To caulk your shower as well as the pros, follow these steps:
- Select a waterproof caulk designed for use in bathrooms.
- Ventilate or dehumidify the bathroom to improve caulk drying times.
- Scrape away all the old caulk.
- Scrub away the caulk residue using a scrubber moistened with mineral spirits.
- Apply painter’s tape along the seams you will caulk.
- Use a caulk gun to apply caulk along every seam you taped off.
- Smooth the caulk with a caulking tool or your finger.
- Remove the painter’s tape.
- Allow 24 hours for the caulk to dry.
This task may seem daunting at first, but by following each of these steps, you’ll achieve excellent results. Using painter’s tape for the seams eliminates messy clean-up and helps achieve uniform caulk lines.
Table of Contents
Where Do You Caulk in the Shower?
When caulking your shower, follow these two rules. First, caulk wherever two different materials meet. Second, caulk wherever there is a change of plane. Caulking where two materials meet means you must caulk wherever one component in your shower meets another. For example, you must caulk around metal shower fixtures where they meet the tile, where tile meets the tub surround, and where the shower door frame meets the wall.
- Rule 1: Caulk wherever two different materials meet in your shower.
- This rule means you must caulk around showerheads, faucets, where tile meets the wall, and around your shower door.
- Rule 2: Caulk where two differently angled surfaces meet (such as corners).
- You should always caulk corners where walls meet, even if the angle is not 90 degrees.
- Make sure to caulk changes of plane such as built-in shower shelves.
Caulking your shower wherever there is a change of plane means you must caulk wherever two differently angled surfaces meet, even if the materials on each surface are the same. For example, you must caulk the corners of your shower. Do not grout corners, even if the shower is tiled. Grouting corners leads to cracked and failing grout due to the expansion and contraction of the tiles. Caulking corners provides a flexible, waterproof seal.
Where Should You Not Use Caulk in Your Shower?
Do not use caulk as a grout replacement. If tiles are on a flat surface, grout should be used between the tiles, not caulk. It’s also essential to avoid caulking anywhere that the caulk will prevent water from flowing or draining, as well as locations where the caulk could interfere with shower doors sliding and closing properly.
- Never use caulk as a replacement for grout between tiles on a flat surface.
- Do not apply caulk where it will prevent water from flowing out of a fixture or obstruct your shower drain.
- Make sure you do not caulk in any place where it can stop shower doors from moving as intended.
- Do not let caulk drip onto the floor of the shower.
Except for caulking in corners and around drains, avoid applying caulk to the floor of your shower. Caulk can become slippery when it is wet, which can lead to slips and falls when you use the shower. It’s a great idea to cover the floor of the shower with a dropcloth while caulking, to prevent any caulk from dripping onto the floor and drying there.
9 Steps to Caulk Your Shower
Caulking your shower is a task you can take on yourself, even if you’ve never caulked before. Below we’ll walk you through all the steps, tools, and materials. you need to tackle the job. Plus, we’ll provide tips that make the job easier and cleaner.
Choose Your Caulk
Begin by selecting the right caulk for the job. If you’re new to caulking, compare polyseamseal vs silicone caulk. Polyseamseal caulk is easier to work with and clean up. However, silicone caulk lasts longer and gives you that clear silicone appearance.
- Choose a long-lasting waterproof caulk for your shower.
- If you wish, choose a color-matching caulk that is the same color as your grout.
- We like to use this clear silicone caulk for tubs and showers.
Clear silicone caulk is a good choice because it is almost invisible when dry. White caulk may stand out. However, if you have colored grout, you can purchase color-matched caulk so that your caulk lines blend in perfectly with the grout in your shower.
Prepare Your Bathroom
One hour before caulking your shower, begin ventilating the room. If you can, open the windows and turn on the vent fan for increased airflow. This improves caulk drying times and helps ensure that silicone caulk dries clear. Bathrooms are known for being moist, humid environments. These conditions can interfere with the curing process of your caulk.
- Ventilate the bathroom to improve the drying time and final appearance of your caulk.
- If weather permits, open bathroom windows to allow for ventilation.
- Do not open the bathroom windows in rainy weather or temperatures below 40℉ (4℃).
- Turn on the bathroom vent fan, if you have one.
- If you cannot open the windows, run this dehumidifier for 24 hours after caulking, to improve drying times.
Caulk will only cure properly if it is in dry conditions above 40℉ (4℃). If weather prevents you from opening the windows, run a dehumidifier before, during, and for 24 hours after caulking. Your caulk will dry to a professional finish with proper ventilation and reduced humidity.
Remove Old Caulk
Scrape away all the old caulk in your shower. A caulking tool or a razor blade scraper is perfect for the job. It’s essential to scrape the old caulk out of seams around showerheads, in corners, and around shower door frames. All the old caulk must be removed before you can apply new caulk. This will ensure your caulk is durable, leak-free, and professional looking.
