4 Alternatives to Caulking Around the Bathtub


Alternatives to Caulking Around the Bathtub

One way to create an oasis in one’s home is a bathroom that evokes peace and tranquillity.  This could simply be from the choice of paint color to keeping the space neat and tidy.  An essential factor is also ensuring that everything works and is in tiptop shape. 

Caulking around the bathtub is a non-negotiable bathroom upkeep that you need to do regularly.  There are alternatives to caulk such as sealant tape, spray foam, even peel-and-stick trim or cord.  Each option has its specific qualities and what you use will ultimately depend on your own personal preferences.

Why look for alternatives to caulk? For many years, caulk was the go-to material to use when dealing with a sealing issue, especially in the bathroom. But, unfortunately, there are a few disadvantages to using caulk in the bathroom.

Disadvantages of Using Caulk Around the Bathtub

Caulk Lacks Humidity Resistance

Caulk is not built to resist fluctuations in temperature and humidity.  The bathroom is the one room in the house that is most prone to rapid changes in humidity and temperature.  Caulk has a tendency to crack when dry and peel when wet.

In a bathtub when water is always constant, caulking around it will peel and crack in no time.  Peeling caulk looks terrible and does not provide any protection against stains and mold.  This is why you need to redo a caulk job many times and as needed, which eventually becomes a hassle.

Caulk Is Temporary

In this fast-paced world, homeowners don’t have the time to re-caulk a bathtub every few months when the need arises. One downside of caulk is it is a very temporary material. In this age of modern innovation, other materials are available that prove to offer a more permanent solution to caulk.

Caulk is made of acrylic, latex or silicone, or a combination of all three.  You can still find more permanent caulk alternatives from one or two of these materials.  However, their formulation is such that there is no peeling or cracking that results after application despite changes in humidity.  

Caulk Lacks Resistance to Chemicals

Using natural cleansers is always ideal when it comes to cleaning one’s home.  However, there are times when nothing but a good chemical cleaning solution will do.  When using these chemical cleansers in your bathtub, expect some damage to result in the caulk.  

Caulk reacts to certain compounds in cleansers, and once this chemical reaction takes place, it re-emulsifies. Unfortunately,  this results in the material losing its sealing and bonding capabilities rendering it practically useless.

Caulk Is Unsightly

The chalky and pasty look of caulk around the bathtub is one we are all too familiar with.  Because caulk is a bulky material, the application is tedious and time-consuming.  Professional contractors prefer epoxy resin sealers that provide a smoother, more polished finish. 

Caulk Can Be Toxic

Most construction materials are toxic to the human body.  Caulk, and its components, happen to be one of them.  Cases of mild poisoning have occurred when a child or pet gets some fresh caulk in their mouth or on their hands.  

Nasal inflammation has occurred in adults due to its strong smell upon application.  Others have also reported skin and eye irritation when coming in contact with uncured caulk.  Therefore, when handling the material, thorough hand-washing is absolutely necessary in order to remove all traces of caulk.  

Caulk Alternatives

Alternatives to caulk have been developed over the years and have since taken the place of this rather outdated material.  Professional contractors and home DIY’ers have put these substitutes to the test and have proven their worth and efficacy.

1. Spray Foam

Along with duct tape and WD40, spray foam is a tool that is usually present in any fix-it kit.  Aside from being a fantastic insulator, you can also use spray foam in place of caulk.  Unlike old-fashioned caulk, expanding spray foam is waterproof and is ideal to use around and under bathtubs, sinks, and showers.

Expanding spray foam is quite easy to use when applied as insulation.  When used in place of caulk, you need to be already familiar with how the product expands once sprayed.  Try to practice beforehand to avoid dealing with unsightly foam bubbles and spillage around the bathtub. 

2. Sealant Tape

Mostly made of silicone, sealant tape is a fantastic alternative to caulking when sealing a bathtub.  There are various brands available in many hardware stores and the application is a cinch.  You don’t need a caulk gun, and the tape provides a rubber-type seal after application.  

An aesthetic advantage of silicone sealant tape is that it comes in the same colors as many standard bathroom tiles.  It adheres to surfaces such as wood, porcelain, stone, and cement but does not work well with most vinyl floors.  

