Silicone Caulking is known for its ability to stick on any surface it touches. On the one hand, this is useful as it increases the durability of its use. However, the bad part comes when you have to remove it from a surface.
To remove silicone caulking, you’d need to use a chemical helper to loosen it. Applying a solvent can help dissolve the silicone caulking and prevent damages to the surface. To fully remove silicone caulking, remove it in layers before wiping down the surface with a towel.
There are various solvents out there that are marketed towards removing silicone caulking. Luckily, we’ve taken the time to research a few that are the most effective. Below, we will list everything you’d need to know about dissolving silicone caulking.
Table of Contents
- Why Is It Hard To Remove Silicone Caulking?
- Removing Silicone Caulking Using a Solvent
- Most Effective Known Solvents
- Mineral Spirits
- Isopropyl Alcohol
- Toluene & Xylene
- White Vinegar
- Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)
- Removing Silicone Caulk With Scrappers
- Related Questions
- What Is the Best Silicone Caulk Remover?
- How to clean up silicone caulk residue?
- Are there any methods to remove silicone caulk without chemicals?
- How to remove silicone caulk from tile?
Why Is It Hard To Remove Silicone Caulking?
Silicone caulking is made by mixing two primary elements, silicon, and oxygen. When they combine, they create a substance called siloxane polymer. They bond with other elements, such as carbon and hydrogen.
They can bond with other chemicals, which gives silicone caulking multiple forms, such as solid and liquid. Once the chemicals bond together, they can’t be unbonded unless other chemicals are applied. This is what makes silicone caulking so durable.
The only way to get silicone caulking to unbind is to apply a solvent. A solvent will break the solute into atoms and will disperse. Using a solvent is the only way to get silicone caulking off your sink.
Removing Silicone Caulking Using a Solvent
There are plenty of digesters on the market today. Many of them are effective at removing silicone caulking off various surfaces. The only surface you may not want to use a digester is on wood. However, you can use chemicals on fiberglass, plastic, tile, and fine surfaces.
Wood is known to break down when it comes into contact with a digester. Other materials you shouldn’t use a digester on is anything with a nylon finish. A digester should only be used on ceramic, glass, plastic, metal, and synthetic surfaces.
To use a silicone digester, you’ll need to read the instructions on the one you purchase. There should be detailed instructions that list what surfaces you can apply it to and for how long.
Generally, you’ll apply a small layer of digester on top of dry silicone caulk. Let that sit for 20 minutes or so until the silicone caulk starts to break down. You can repeat this process until the caulk is removable from the surface.
Most Effective Known Solvents
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of buying a marketed digestant, then you can use chemical solvents. There are a few that are known for being acceptable solvents.
A solvent is a substance that can dissolve another chemical into a solution. One example is that water is a solvent of sugar. Similarly, these chemicals can be used to dissolve silicone into a different state of matter.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a chemist to find a solvent. There are plenty of solvents that work on silicone caulking. Below we’ve listed the top six that are effective;
Mineral spirits are a colorless liquid that has been distilled from petroleum. It’s typically used as a paint thinner but is mainly known for being a solvent. If you’re looking to dissolve silicone caulk, it’s beneficial.
Unlike other solvents, mineral spirits work best on particular surfaces. It would be best if you only used mineral spirits on hard surfaces. We’ve found that it’s most effectively used on marble or concrete.
Mineral spirits are sold at your local home goods store. If you don’t have The Home Depot or Lowe’s in your area, you can also find it at a paint store. Just be sure to purchase a spray bottle for easy application.
Another popular solvent is isopropyl alcohol. It’s a colorless, flammable compound. It is generally known as a rubbing alcohol antiseptic. However, it’s also used as a topical mixed in with hand lotions, cosmetics, and lotions.
Other over the counter use is known to help clean and disinfect objects. Isopropyl works well on silicone caulking, but only on plastic or painted surfaces. Medical isopropyl may not be strong enough, so we recommend getting industrial-grade isopropyl.
Industrial grade isopropyl or also known as technical grade isopropyl alcohol, is strong enough to remove caulking. While you could use rubbing alcohol, it’s better to get its higher purity version.
