Angie's List: How To Caulk Your Shower

2 Hours

There's no expiration date on caulk, but when it begins to peel and turn different colors around your bathtub or shower, you'll know it's time. Luckily, caulking requires just a few tools and materials, making it an easy DIY project for handy homeowners of every skill level.
Photos by Steve C. Mitchell
Tools & Materials:
Caulk scraper
Chemical caulk dissolver
Caulk for bathtubs and showers
Utility knife
Antibacterial dish soap & sponge
Painter's tape
Caulk gun
Paper towels
Remove Old Caulk
If you decide to use a chemical solvent (optional), apply the chemical and wait as long as the instructions recommend. This might require a few extra hours before scraping. If you don't want to use chemicals, cut a line through the center of the caulk with your utility knife. Scrape away the rest. Take care not to scratch up your tub or shower wall.
Clean Surface and Let Dry
Make sure the edge where you will caulk is clean and smooth. Scrub any mold or mildew with antibacterial dish soap. Wait until it dries to continue, or else the caulk will have trouble adhering.
*To speed drying time, set up a fan or follow along the edge with a hair dryer.
Tape Edges
When the tub and wall have dried, tape along the edges of both. This ensures the caulk line looks uniform and makes less of a mess.
Keep the tape on the tub about one-eighth to three-sixteenths of an inch away from the wall and the same distance up the surface of the wall. If you have a tile shower with a gap between the tile and the tub, measure from the bottom of the tile, not the tub. Also, tape beyond any ridges on the tub you can't scrape off to hide them.
Apply Caulk and Smooth
Cut open the tube of caulk (usually a silicone caulk labeled kitchen and bathroom) with your utility knife, being careful not to cut the hole too wide. Run a bead of caulk between the tape. Smooth the caulk with your finger. Wipe your hands and any excess caulk with a wet paper towel.
*If the caulk is too thin, it won't fill the gap. If it's too thick, it will make a mess. If you're unsure, do a small stretch, smooth it down with your forefinger and see if it covers from tape to tape.
Remove Tape and Let Dry
Starting at one end, peel the tape from the tub. Do the same with the wall. After pulling off the tape, you might notice edges where the caulk doesn't sit on the tub's surface. Without disturbing the bulk, smooth down the edge with your finger.
*Fresh caulk needs to cure for at least 24 hours, but check for your product for specific directions.
--by James Figy, Angie's List

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Have a question about this project?

2 questions
  • GG
    on Nov 17, 2015

    Just curious, James. We put in some tub surround panels a month or so ago. My husband used a typical plastic edging around the base of them. If I wanted to do your procedure to my tub, would I have to remove that, or would the caulk cover and adhere to it?

    • Angie's List
      on Nov 30, 2015

      @GG Hi Gay, I wouldn’t recommend caulking over a caulk strip. If thebunched up sections do not seal the corner, I would recommend redoing the caulkjob. Gaps in the caulking could lead to water damage down the road. If it ispurely cosmetic, as you said, I would leave the decision to re-caulk to you. Itcould work, but if the caulk line is too big, it could become messy and looklike a patch over a patch, making the caulk job more unsightly.

  • Jennifer.thompson
    on Nov 17, 2015

    What is the chemical you were talking about for removing the old caulk?

    • Angie's List
      on Nov 18, 2015

      @Jennifer.thompson Jennifer, thanks for the question! DAP makes a product calledCaulk-Be-Gone, which works well for latex caulks. To remove silicone caulk,Goof Off and Goo Gone make caulk remover products. Those are just a few. There aremany brands and options, which you can typically find in a hardware store’spaint section. - James

Join the conversation

3 of 29 comments
  • Joan
    on Nov 18, 2015

    Thank you for sharing, both of mine need to be done!

  • Rita
    on Nov 18, 2015

    Please don't use antibacterial soap, it creates super bugs and dosen't clean any better than plain soap. Like the tape idea.

    • GG
      on Nov 20, 2015

      @Rita Interesting.... Where did you find that research, Rita? I'd never heard of that before.

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