Update September 5, 2014: Caulking job holds up

No, I don’t have current pictures – but logged into blog and saw this post still getting views – – and here’s why I can tell you the job is holding up:

  • My Mom is probably the best housekeeper in the world
  • There are folks in the community who love her and would love to invite her over, but after being at her house, are embarrassed for her to see their house
  • She has cleaned things so well over the years, they broke from the scrubbing – I’m Serious!  My dad rarely criticized her, but when she tore into house cleaning and then said, “uh-oh” he did let loose with a few choice words….
  • She still occasionally comments on what a good job I did on the caulking – she doesn’t read my blog, so she’s not swayed by me being the Queen of How-to-get-caulk-off-your-hands advice.
  • If it was turning even a faint shade of off-white, she’d be calling me either to A. Ask if I have time to re-caulk it, or B. Ask what I used and how I did it – she’s thinking about doing it herself – or C.Informing she’s having Mr. X, the handyman, come over to re-caulk it –

So – we are 3+ years (how time flies when you’re having fun) and it’s still holding up.   And, last I checked, GE silicon caulk is still available at a store near you….  It’s working so well, they’ll probably change the formula and we’ll all be caulking every year….Sigh – – I know, just ask me what happened to Bag Balm…. 🙂

Update – February 2016 – 

No pics, just yet, to post/share – will be done this spring when I help Mom move out to other digs – BUT – Ms. Awesome Housekeeper-Keep-on-top-of-things Mom continues to report, no need to re-do job, no yellowing/fading/cracking/failing of function –

So, since this continues to be one of my most viewed posts – just thought I would let you know – nearly 5 years, still holding strong!  (And yes! My failure to wear protective handware while doing the job is just a dim/distant memory and no long-term defects – so, ya wanna walk on the wild/Oops side of things?  Probably not a life changer – though your results might vary – just saying…. 🙂

5-Year Update

The success of the 5-year benchmark deserves a post, all it’s own –  Caulking of Bathtub – 5 Year Update.

21 thoughts on “Caulking for Beginners”

  1. I used silicon caulk and made the same mistake of getting it my hands. But when I read the contents of the tube I saw it had petroleum based products in it. I was able to get all the caulk off simply and easily by soaking a paper towel in vegetable oil and wiping with it. vase line should also work but may be harder to wash off after.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is spooky timely! I am about to embark on some home caulking myself… will definitely refer to your handy hints. Thank you 🙂


        1. 🙂 I can’t help but reiterate….
          Below is the #1 search term that sends people to my blog the most often:

          “how do I get caulk of my hands?”

          Okay – I’ve done my duty to another adventurous soul – I’ll shut up about it now… 😀



  3. I like this and always encourage people to step put of there comfort zone to do more things for themselves. People today have such narrow and specialized skill sets compared to our earlier ancestors


    1. I agree – I’ve often been on the receiving end of lectures regarding my goal of being a ‘Generalist’ in the Age of Specialists! I think about our pioneering ancestors, who built a life out of the wilderness – who didn’t have a town full of specialists to run to for every little thing.

      I’m very lucky to have had the dad I did – he encouraged me to learn as I go and told me “If you pay attention while taking something apart, you can usually fix it and put it together again.”

      But it’s nice to have a library to look things up in (the internet, these days) and just hoped my addition to the available library may help – apparently, it does, as this is my most popular blog post! 🙂


      1. Sounds like your dad and I would have a lot in common. When I was 7 I started taking apart clocks in my fathers clock collection to see what made them tick, till I got caught. 🙂


        1. Yeah….getting caught isn’t such a big deal when someone who knows what is really going on catches you…rest of the time – – – usually worth a grounding or two…LOL


        2. I graduated to bicycles, cars, appliances and anything else that made me curious, eventually leading to my interest in knowing my self, then understaning others, understanding culture and understanding how social systems work. Hence my career in social work and life long learning that continues into retirement. Not the usual career pathway, I know.


        3. I’ve often wondered if ‘the usual’ career pathway ever takes people where they really wish to be… 🙂
          I like to think life is a meandering journey, with wonderful little side detours along the way and that if you stick to the straight and narrow – goal orientated line, you miss out on finding the really pretty nooks and crannies along the way
          Which is why my garden will never be featured in the ‘formal, geometric gardens’ section of any magazine…. LOL


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