Rosie on the House: Freshen look of bathrooms, kitchen with caulk

Tape the area and apply the caulk between the two pieces.

Is the caulking in your kitchen and bathroom stained, cracked, peeling or moldy? Freshening the caulk is a relatively simple task.

The best caulks for tubs, sinks, or shower stalls come in tubes labeled “Tub and Tile” or “Kitchen and Bath.” These will be acrylic latex or silicone that resist mildew and to stick to smooth, non-porous surfaces.

Latex: For windows, doors, baseboards and cracks around tubs and showers. Latex can be used to fill around bathroom tiles too. It’s the easiest of caulks to use because it’s water-based. You can trim or smooth it with your finger. It can be cleaned up with water but is also water-resistant when dry. It can be sanded or painted.

Don’t use latex to fill cracks in tiles or fill in missing grout. This leads to a bigger problem later.

Silicone: For large cracks or joints around bathroom and kitchen fixtures, silicone will keep its seal when the joint, crack or gap stretches or compresses. Silicone is more durable, long-lasting and holds up well in temperature extremes. Pure silicone caulk will stick to painted surfaces, though you can’t paint over it. However, there is a paintable silicone caulk if you need it.

What You Will Need:

• Caulking Gun

• Caulk

• Utility Knife or 5-in-1 Painters Tool and Razor Scraper

• DIY Mildew Cleaner (see below)

• Spray Bottle

• Liquid Chlorine Bleach

• Ammonia-Free Powdered Laundry Detergent

• Hair Dryer

• Painter’s Tape

• Nail & Masking Tape

1: Remove old caulking for better application, appearance and to kill mildew behind it.

Using a 5-in-1 painter's tool and a razor scraper, or a utility knife, slice away the old acrylic latex caulk with quick, sharp strokes. Metal blades can scratch plastic fixtures. Use a plastic razor blade instead. Caulk removers may harm plastic. Read the instructions if using a remover product. Wipe a damp cotton rag over the joint to remove the caulk dust.

2: Clean the joint.

Add 1 quart of liquid chlorine bleach to 3 quarts of warm water. Add 1/3 cup of powdered laundry detergent. Mix thoroughly and place in a spray bottle.

Spray the mixture onto the mildewed area. Let it sit until the black mildew turns white. Rinse with fresh water.

Wear gloves and eye protection, ventilate the area and use ammonia-free detergent. Mixing bleach with a solution containing ammonia can release dangerous gas that is harmful to your lungs.

3: After killing the mildew, thoroughly dry the area using a hair dryer.

4: Apply painter’s tape to each side of the joint. The caulking will go between the two pieces of tape, making straight, smooth lines.

5. Trim the nozzle at a 45-degree angle near the tip, making sure it’s big enough to fill the joint. Puncture the seal on the inside of the tube. Most caulk guns have a seep puncture probe attached to the bottom. An ice pick or coat hanger works too.

6. Point the nozzle to the joint. You can pull or push the caulk, as long as the direction makes for a steady stream while pulling the trigger. Be consistent. Moving too fast may cause beading and thin caulk, with bubbles or breaks in the seal. Moving too slow, and you'll waste it while making a mess.

7. Smooth the caulk with your finger in a damp rag. Immediately remove the tape by pulling it out and away from the freshly caulked joint. Do not touch the caulk or get it wet for at least 24 hours.

8. Store the remaining caulk by putting a nail into the nozzle to keep it from plugging up. Wrap the nozzle in layers of masking tape. Use the tube within six months, otherwise, it will be rock-hard.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program, heard locally from 8 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson and from 7 to 10 a.m. on KGVY-AM (1080) and -FM (100.7) in Green Valley. Call 888-767-4348.

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