Saturday, November 21, 2009

When White Is No Longer White

 Even though I scrub the bathroom every week, the caulk between the tub and the wall manages to look a tad grubby after about 6 months. I like the bathroom to sparkle, so before the traces of mildew approach "moldew" status, I add "Re-caulk Tub" to my to-do list.

In the grand scheme of things, this caulk was not too far gone, but for me, it's like going out to dinner with dirty nails. Not happening!

There are a few kinds of caulk, and you want to be sure to use the right formulation for the job! For Kitchen and Bath jobs ABOVE the waterline, use a caulk that is waterproof, cleans up with water, and is paintable (not that you'll paint in the tub, but better safe than sorry in case you're touching up other areas that meet a painted wall/molding/ceiling.) Non paintable caulk is like oil & water---paint will not adhere. I learned that lesson the ugly way.

For small kitchen and bath jobs, I prefer DAP KwikSeal, Bright White. It also comes in clear--which is good around faucets. Look at the tube before you buy!  They all say they are mildew and mold "resistant" but I have yet to find one that seals out mildew 100%. If you know of a brand that does, please share with me!

For other caulking jobs around the house (indoors and out) for filling in gaps between molding and walls/ceilings or around doors...I use DAP Alex Plus Easy Caulk (pictured below.) It's acrylic latex + silicone, paintable and it cleans up with water. The best feature is that it has a bendable nozzle, I can hold it in one hand and I don't have to wrestle with a large canister and a caulking gun.

Back to the bathtub.

The tools you'll need for this quick job are:
  • Screwdriver or small chisel
  • Utility Knife (or boxcutter)
  • Straight Edge Razor Blade
  • A Dry Rag and a Damp Rag

1. Please, as tempting as it might be, do NOT apply new caulk over existing caulk! It will not adhere and you'll have a wrinkly wet mess.

Using the screwdriver, dig out the old caulk. Slit it with the boxcutter to make the job easier, and just pull it off like old gum. Clean up any stubborn caulk residue with the razor blade. Be careful not to gouge the tub if it's fiberglass. Porcelain can take more scraping!

2. Clean out the area with a dry rag so there are no loose bits then wipe the seam down with rubbing alcohol. The seam has to be clean and dry before applying new caulk!

3. Use the razor blade to cut a SMALL 45 degree piece off the caulk tube's nozzle. If the cut is too big, the caulk will come out too fast and you'll have a mess on your hands, literally.

4. The best tools around for smoothing the bead of caulk into the seam, are your forefinger and your thumb! Your fingers give you the best control, and you can push the caulk in more evenly. I have never used the tool pictured below, and it's been in my toolbox for over 20 years. (The purple tiles are a tip off!) I doubt a pro would ever use it.

5. Slowly squirt a bead of caulk along the seam, then smooth it with your fingers. Work slowly, smoothing in one motion and try not to go back over an area. Wipe your fingers on the damp rag as you go to clean them.

6. All clean and sparkly!  Plan ahead for this job, as you will have to let the caulk dry/cure for at least 24 hours (36 hours is best) before running the shower!!

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