Removing caulk can be a messy experience, and lead to a lengthy amount of time spent if not done correctly. Here are a few tips to make removing caulk less of a hassle.
Prep the Remova Area
Make sure the surface is clear of any loose dirt or oils. This will prepare the caulking for removal by providing a non-slip surface. then cut the caulking with a razor blade to determine what kind of caulking it is. Caulk that is silicone-based will feel like soft rubber when you try to cut it. Water-based latex caulk or PVA caulk is harder and more prone to chipping.
Soak the remains of the caulking
For water-based caulk, saturate the rags with rubbing alcohol and balance them onto the caulking. The alcohol enlarges the molecules in the caulking and separates it from its previous setting. For some caulks (such as silicone-based caulking) you may need the help of a chemical caulk remover or softener. The soaking process softens up the caulk for removal, making it neater for cleaning up, however it can take a few hours (or even days) to loosen up the caulk. A sponge brush can be paired up with the caulk softener to apply the softener to the caulk. Some caulk softeners are spray on or gel applications and do not need this to apply. After the old caulking is sufficiently softened you can use a plastic putty knife or a caulk removing tool to scrape the old caulking away. It will come off in chunks.
Manual Caulk Removal Tool
There are tools made just for removing caulking that can do a nice job getting the bulk of the caulk off relatively inexpensively. They usually have all kinds of special little angles and patented cutting edges that allows for the removal of caulk within the joint itself. Look for one with a corner scraper which will also scrape the sides of the joint with a hardened plastic edge that won’t damage the finish surface of the tile, tub or sink. The caulk removal tool’s best feature is its pointed edge that digs into the caulk and allows you to strip off most of it by moving along the caulk line. Simply insert the pointed edge (it takes a little force depending on the hardness of the caulk), then lay the tool so the tools ‘V’ shaped edge lays in the seam and while pushing down, push the tool through the caulk by following the caulk line. If you have a trash you can toss the large pieces, or use your vacuum hose to suck them up as you go.
Direct a heat gun at the caulking
Use the gun’s lowest temperature setting. Heat will help to soften water-based caulking. Target areas of the caulk that are most difficult to remove, such as the corners. Hold the heat gun in 1 hand and your scraping tool in the other so you can scrape as the caulk softens.
Removing caulk residue
There may still be some adhesive residue on your working surface. Carefully slice/scrape this remaining caulking off with a razor blade, flathead screwdriver / utility knife / paint scraper or 5-in-1 tool. Any one of these (or a combination) willd work for removing the little bit of excess leftover after removing the bulk of the caulk with the caulk remover tool. Use discretion using these tools as they may scratch the surface if you are not careful..
Vacuum the crevice
This will remove caulk debris that has fallen into the crack or become stuck in the sides. You can use this to cleanup the caulk bits right away. You will have a cleaner work area to see how clean your area for caulking is, as well as minimize the time spent picking up millions of caulk chips. If you don’t have access to a vacuum with a hose you can always dispose of the large pieces by hand. It may help to have a bucket to collect the removed caulk. You can also use a slightly damp paper towel to wipe up the small residue pieces you removed. The damp paper towel is better at getting these pieces than a washcloth, acting somewhat like a magnet.
Final Clean Up
Clean up with soap and water, then scrub the area with denatured (rubbing) alcohol and apply a mildew eliminator. This removes the mold or mildew that grew under the old caulking. To get a nice clean finish, use a washcloth and mineral spirits or rubbing alcohol to wipe down the remaining and difficult to see residue. Now that you have finished removing the caulk and wiped down the area, you must allow it to dry before re-caulking.