Tips for Smoothing Silicone Caulk

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When dealing with caulk, the goal is to have both a tight bond and a uniform, smooth appearance. Sometimes these things can be difficult to achieve, especially in the case of 100% silicone caulk. While this type of caulk has many working benefits such as great adhesion and flexibility to secure the bond and make it long lasting, it has its pitfalls as well. The bond it creates is great until you need to clean up the appearance of that bond, then it will stick to everything and the bond itself may actually pull out as you are trying to give it the appearance you would like it to have.

Since silicone caulk is not water soluble, cleaning it up can be tricky. Due to it being so sticky and having adhesive properties, you cannot simply wipe it with a finger because it will stick to that, too. Since a caulk bead can come out a little less neat than you intended, the solution you apply to keep it from sticking to your hand or tools while smoothing that bead will need to be something that will in turn not bond with the silicone itself. The type of solution required in this case is a solvent.

Different solvents are capable of aiding in the cleanup of excess silicone caulk. Some examples of those are mineral spirits/turpentine, denatured alcohol, lacquer thinner, and acetone. It is possible to gently mist these solvents onto the surplus caulk before carefully wiping away the excess with a gloved hand (disposable latex gloves are great for this job). You can also use a rag that has been dampened with a solvent to wipe gently at the excess caulk. Being able to wipe and leave a nice, smooth line might take some practice, so be prepared to work at it if necessary to get the look you want. Also do not leave solvents on the surfaces around caulk longer than necessary to prevent any sort of ill effects.

If you have a problem with dried caulk that you wish to remove, mineral spirits will soften it somewhat but will not actually remove it. For a job like this, you will need to resort to scraping with a razor blade or similar tool. To avoid having to peel caulk and start your process over in order to get a smooth line, be sure to wipe away excess caulk and acquire the line work and finish you want before the caulk dries. Dried caulk that is not uniform in finish will stay that way until removed and replaced, so stay on top of your work, cleaning it up and evening it out as you go.

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