The higher purity industrial-grade isopropyl alcohol is 99% purity. Due to the high purity rate, you’ll be able to remove caulking without much trouble successfully. The rubbing alcohol version may get small amounts of caulking off but won’t work for larger projects.
Toluene & Xylene
Toluene and xylene are chemical compounds that are used in industrial-strength cleaners. They can be dangerous if breathed in, so it’s best to wear a mask. Also, gloves are recommended when working with them.
Both of these substances are excellent solvents to dissolving silicone caulking. However, you may need to pour a test patch before using it on hard surfaces. Generally, you can use Toluene and Xylene on any surface except for plastic or paints.
Only use Toluene and Xylene if you don’t have any other options. It’s a highly aggressive solvent that can harm many surfaces. However, it’s strong enough to get the job done without much scraping.
The last type of solvent that can help remove caulk is white vinegar. It’s not as strong as the other solvents listed, but it can still dissolve a decent amount. You may have to repeat the process a few times and take the silicone caulking off in layers.
Out of all the substances listed, white vinegar is the safest. The most damage that will happen is that your counters may smell like vinegar for a while. Otherwise, this is the safest to use on multiple surfaces.
To remove the vinegar smell afterward, sprinkle a bit of baking soda. Once you do this, rinse with hot water. Only use this on hard surfaces. Skip this if you’re using it on unfinished surfaces or plastic.
Acetone is a colorless liquid that is known as Propanone. It’s a solvent that’s typically used to remove nail polish. Acetone is also a standard paint remover.
The substance isn’t as aggressive as other solvents on our list. However, it can end up damaging some surfaces. It’s suitable for removing small amounts of silicone caulking.
Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)
MEK is a highly aggressive liquid solvent used in a variety of applications and is similar to WD-40. It’s found in adhesives, printing inks, and dewaxing agents. However, it is also widely used as an extraction medium for waxes, resins, oils, and fats.
Only reach for MEK if it’s your last option. The solvent can damage plastics, paints, and other surfaces. Before applying, always do a test patch.
Unlike other solvents, you only want MEK sitting on a surface for a short while. If it sits for too long, it could strip off and break down the surface you’re working on.
Removing Silicone Caulk With Scrappers
Using chemicals can potentially damage surfaces and be harmful to pets, children, and people living in the vicinity. To avoid using chemicals, you can also remove silicone caulk using a scrapper. Scrappers are cost-efficient, easy to use, and can easily remove caulk without much hassle.
Ask any professional, and they will tell you that using a digestant isn’t necessary. Painters and other experts usually use a scraper to remove the silicone caulk. They use an extremely sharp scraper to help get off the residue and scrape away excess debris.
However, if the silicone caulking is heavily caked onto an object’s surface, it could be challenging to remove. While you can remove it bit by bit with a scraper, it’s only recommended if it’s not on a scratchable surface.
What Is the Best Silicone Caulk Remover?
If we’re talking over the counter silicone caulk remover, popular brands are Goo Gone, DAP Caulk-Be-Gone, or Goo Off. However, you must pay attention to what type of surfaces each solvent can be used on.
Typically, the company will list this on the back of the bottle. So, before you go and grab the first silicone caulk remover, read the instructions. You want to make sure that the solvent is compatible with the material you put it on.
How to clean up silicone caulk residue?
Luckily, removing silicone caulk residue takes a few steps. First, you’ll want to use a caulk scraper to get as much residue off. After that, apply either mineral spirits or isopropyl alcohol. After that, wipe down with a towel and repeat as many times as necessary.
Are there any methods to remove silicone caulk without chemicals?
You can remove silicone caulk with a scraper and a hairdryer. The heat of the hairdryer will make the silicone caulk more pliable and easy to scrape off. A hairdryer is an excellent alternative if you don’t want to damage the surface.
How to remove silicone caulk from tile?
To remove silicone caulk from the tile, you’ll need to dampen a scouring pad. From there, use a semi abrasive tool with a solvent on it. Use the abrasive tool to scrub over the tile. Repeat this as many times as necessary. Once you’re done, clean away the remaining residue. Although, you’ll want to avoid soaking the tile as it could cause moisture damage.