Silicone caulk is a highly adhesive substance. If you’re remodeling a bathroom or kitchen, or if your quick drywall repair got a little out of hand, you may have gotten caulking on your bare drywall and are wondering how exactly you remove silicone caulks from unfinished drywall.
You want your walls to be smooth and blemish-free before you start finishing them, and unfortunately, there is no commercial chemical that dissolves or removes silicone caulk. Though there are silicone caulk softeners that will help you peel caulk off more easily, you’ll have to remove it very carefully to avoid damaging your walls further. Unlike tubs, showers, tile, and other surfaces you’d normally seal with caulk, drywall is very porous, and you’ll find the silicone caulk really sticks to it.
The article will look at how to remove silicone caulk on drywall and tips for preventing damage to your drywall and drywall paper.
Table of Contents
What you’ll need
- Glass scraper/flat razor blade
- Utility Knife
- Joint Compound
- Drywall Sealant
Alternatively, you could buy something like Dap 12345 3″ Wall Repair Patch Kit With DryDex Spackling, which has everything you need to remove caulk (minus the chemical caulk softeners) and touch up your drywall.
These are the basic tools you need to remove silicone caulk from drywall. Optionally, you could invest in a few other items, but they aren’t necessary. If you’re having trouble lifting the caulk residue, these products might help:
- Caulk Softener like Motsenbocker’s Lift Off 41145 4.5-Ounce Spray Foam and Silicone Caulk Remover
- Normal hairdryer
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Disposable gloves
Step 1) Prepare the caulk
If you’re using the caulk softener, apply it carefully to the residue. Be sure to wear your gloves when applying; wait at least three minutes, but not longer than 15 minutes. If you’re using a hairdryer to soften the caulk, carefully apply heat on the lowest heat setting for about 30-40 seconds. The drywall and caulk should not be hot to the touch – you won’t be able to melt the caulk; the hairdryer is just meant to soften it and make it easier to remove.
Don’t use both the silicone caulk softener and the hairdryer in conjunction- the softener is water-based and will evaporate, even on the lowest setting.
Step 2) Scrape the Caulk
Start with a sharp utility knife and carefully try and pull up one edge of the caulk. Be careful not to score or puncture the drywall paper: you want a lip to get your scraper under. Pull up as much of the caulk as you can with your fingers.
For the remaining caulk, Use a flat blade to scrape under the caulk slowly. A flat razor blade is the best tool for this step. You are trying to cut through the caulk as close to the surface of the drywall as possible. Since the paper is so porous, you will likely end up tearing the paper. Don’t worry about it; if it happens, it happens. Just be sure to remove as little paper as possible. Don’t ‘pick’ at the drywall with your fingers, or try to peel off the caulk – that will tear away the drywall paper and possibly take some of the gypsum core with it.
Step 3) Remove Silicone Caulk Residue
If you did get deep enough with your razor blade, go back over the spot again – you’re trying to leave as little caulk residue behind as possible. Alternatively, you can sand the caulk down if it isn’t too much. It’s important to get all the caulk off because, unlike other types of caulk like latex caulk or acrylic caulk, the paint will not stick to silicone caulking.
If you decide to sand the caulk residue, do not use an electric sander – you will end up sanding into the drywall, scruffing and fuzzing the paper around it, and creating an even larger area that will have to be repaired. Sand the remaining traces of caulk with a sanding block or plain sheet of 80-100 grit sandpaper, go slowly with light pressure just over the area of residue.
At this point, you could also try another application of caulk softener. Wait just over three minutes again, and sand the residue.
Step 4) Repair Drywall
Silicon caulk sticks extremely well to drywall and will soak into the layer of paper. If you don’t get it right away, you’ll likely rip the drywall paper. You might even have to dig into the gypsum layer to remove the caulk. If you’ve damaged the paper, you’ll need to seal the gypsum. Use drywall finisher on the area where the gypsum core is showing and allow to dry.
Then, apply joint compound (also called drywall mud) with your putty knife, applying a very thin coat (1/8 inch or less) with your drywall knife or scraper. Wait overnight for it to dry, and sand it down to prepare for finishing. You can use 100-120 grit sandpaper or a sponge for wet sanding. Feather the edges out from the center for a smooth surface.
Now you’ve got a paintable surface ready to be finished. If the walls were already painted, you’d need to touch up the area.
Ideally, you would notice the caulk slip-up immediately and wipe most of it away. If you get it when it’s still wet, you’ll be able to wipe most of it away. If it’s completely hardened, you’ll still be able to remove it for a great-looking, flawless finished wall, and it will just take a little extra work.
Removing wet caulk
Still-wet caulk is your best-case-scenario. Wipe up the silicone caulking with a damp rag. If there is a residue left, use a rag or sponge with rubbing alcohol to get the last of the wet caulk. If you notice that a sticky residue or bits of caulk are still left when the spot dries, you’ll have to go back to the sanding method to get rid of it.
Caulk Removal Tool
You might have seen specialty plastic caulk removal tools or grout remover tools- they’re little handheld plastic tools with a flat scraping head and a hook-shaped head. While you could use the flat blade part to remove silicone caulk from drywall, it’s meant for removing leftover silicone caulk from between tiles and plastic tubs and showers. You can just as easily use a putty knife or any flat blade.
You might find chemical caulk removers or liquid caulk strippers, but there are no caulk remover products that dissolve caulk like a paint thinner. These work by loosening the bond between the caulk and the surface it adhered to, and breaking down the polymer chains in the caulk, making it softer. This works well for non-porous, smooth surfaces like tile, plastic, and marble but not so much for drywall. Caulk softener will make your caulk more flexible and possibly easier to peel but won’t have the same effect when you’re removing caulk from the drywall as smooth surfaces. It’s an option, but not necessary.
Spackle vs. Drywall Compound
You’ve removed the silicone caulk residue, and now you’re ready to clean up your drywall. You might be tempted to paint over the area that you removed caulk from, but you need to seal the gypsum. The center of the drywall is extremely fragile and will crumble without a sealant of some kind.
For a small area, you can spackle right over the area, though it’s recommended that you use a primer or sealant before you spackle. Spackle is much harder to sand, so if you’re going to repair a large area and paint over it, you’ll want to use a drywall compound.
Also known as painter’s caulk. If you find yourself in a similar situation with latex caulk or even latex with silicone caulk, removing it from drywall is about the same process. Rubbing alcohol will significantly soften a latex caulk. Start by pressing cloth or sponge soaked in isopropyl alcohol to the caulk. Then use your utility knife and blade to slice it off the wall as close as you can to the drywall.
Latex caulk can be painted over, but if you want a flawless look to your walls, you should consider sanding down the caulk residue and fixing up the area with a joint compound.
Accidentally getting silicone caulk on your new drywall is frustrating and a bit annoying, but with the right tools and a little bit of patience, you can still have beautifully finished walls, and no one will be the wiser.
Are you ready to get to work removing caulk from your drywall? Do you feel ready to tackle your caulk conundrum after reading this article?
You don’t need much to remove caulk from your drywall. The most important tools are a sharp razor or utility knife and a few materials to fix your drywall. If you can get that caulk while it’s still wet, that’s the best scenario. Remember, don’t pick at silicone caulk because it will likely just pull up the paper. Just go slow, and you should have minimal damage when you’re done.