How to Remove Old Caulk in 4 Easy Steps

Caulk removal: Patience is key to making it super simple.

replace old caulk image of yellow rubber duck along edge of tub shower with moldy caulk with blue tile
Image: nadisja/Getty

How to remove bathroom caulk? With patience — and plenty of it.

It’s not hard to do, but if you rush it, you’ll regret it. Plus, a little patience pays off by making the job much easier.

How to Remove Old Caulk

Step 1. Apply a caulk remover product such as Goo Gone Caulk Remover or Crown Tuff Strip Ultimate Caulk Remover. Then be patient. Very patient. The directions say to wait two or three hours, but the longer you wait, the easier it will come off. Overnight is good. If it’s a particularly tough job — such as old, hardened caulk or multiple layers — wait 24 hours.

Step 2. Use a caulk remover tool to pry the caulk loose. (See video below.) Pros use a utility knife or blade, but don’t be tempted unless your hands are as steady as a surgeon’s. Otherwise, you could damage the tub, sink, shower, or wall you’re trying to improve. Most of the caulk should come off easily in long strips, although you might need to use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to pull out some bits.

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By the way, did you know that the word “caulk” originated from boat builders who needed something to seal their boats? Today, most manufacturers label home-use caulk as “sealant.”

Step 3. Using a small putty knife, toothbrush, and/or the hook end of a 5-in-1 painter's tool, scrape any remaining bits of caulk loose (this step, too, requires a bit of patience).

Step 4. Clean the surface using alcohol. Then kill any mold or mildew with a mixture of one-third of a cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Allow to completely air dry (again, patience) before applying new caulk.

Tip: If you’re planning to recaulk a tiled shower or bathtub wall, deep clean the tile before you remove the old caulk. Soap scum and other surface grime can keep the caulk from adhering properly. You don’t want water to get behind the tile and into your wall, which can create a nasty mold and mildew problem


Lara Edge
Lara Edge

Lara Edge has bought four homes, sold three, and downsized into an urban home less than half the square footage of her old one. She has 20 years of editing experience, most recently at HGTV, which inspired her to do some DIY, and to know when it pays to hire a pro.