How To Caulk A Bathtub

Updated by Lynda Stevens

No matter how you try to make your bathroom look spotless and fresh, those broken and cracked seals lining your bathtub look just off. That’s why learning how to caulk a bathtub comes in handy to make your tub look more inviting and your soaking time more relaxing.

And aside from that awful sight of discoloration, that caulk peeling away in your bathtub can cause mold and mildew if you don’t deal with them earlier. Recaulking your tub may sound a little bit complicated, but there are ways and practical tips you can find that can help you get the job done.

You may imagine making a mess out of all these, but learning how to recaulk a bathtub just requires patience plus these detailed steps from Leah of See Jane Drill that will help you give your bathtub a lovely makeover. 

Make sure that you follow these steps diligently as you don’t want to be putting a lot of time recaulking your bathtub only to find the caulk cracking again because you didn’t follow the instructions right. So, let’s get started.

What You Will Need

For removal of the old caulk:

  • Compressed air
  • Razor blade scraper
  • Oscillating tool kit (optional)

For caulking:

  • Blue masking tape/painter’s tape
  • Silicone tub and tile caulk
  • Caulk gun (optional)
  • Scissors or utility knife
  • Spoon (optional)
  • Latex gloves (optional)

Step-By-Step Breakdown

1. Remove Old Caulking

Before anything else, one handy tip before attacking your old caulk is to put a small towel to cover your main drain to prevent the peels from clogging your tub. As unclogging your tub is another issue, you don’t want to add this on your list right when you just crossed off your caulking problems.

Now, let’s start scraping. Use a razor blade scraper to remove old caulking where the tub meets the bathroom wall. You may want to attach the scraper blade with a power tool such as an oscillating multi-tool kit to make your work faster and easier but scraping it manually is also just fine.

After cutting through the caulking around the tub, tug them out carefully as you don’t want to accidentally scrape your tub and bathroom tiles.

This may take a lot of effort and time but you have to be thorough and make sure that you don’t leave any old caulking residue.

This is very important as old caulk and new caulk never work well together. When recaulking, starting on a clean surface is vital especially if you want this new caulk to last long.

2. Spray Away All The Debris

After peeling off all the old caulking, use an air compressor to spray away all the debris. Leah from See Jane Drill recommends the spray duster that are usually used on computer boards for efficient results. This step will help you make sure that you don’t have tiny bits of caulk left before you apply the new caulk.

3. Use Masking Tape Or Painter’s Tape To Have A Neat Caulk Line

Of course, you want to avoid having a messy caulk line result and you can achieve this professional look by placing a masking tape above and below the caulking area. It is totally up to you if you want to add this step before applying the new caulk, but you will be surprised with how neat the results will be once you peeled off the tape.

So this is definitely worth all the trouble. Just make sure to run your finger across the edge of the tape to ensure that no caulk will bleed through. If that happens, you will just end with a messy caulk line and all these taping will be useless.

4. Attach The Caulk Tube To The Caulk Gun

Now you’re almost ready to caulk. Attach the caulk tube to the caulk gun. If you don’t have a caulk gun and are not planning to invest in one, there are hand caulk tubes that don’t require this device. Hand caulk tubes are like toothpaste tubes.

Using a caulk gun is faster, though. Hand caulk tubes are more difficult to control and there’s a tendency that you won’t be able to apply the caulk evenly. But don’t worry as we will also discuss later how to deal with this problem.

As they say, practice makes perfect. So whether you’re using a caulk gun or not, you may opt to practice first on some used cardboard so you can have an idea on how hard you need to squeeze out to get the right amount of caulk. This can also help you get the right angle or how you are going to position your hand when you apply the caulk.

Trial and error is key as you want to avoid applying too much caulk as it will be messy and too little caulk may not fill in the gaps enough.

Since you’re caulking a tub, it is highly advisable that you purchase a silicon-based caulk as it is waterproof and flexible and therefore more suitable for bathrooms.

The edges in your bathtub cannot avoid the splashes of water every time you use a bathroom so it also pays to choose the right kind of caulk. And though it may not protect your caulk from mold and mildew forever, it is still recommended to purchase a caulk that has mildew protection.

You can use a pair of scissors or a utility knife to cut the nozzle tip. Cut the tip at about an angle of 45 degrees. Cutting at this angle will help you lay down a smoother bead.

5.   Apply The Caulk

Start caulking at the corner straight to the other corner. If you’re using a hand tube, lay down a generous bead of caulk as you follow the gap between the masking tapes you’ve put in earlier. At this time, don’t worry if your caulk line doesn’t look smooth as you can go back into it later.

If you’re using a caulk gun, drag the gun along the line, using the masking tape as your guide, as you apply steady pressure on the trigger.

6. Give The Caulk A Smooth Finish

There are different methods to finish the caulk. One way is the finger and water method. Put on latex gloves and wet your finger with water.

You may not want to skip this practical tip as some caulks have chemicals that may harm you if you don’t use gloves. Some caulk tubes will indicate this in the warning label.

With a paper towel in hand, use your wet gloved finger to go over the caulking. Paper towels will come in handy to wipe the excess caulk immediately and prevent you from creating a big mess.

The other way is the spoon method. Dip the spoon in water and use the back of the spoon to draw across the caulk from one corner to the other.

Whichever method you use, be careful that you stay between the lines for a smooth and beautiful result later. Further, keep in mind that you have to remove the excess caulk immediately as you don’t want it to set that way. It will also be easier to smoothen the applied caulk.

One practical tip is to give the caulk a smooth finish right every after you finish applying the new caulk on every edge. Don’t wait to remove the excess caulk when you finish sealing everything.

7. Remove The Masking Tape

Doing this last step right is just as important as the first step. Peel off the masking tape immediately after smoothing the caulk. Beware that you don’t let the caulk set before removing the tape as the caulking lines will just end in a disaster finish.

Now, that makeover just gave your bathtub a brand new look. But don’t soak in it just yet as it’s still not ready for use. Typically, silicone caulk takes 24 hours to dry completely. You can also read the instructions on your silicone tube regarding the waiting time.

Conclusion

You know it’s time to look for efficient ways on how to caulk your bathtub when you see unpleasant peelings of caulk every time you soak on your tub. The discoloration on the edges of your tub looks grimy and no matter how you obsess over it every time you scrub your bathroom, you just can’t get that neat fix you’re looking for.

But there’s more than that as recaulking your tub is not only for aesthetic purposes. This kind of maintenance is also important to prevent water damage as cracked caulking lets water leak down on the inside of your walls. Imagine all that water that’s not able to dry up. That’s when mildew and molds come into the picture.

Learning how to caulk a bathtub will certainly require tubs of patience and diligence in following instructions. But don’t worry, as these detailed instructions and tips from Leah of See Jane Drill can help you avoid recaulking mistakes. All that trouble is worth doing as your hard work and patience have just saved you a lot of money.

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