Caulk can help you fix cracks or gaps in the wall, seal the seams between a backsplash and a countertop, or seal plumbing and pipes, to name just a few. When it comes to removing caulk from walls, though, the task is tedious. Caulk is designed to stick firmly to the surface once it dries, and it is very hard to get rid of. Things get even trickier if you want to remove old caulk from painted walls without damaging the surface. Luckily, we know the right techniques to help you minimize damage or avoid it altogether.
How To Remove Caulk From Wall
Removing caulk from painted walls is difficult, but not impossible. Follow the quick steps below to get rid of the caulk on your painted, tiled, or brick walls.
Things You Will Need
- Caulk remover
- Utility knife
- Needle-nose pliers
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Caulk scraper
- Damp sponge
- Dish soap
- Microfiber rag
1. Soften The Caulk For Removal
Removing old caulk from walls is incredibly difficult, mostly because this product is designed to adhere to the surface once it dries. For this reason, it is crucial to soften the filler or sealant before scrapping it off.
There are various caulk removers you can choose from, including sprays and squeezable flip-top bottles. No matter which type you prefer, you should make sure the caulk remover matches the type of caulk you’re trying to remove.
In fact, there are two main types of caulk:
- Silicone caulk: This is a basic sealant used to prevent the passage of air and water. It is majorly used in kitchens and bathrooms to seal the seams between the kitchen counter or bathroom vanity top and the backsplash, the spaces between the shower pan and shower wall, and so on.
- Acrylic caulk: Also known as latex caulk, it is used as a filler to repair gaps and cracks in the wall. It can be used in all rooms to fill the space between the window or door trims and the wall, for example, or to fill a nail hole.
The main difference between silicone and acrylic caulk is that the latter can be painted over. Silicone caulk will adhere to painted walls. However, fresh paint won’t adhere to silicone caulking. In moist environments such as the kitchen or bathroom, you can also find silicone-acrylic caulk, which is a hybrid between the two main types. This caulk can be painted over while also sealing against water leaks.
With this in mind, read the caulk remover label carefully before buying. Some manufacturers make all-purpose caulk removers, whereas others, such as DAP, manufacture specific silicone or acrylic caulk removers.
To soften the caulk, apply the remover over the caulk bead and wait for the amount of time specified on the product package.
Expert tip: Squeezable flip-top bottle caulk removers are easier to use than the spray versions. You can control the application and avoid spreading the product over the paintwork, protecting it from damage. To further protect the paintwork, apply a piece of painter’s tape to the wall, right above or under the caulk bead that you want to remove.
2. Remove The Large Caulk Sections
Once the time has elapsed, you can proceed to remove the largest sections of caulk. Before starting, it is important to note that caulk removers don’t act as paint strippers – they don’t dissolve the dried caulk from the wall nor separate it from the surface. They only soften it for easier removal by hand.
To remove as much caulk as possible in one go, soak the caulk and the area around it with water. A damp sponge can help you achieve your purpose.
Now, carefully raise the end of the caulk bead with a utility knife and slide the blade under the bead. Using as little pressure as possible, push the utility knife under the caulk and against the wall to scrape off the caulk.
You should avoid using a caulk scraper on painted walls. They are often wider than a utility knife’s blade, and you’re more likely to scrape off some paint in the process. However, a caulk scraper can help you remove caulk easier from shower walls or tiled surfaces.
Top tip: If you want to remove caulk from seams between molding and walls, use the utility knife to pull out the end of the bead and grab it with needle-nose pliers. Use the pliers to pull the caulk out of the seam. If you don’t have pliers, a flathead screwdriver can also make it easier to remove caulk from seams compared to a utility knife blade.
3. Clean The Area
Removing the larger sections of caulk from your walls is only the tip of the iceberg. No matter what method you use, there will always be small pieces left behind. To make it easier to remove them, you have to clean the surface first.
Simply wash the surface with soapy water (dissolve a few drops of dishwashing liquid into a bucket of water). Use a non-abrasive sponge to remove loose caulking and wash off any traces of caulk remover. Rinse with clean water and dry out the area with a microfiber cloth.
Top tip: Hot water can further soften silicone caulk traces. Thus, you should use hot soapy water instead of warm or cold if you’re trying to remove silicone caulk.
4. Remove Caulk Traces
Removing stubborn caulk bits and pieces is the most daunting part of the project. Caulk remover won’t do much at this stage, but you can use isopropyl alcohol to soften any small pieces of acrylic caulk.
Use a sponge to apply the product over the area you remove caulk from. Allow the old caulk to absorb the isopropyl alcohol, then scrub away the loosened fragments with a soft sponge or a cloth.
Don’t use anything sharp or abrasive at this stage to avoid damaging the paint. However, you can use a pair of needle-nose pliers to peel off any stubborn pieces.
Expert tip: Isopropyl alcohol is a flammable substance. Never use it near heat sources (such as a radiator that is turned on) and do not smoke or light up any flame during this stage.
5. Clean The Area And Fix The Paint
No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen when removing caulk from a painted wall. Before touching up the paint, wash the wall to remove all caulk residues.
If you notice mold or mildew growth under the caulk, wash the wall with a bleach solution (one cup of bleach to five gallons of water). Rinse with clean water and let the wall dry completely before applying new paint.
Touch up the areas where you’ve scraped off the paint with a small paintbrush. Let it dry for at least 24 hours before applying new caulk (if necessary).
Here are some answers to common questions you might have.
What is the best caulk remover?
The best caulk remover is one formulated for the type of caulk you’re trying to remove. In alternative, you can use an all-purpose caulk remover designed to remove all types of caulk. The 3M caulk remover, for instance, is suitable to use on silicone and acrylic caulk alike. Other brands manufacture specific removers for acrylic or silicone caulk.
Can you make homemade caulk remover?
There are numerous homemade caulk softeners you can use. White vinegar is one of the least expensive but most effective substances. The acid in the vinegar breaks down the old caulk and softens it. Isopropyl alcohol is an alternative to commercial caulk removers. A thick flour and water mixture can also help get rid of old caulk residues.
How to remove caulk from wallpaper?
If removing caulk from painted walls is hard, removing it from wallpaper is near impossible without damaging it. You should protect the wallpaper with painter’s tape and apply a small quantity of softening agent on the caulk bead. Then, try to peel off the caulk with a thin razor blade. Work extra slowly and apply very little pressure. This method might work for removing most of the caulk, but you may still not be able to remove the smallest pieces and traces without damaging the wallpaper finish.
Removing caulk from walls is daunting but straightforward. All you need is a lot of patience and a handful of products to get rid of the filler or sealant on your painted or tiled walls. No matter what kind of caulk you have to remove, we hope this guide can help you throughout the process.