Silicone caulk is a waterproof material that can help seal cracks in both the exterior of houses and in those small but pesky gaps between bathtubs, showers, sinks, and supporting walls. It’s a great tool to have at your disposal… until it gets on your hands, at which point it stops being handy and starts being a grade-A nuisance. The problem is, spreading and smoothing a silicone bead usually needs to be done with your fingers, which means that getting some of it on your hands is inevitable. Using the right technique (i.e., dipping your hand in water before spreading the silicone) will help ensure less of it sticks, but mistakes happen. When they do, the clean-up can quickly become the hardest part of the entire project. Fortunately, there are a few hints and tips that will help. Before you launch into your next DIY project, take a few minutes to check out our guide to how to get caulk off your hands.
How NOT to Remove Caulk
Before we look at some tips on how to safely and quickly remove caulk from your hands, a few quick words on what you should never try. Although it might seem tempting to simply blitz the caulk with the strongest chemical in your cleaning cupboard, take the advice of wikiHow and avoid using any noxious or caustic solvents that could end up causing more problems than they solve. That means no bleach, no strong acids, no paint thinner, no drain cleaner, and absolutely never any lye. Substances like that might remove the caulk, but they could also remove your skin with it. Also avoid the temptation to gouge the caulk off with a knife, steel wool, or some other type of sharp tool or harsh abrasive. Not only are they ineffective against the clingy nature of silicone, but there’s also a very real threat you could cut or damage your skin.
How to Remove Caulk Off Your Hands
Now we know what NOT to do, we can get on with looking at the best ways to remove caulk safely and effectively. The key to all the methods we’ll look at is speed. Silicone caulk might take around 24 hours to dry when it’s applied to cracks, but when it gets onto the skin, the drying time drops from hours to minutes. The sooner you get to work removing it, the easier it will be. Before you start your project, make sure you have a clean plastic bag and a few paper towels to hand – this will make cleaning your hands as you go along that much easier, and avoid the problem of having to remove dried caulk once you’re done.
As soon as you notice any caulk on your hands, follow the advice of siliconeofficial.com and immediately wipe them with a tissue or a few paper towels. Get rid of the used tissue/ towel straight away so you don’t accidentally make the caulk spread further.
Next, rub your hands with a plastic bag (a trash can liner will work if you don’t have any grocery bags to spare) in the same way you’d rub them using a washcloth. Any remaining caulk that hasn’t yet dried should cling to the bag, which you can then toss.
Finish up your clean-up operation by rinsing your hands under clean water. Use a sponge or paper towel to give them a mild scrub as you go along. Dry your hands on a rag or paper towel (avoid using a fabric towel unless it’s one you don’t mind ruining if any caulk gets on it). Check your hands for any residual caulk. If you notice any, repeat the steps until no trace remains.
How to Deal with Stubborn Dry Caulk
If the method outlined above fails to leave your hands caulk-free, there’s a good chance the caulk has already had time to dry. Dried caulk is incredibly gummy and clingy, meaning you’ll need to use more than just paper towels and plastic bags to get rid of it. While removing dried caulk is challenging, the following tried and tested methods can work wonders.
According to doityourself.com, baby wipes are a good alternative to harsh solvents when it comes to removing caulk from sensitive skin. It can take several wipes and some time to complete, but with patience, you should eventually be able to clear the affected skin of caulk.
Silicone is a synthetic, and like other synthetic compounds, will weaken under heat. Set a hairdryer to its lowest heat setting and wave the nozzle around the affected area. Keep moving the hairdryer to avoid burning your skin. You can gradually increase the temperature as you go along, but lower the setting immediately if the heat becomes painful. Once the silicone is heated, use a sponge to scrub it away.
Acetone is an organic compound that’s remarkably useful for removing silicone caulk. It’s found in most nail polish removers, although be sure to check the ingredients list first to make sure it’s included. Soak a paper towel with the fluid then press against the affected skin. It may take a few repeat applications, but avoid trying to speed the process up by pouring the acetone directly onto the skin, as this can release noxious fumes.
Mineral spirits can be incredibly helpful at removing stubborn dried silicone caulk. Soak a paper towel in the fluid then apply to the silicon. Once the silicone starts to weaken, use a gentle abrasive such as a kitchen sponge or pumice stone to remove it completely. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water afterward to avoid extended contact with the mineral spirits, which can lead to chemical burns with prolonged exposure.
Although you should never use a harsh abrasive like steel wool on your skin, using a mild abrasive like a kitchen sponge, fine sandpaper or pumice stone can help remove stubborn silicone caulk. However, be very careful if you use this method, and don’t continue to rub if your skin becomes sore or raw. Silicone will eventually fall off on its own accord after a week or so, so there’s no point in damaging your skin to try and speed things up.