How do I remove the old caulk from my bathtub?


When selling your house, a clean house and bathtub is essential.   Even if everything else is clean, dirty caulk is a turn off.    There is a great product that makes changing out the caulk quite simple.  You just need a bit of time.

Many people dread the challenge of replacing the caulk and cleaning the tub!     This was a major challenge for me too until I discovered a 3M product, called,  oddly enough,  Caulk Remover!  It works like a charm IF you follow the instructions…..AND,  I have found, it works best if the job is done in a certain order…The essential order is to remove and replace the caulk  AFTER the tub is squeaky clean.    (If your tub is already squeaky clean – jump down to bullet number 6 below — but if your tub needs some work too — here are the products that  I find work best to deep clean a bath tub.) Unfortunately, you will find this is not a chemical free process — I have tried lots of home-made and “green” cleaners — and I simply have not found anything that works well.  I would love to hear responses from anyone who has some less chemically dependent methods that work well.  But, until we hear from those of you who might know a better way…here is what works for me….

  1. I usually start by spraying Clorox Cleanup all over the walls and tub (and sometimes ceiling if their are any black or reddish spots.  
  2. After letting the Clorox Cleanup on the walls for at least 4 hours, I rinse the entire area with water.
  3. I look carefully at what is left on the walls.  If it is primarily soap scum, I use a product like DOW scrubbing bubbles — that seems to cut the soap scum nicely — spray it on — leave it on for at least an hour and use a scrub sponge to wipe it off — but don’t spent too much time scrubbing at this point unless you really see the walls start to shine.
  4. Usually, the tub needs one or two more steps.  My next step is to use a Lime Remover.  My favorite is Lime Out by Summit brands which I can only seem to find at Menards.  My second favorite is Lime Away — but Lime Out works better in my opinion AND it is cheaper.  Squirt the Lime Out in a line around the top of the tub — generously — and use a clean sponge to wipe it around to let it sit for a while.  Have you noticed that each process takes some time for the cleaners to do their work?  After the Lime Out is on the walls for about 5-15  minutes (before it dries!), take the green side of the scrub sponge and rub over everything. Use more squirts of the Lime Out as needed on the dirtiest sections.  Rinse everything thoroughly with water.  Once you have it rinsed, spot clean where there are still problem areas.  Be sure to squirt the Lime Out on all the fixtures too — you will see it bubbling and loosening all the corrosion from the rusty water in Kalamazoo.  (Don’t forget to use it on the sink and kitchen sink faucets too!  Some of this solution and a screwdriver to scrape the loosened corrosion and you will be amazed at how good you can make them look. )
  5. The tub itself might still need one more step — good old fashioned kitchen cleanser will usually remove the leftover dirt that needs some elbow grease.
  6. NOW that the rest of the tub is clean you can focus on the removal of the caulk if that is still necessary.  Sometimes, the Clorox Cleanup or other cleaners also clean the caulk.  If you still still feel like the caulk should be removed, the 3M product shown above works great!  (And no, I don’t get any referral fees for any of my product recommendations!)   Make sure you follow the directions and allow the remover to sit on the caulk for 4-7 hours.  Once it does it’s job, the old caulk usually just pulls up without much problem. I use a 1 inch scraper to get under the caulk (being careful not to scratch it)  Once you have it out, rinse well with water on a rag — don’t spray it with water because the water will go behind the tile or tub.  Let the tub dry completely!  I usually try to let a tub dry at least overnight before I go back and apply clean caulk.

The result is a sparkling clean and fresh tub.  Sure it takes an extended period of time to go through the process, but I don’t have to do much scrubbing.  I usually have more cleaning to do so I just take the step by step approach to the tub intermittently as I do the  rest of the cleaning.