How To Remove Caulk From Brick (Quickly & Easily!)

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

Caulk is a highly valuable tool to have when it comes to properly sealing a space. The caulk is flexible yet durable enough to keep moisture and air from leaking in, particularly at connection points. Caulk is also durable enough that it can last for quite a long time before it needs to be replaced. Removing caulk from brick, however, can be a bit of an endeavor if you don’t know what to do.

Heat the silicone caulk with a heat gun to soften it. Cut and scrape the soft silicone caulk with a utility knife or putty knife to remove it. Scrape away any remaining caulk and clean the surface with isopropyl alcohol to remove residue.

The process is simple any typically takes less than 15 minutes. Follow along as we explore the simple steps that it takes to remove caulk from brick.

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Why Would You Need to Remove Caulk?

If caulk is so durable and beneficial, why would you need to take it out in the first place? Wouldn’t it just be more beneficial to leave it where it is and move on to other pressing matters? Well, yes, that would be great but there are two instances where you would need to remove the caulk.

  • Worn down. While caulk is highly durable, it does have a lifespan. Depending on the type of caulk that you use, it can have a reasonable life expectancy of 5 years or so. When caulk begins to wear down, it loses its adhesive ability and can allow moisture in. Replacing the caulk ensures that your sealing points remain strong and waterproof.
  • Changing out fixtures. The other reason that you would want to remove caulk is if you are changing out a window or fixture. You can’t install the new item without removing the old caulk first. Depending on the age of the caulk, this can be relatively easy, or it can require a little bit of work to loosen the caulk first.

How to Remove Caulk from Brick

Step 1: Get the Right Tools

Before you can begin, you will need the right tools to get the job done. The more prepared you are to tackle a problem, the quicker and easier it will likely be. Removing old caulk from the brick in or outside of your home is the same.

You will generally need: a heat gun, a scraper or wire brush, a sponge, and some isopropyl alcohol. Some tools – like the scraper – are interchangeable. If you have a metal putty knife or even a utility knife, those will work just fine. Just make sure that you have all the tools you need; nothing is worse than getting started only to find that you don’t have the tools that you need.

Step 2: Heat Up the Caulk

It is possible to remove old caulk by simply chipping away at it. This will take a lot of time and even more effort to achieve. That said, the best and most effective way for removing old caulk is to properly heat it up to make it more pliable.

Use your heat gun to properly soften up the caulk. Just make sure that you move the heat gun carefully and slowly across the caulk to prevent damage to the bricks. Keep going until the caulk has softened up to a reasonably pliable state.

Step 3: Cut or Scrape Away the Old Caulk

Now that the caulk has been softened properly, it is time to start cutting it away. A putty knife or scraper is the best tool for the job, though a utility knife should work fine. And since we are working with brick, you can work a little looser without the risk of damage to the brick.

If the caulk has been softened properly, you should be able to remove the vast majority by cutting or breaking it away. If it doesn’t move, heat it up again to make it more pliable. When you are done scraping, there should not be much left. Any leftover should be scraped away using a wire brush. Scraping away the little bits will make the next step easier.

Step 4: Clean the Brick

Even if you can’t see it, the caulk will have left a residue behind on the brick. It is important to get rid of this residue otherwise the new layer of caulk may not adhere properly. And if the caulk can’t adhere properly, it can’t do the job that it was meant to do.

Use a bit of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to clean the area. Isopropyl alcohol is colorless and won’t do any damage to the brick. Just make sure that you don’t use it near high heat or a flame as it is very flammable. If you are working on brick in an enclosed space, open the windows. Isopropyl alcohol has a very strong smell, so be careful not to inhale much of it.

Step 5: Apply the New Caulk

Do a once over to ensure that all of the small bits and residue of the caulk have been removed. You can run a hand over top to ensure that there are no bits or look for a white film that may indicate residue left over.

Lastly, you need to apply the new caulk (unless you are not replacing the fixture or window). By properly caulking the brick, you an prevent potential water damage, improve your energy usage, and even approve the aesthetic quality of the property.

Alternative Methods

Silicone Solvents

So, when breaking down the silicone caulk, you may wonder how it is breaking down such a strong adhesive. And the simple fact of the matter is that the silicone solvent is actually digesting the silicone. It breaks into the very atoms of the caulk to spread the solvent and break the caulk apart.

When we think of a solvent, we think of dissolution. But a silicone solvent is actually digesting the silicone caulk. It breaks down the silicone, making it far easier to remove, particularly from tough surfaces like brick.

Using a Digester to Get Rid of Silicone Caulk

The best bet for removing old caulk from brick surfaces is to use a digester. There are a variety of manufacturers out there that produce silicone digestants. One of the most common digestants is Dicone NC6 and it usually comes in one gallon containers, though it can come in up to five gallons.

The uses of a digestant. The great thing about a digestant is that it can be used on a variety of materials. It can be used on masonry, ceramic, plastic, metal, glass, and even synthetic or painted surfaces. Generally speaking, you wouldn’t want to use it on a finished surface or nylon surfaces as it attacks nylon.

Using Vinegar Dissolve Caulk

If you don’t have distilled white vinegar in your home, get some immediately. It is a universal household cleaner, and you will no doubt find yourself using it at some point in time. If you are trying to remove caulk, vinegar will come in handy.

  • Pour out two to three cups of white vinegar into a bowl. Make sure that you wear latex gloves as vinegar can irritate your hands with consistent exposure.
  • Using a dish scrubber, hold it onto the caulk for about a minute to let the vinegar work into the caulk. Vinegar can soften caulk in a short period of time, so it shouldn’t take long to see the impact.
  • Scrub the caulk vigorously, ensuring that the scrubber is saturated with vinegar. Keep dipping back into your vinegar as needed to ensure that the brush remains saturated.
  • Start at the edges of the strip of caulk. If you are lucky, the vinegar can loosen the edges of the caulk so that you can peel it up as you go. A scraper will likely do a better job, but the vinegar should allow for the caulk to pull up easily.
  • When you have removed all of the caulk, remember to wipe away the residue. Keep applying vinegar and scrubbing as needed until all of the caulk has been removed.

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Related Questions

Will Goo Gone Remove Caulk?

There are some cleaners out there that may work to effectively dissolve and remove caulk. Goo Gone is a widely used cleaner that has a plethora of uses. Some even claim that it can work to break down caulk for removal.

The truth of the matter is that Goo Gone will not break down the caulk adhesive. If anything, it may soften the adhesive to make it easier to scrape, but it will not break it down entirely. There are solutions out there that may break the caulk apart but Goo Gone is not one of them.

Why is Silicone Caulk so Tough?

Silicone caulk can be quite strong when given a chance to set and properly dry. Despite it being this seemingly soft substance, the chemistry behind it can make it a truly strong adhesive. This is due to a siloxane polymer.

A siloxane polymer, which is combined with elements like hydrogen and carbon, can form a number of liquid and solid states. When the caulk cures, those polymer chains cross link. That process is one that cannot be undone. When that happens, the caulk hardens and adheres to the surface on which it is applied.

How long does silicone caulk decompose?

It takes an average of 75 years for silicone caulk to decompose. Silicone caulk can decompose in 50 years or less due to excessive moisture and damage. Unfortunately, silicone caulk is not biodegradable and can take up to 100 years before it starts to decompose in some cases.

Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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