Prior to applying the sealant tape, ensure that you’ve removed all old caulking or another sealant.  This will guarantee that the new sealing tape sticks in place and forms a truly watertight seal around your bathtub.  

3. Peel-and-Stick Trim or Cord

Peel-and-stick trim or cord works much in the same fashion as sealant tape.  However, this sealant also comes in the form of a cord or as wall moulding.  With its wide variety of colors and designs, you can use it anywhere requiring sealing.

Peel-and-stick trim is designed to be applied directly over the seam you are sealing.  Also called a caulk cord or weatherstripping, this trim provides waterproofing protection when applied correctly.  

4. Epoxy Resin Sealer

This sealer is an all-around home saver, and you can use it to seal and bind almost anything.  Aside from its stellar adhesion qualities, epoxy resin sealer forms a watertight seal on anything it bonds with.  This makes for a fantastic substitute for caulk, especially around the bathtub.

Another one of its unique qualities is the shiny and smooth finish this material provides.  In fact, one of the key uses of epoxy resin is providing a high-gloss surface to countertops and floors. Contractors and visual artists are only starting to realize its practically unlimited uses.  

The waterproofing abilities of epoxy resin are not lost on the professionals in marine construction.  For decades, it has been an essential component in the tool arsenal of a boatbuilder, amateur and professional alike.  

How to Remove Old Caulk

Before using any one of the caulk alternatives on your bathtub, you need to remove the old caulk.  Wipe down the area with a clean, moist cloth, then follow these steps to ensure a smooth caulk-free surface. 

Tools You Need for the Job:

  • Heat gun, hairdryer, or caulk remover
  • Putty knife or another sharp tool
  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • Clean cloth
  • Alcohol-based cleanser
  • Latex or cleaning gloves
  • Protective eyewear

Step 1: Soften the Caulk

To soften old caulk, use a heat gun or a hairdryer.  Ensure that the surrounding area is free of plastic or any other objects or materials prone to overheating.  

Another way to soften old caulk is to purchase commercial caulk remover.  This is readily available in the hardware store nearest you.

Step 2: Strip the Caulk

Once exposed to heat or the commercial caulk remover, it is time to manually strip the caulk.  Use a putty knife or another removal device and start chipping away.  You may need to employ needle-nosed pliers if dealing with multiple layers of old caulk.  

There are specialized tools just for removing old caulk, but any handy utility knife will do.  The key is to not probe too deeply with the sharp tool and end up scratching your tub’s surface.

Step 3: Clean the Surface

Once you’ve removed all the old caulk, thoroughly clean the area of any residue.  If you encounter some mold or mildew, simply wipe with a cloth dampened with an alcohol-based cleanser.  If using a commercial caulk remover, read the manufacturer’s instructions on the materials best used for cleaning. 

Ensure that the bathroom remains unused and the entire area is clean and dry before applying a new sealant of your choice.  Keep the bathroom vacant from the beginning of the process up until you’ve applied the new sealant and let it dry.

Related Questions

What is the difference between caulk and a sealant?

“Caulk” is generally the term used to describe any waterproof material that fills and seals joints.  The biggest difference between caulk and sealant is elasticity.  

Sealants work much better with surfaces prone to expansion and contraction.  When dry, the rigidity of caulk makes it a less pliable, and consequently, less effective, material.

What is the difference between grout and caulk?

Simply put, you use grout to fill the spaces in between tiles.  Caulk acts as a sealant, and you apply it at the seams where two surfaces meet.  Both materials may look alike and are widely used in bathroom construction but have two varied and differing purposes.

When do I need to recaulk my bathtub?

When done correctly, you’ll need to recaulk a bathtub in a new home roughly one year after its construction.  This is due to the normal settling of the caulk around the tub.  However, external factors such as temperature and humidity will dictate how long new caulking will last.  

The key is to periodically check your caulking for cracks, leaks, or even mold.  When applicable, refresh your caulk with an alternative sealant.  This option will work best for you and your bathtub in the long run.  

Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent’s former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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