Overview

caulking
Photograph: David Carmack
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Caulking Points

The best caulks for tubs, sinks, or shower stalls come in tubes labeled “Tub and Tile” or “Kitchen and Bath.” These are either acrylic latex or silicone compounds that have been chemically tweaked to resist mildew and to stick to smooth, nonporous surfaces. But they have distinctly different personalities.

(A) Silicone: Tenacious, waterproof, and very flexible, this type of caulk is also finicky about surface conditions, difficult to smooth, requires mineral spirits for cleanup, and emits a nose-wrinkling odor until cured. It leaves a residue that’s hard for anything - including new silicone - to stick to. That’s why formerly siliconed surfaces should be scrubbed with an abrasive pad soaked in mineral spirits. Silicone caulk has a color palette limited to clear, white, and almond.

(B) Acrylic Latex: Compared with silicone, this kind of caulk is much more forgiving about the type and cleanliness of a surface it’s applied to. Smoothing it is easy, it cleans up with water, and it doesn’t have much if any smell. While it does shrink more and dry harder than silicone - and will probably need to be replaced a little sooner - the replacement job should go faster. Acrylic latex caulk comes in a rainbow assortment of colors to match sink and tub glazes.
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    Tools List

    • five-in-one tool
      5-in-1 Tool or
      Utility Knife
    • caulk gun
      Caulking Gun

    Shopping List

    1. Non-abrasive Pad

    2. Cotton Rag

    3. Painter's Tape

    4. Caulk