How to Remove Caulk From Every Nook and Cranny of Your Home

A few tools and some elbow grease go a long way in removing old caulk

Staci Parks
Written by Staci Parks
Reviewed by Asya Biddle
Updated July 28, 2022
Bright bathroom with neutral color decor
Photo: Nazar Abbas Photography / Moment / Getty Images


Flex your DIY muscles.

Time to complete

24 hours



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What you'll need:


  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Angled caulk-removal tool
  • Plastic putty knife
  • Utility knife
  • Paintbrush (or toothbrush)
  • Clean cloths
  • Rubber gloves


  • Mild dish soap
  • Caulk removal product
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Bleach

Caulk is a household essential that’s easy to overlook—until it’s worn, torn, and covered in mildew. At that point, the old, unsightly caulk it’s all you can see when you walk into a room. 

This small-but-mighty material easily solves common household concerns, from minding the gap on countertops and cabinets to sealing crown molding and baseboards. With a few common tools and a little patience, here are simple steps for removing old caulk.

Prepping to Remove Old Caulk

First thing’s first: It’s essential to know what type of caulk material you’re removing. Silicone-based caulk has a rubber texture that slightly stretches. Water-based caulk is much harder, and it is prone to chipping away. While some caulk-removing products will work on both types of material, having this information handy can help you shop for the right item the first time. 

4 Steps to Removing Old Caulk

Ready to remove old or worn caulk? Follow these steps for easy execution.

  1. Clean the Caulked Area

    Woman scrubbing bathtub edges with a sponge
    Photo: heshphoto / Image Source / Getty Images

    Before you get started, clean the surface with mild dish soap and water to rid the area of dirt, dust, or grime. Dry the area with a cloth. This step will give you a clean slate to work with for removing old caulk.

  2. Apply the Caulk Remover

    Give the caulk remover product instructions a quick read before spraying. If you want to be extra careful, slip on some rubber gloves to protect your hands from chemicals in the caulk removal product.

    Completely cover the caulk with the removal product. Now, it’s a waiting game. Your caulk removal product will advise you to wait a few hours. Depending on the condition of the caulk, you might want to leave the removal solution on overnight. The longer it sits, the easier the caulk will come off. This method is especially helpful if you’re dealing with aged, hardened caulk or caulk that’s several layers deep, a remnant of a past project.

  3. Strip the Caulk

    Woman removing old caulk from the bathtub
    Photo: pastorscott / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

    Once the caulk has softened, you can get to work. Scrape away the old caulk using an angled caulk-removing tool. The caulk should come off fairly easily thanks to the remover product. In fact, some pieces of the softened caulk might peel off in different-sized strips. 

    Needle-nose pliers will come in handy for stubborn or hard-to-reach areas. Grab a piece of the softened caulk with the pliers and gently pull. If stubborn caulk won’t budge, use a utility knife to cut the material away from the sides. Be careful not to nip any sensitive areas such as tiling or countertops. Lastly, scrape away residual caulk using a plastic putty knife.

  4. Clean the Caulk-Free Surface

    Cleaning bathroom sink with a microfiber cloth
    Photo: CreativaImages / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

    For the final step, wipe the surface with a cloth drenched in rubbing alcohol. Once dry, clean the area with a solution containing ⅓ cup of bleach with a gallon of water. This step will kill any mold, mildew, or soap scum left lurking behind—an essential step if you plan on re-caulking your bathtub

    Use a paintbrush or old toothbrush to get into tight areas or gaps left by the removed caulk. Rinse the area thoroughly. Let the area air dry before re-applying caulk to the surface.

    "When removing mold or mildew, bleach is a necessary component of the solution,” said Asya Biddle, Angi Expert Review Board member and manager of The Dustbusters, a family-owned and operated janitorial company in Williamsport, PA. “It will be efficient in the buildup removal and in preparing the surface for further processes or use."

DIY Removing Caulk vs. Hiring a Pro

Once you’ve mastered removing old caulk, you’ll see that it’s a pretty straightforward task. But if you’re short on time or want a professional’s touch, consider hiring a handyperson to tackle straightforward caulking jobs. Depending on the amount of caulk removal required, a handyperson could charge between $60 to 125 per hour.

Additional Questions About Removing Caulk

Before starting your caulking project, ensure that you know the answers to the following questions.

What dissolves caulking?

There are several products you can buy to soften caulk for removal. The most affordable are WD-40, alcohol, and vinegar. Industrial-grade isopropyl alcohol can be used for caulk that won’t budge, but you should hire a professional before using this solution.

What is the easiest way to remove caulking?

Scrape softened caulk with a putty knife or slice hardened caulk with a utility knife. Grab needle-nosed pliers for caulk with multiple old layers and pull the material off its base.

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