- Remove all the old caulk from the seams in your shower.
- This inexpensive caulking tool is helpful for removal, as well as smoothing the new caulk in later steps.
- Work carefully to remove as much of the caulk as you can—we will clean up the residue in the next step.
- If your shower corners are grouted, remove the grout so you can properly caulk the corners.
During this step, it’s important to inspect your shower for areas that were grouted when they should’ve been caulked. A previous homeowner may have used grout in corners or around plumbing fixtures when caulk is actually the right choice. The grout must be removed because some surprising things can go wrong if you caulk over grout in shower corners.
Scrub Away Caulk Residue
Small bits of caulk and filmy caulk residue can ruin the look of your new caulk. To prevent this, you’ll need to scrub the old caulk off the seams. First, put on a pair of heavy-duty rubber gloves. Then, use a scouring pad moistened with denatured alcohol or mineral spirits. Scrub the previously caulked seams until the residue is gone.
- Put on a pair of these heavy-duty rubber gloves.
- Use a scrubbing pad and mineral spirits or denatured alcohol to scrub away caulk residue
- Scrub until the caulk residue is gone and the seams are clean.
- Allow time for the seams to fully dry.
Battling previously grouted seams that should’ve been caulked can be tough work, especially if you’re dealing with stubborn grout. If this is the case, soften the grout to make removal easy. It can save you a lot of time scrubbing and scraping.
Tape Off the Seams
Use painter’s tape to tape off the area of the seams you will be caulking. For straight seams, apply a line of tape on both sides of the seams. Leave ¼-inch (6 mm) between the pieces of tape to allow the caulk to fill the seam.
- Use this painter’s tape to tape off seams before caulking.
- Apply a line of tape on both sides of the seam, leaving a gap about ¼-inch wide (6 mm).
- Use small, overlapping pieces of tape to make circles of tape around drains and faucets.
- Put painter’s tape around the base of faucets and showerheads to get a clean finished look.
- Tape over drains to prevent caulk from overflowing onto drain areas.
When taping off areas around drains, showerheads, and faucets, begin by taping off the tile around the fixture. Overlap small pieces of tape to get a rounded or circular tape design. Then, apply tape around the base of the showerhead or faucet. This will prevent caulk from becoming a mess on your shower fixtures.
Apply Your Caulk
Begin caulking by cutting the tip off your caulk tube at an angle. Create an opening ⅛–¼-inch in diameter (3–6 mm). Then, load your caulk tube into a caulk gun. Begin caulking by squeezing the trigger of the caulk tube. Once the caulk is flowing, slowly move the tip of the tube along the seams you taped off. Apply an even bead of caulk that fills the gaps. It doesn’t have to look perfect at this stage.
- Cut the tip off your caulk tube at an angle.
- Your caulk tube opening should be ⅛–¼-inch (3–6 mm) in diameter. There may be markings on the tube tip to show you where to cut.
- Load your caulk tube into a caulk gun.
- Squeeze the trigger of the caulk gun to start the flow of caulk.
- Slowly move the tip of the tube along the seams and continually apply caulk with the gun.
- The seams should be filled with an even bead of caulk.
If the caulk isn’t flowing from the tube when you begin caulking, there may be a seal in the tube. Puncture this seal by inserting a long nail into the open tip of the caulk tube until you feel it break through the thin seal. Many caulk guns even have a specialized attachment for this purpose.
Smooth the Seams
Now that you’ve caulked all the seams in your shower, it’s time to smooth them. You can use a caulking tool to smooth the seams, or you can use your finger. Either way, it’s essential to apply very light pressure as you gently smooth the caulk to a uniform appearance. It’s okay if the caulk spreads out onto the painter’s tape as long as the caulk in the seam looks smooth and uniform.
- Use a caulking tool or your finger to smooth out the caulk along each seam.
- Wear waterproof gloves when using your finger to smooth caulk.
- Dip your tool or your gloved finger in mineral spirits to prevent caulk from sticking.
If you are using a caulking tool, dip it in mineral spirits or denatured alcohol periodically to keep caulk from sticking. Similarly, wear gloves if you are smoothing caulk with your finger. Then, you can dip your finger in these substances to prevent caulk from sticking.
Remove the Tape
As soon as you are done smoothing the caulk, remove the painter’s tape. To avoid ruining the look of your smoothed caulk, pull the painter’s tape directly away from the surface. This will leave a crisp line where the caulk meets the surface. It’s the best way to get a professional finish.
- Remove painter’s tape immediately after smoothing caulk—do not allow the caulk to dry with the tape in place.
- Pull the tape away from the surface to avoid disturbing your smoothed caulk.
- Do not smooth the caulk after removing the tape. This creates messy lines.
Do not allow the caulk to dry before removing the tape. If you do, the tape will be trapped under the caulk and you will have to cut it free. Remove the tape promptly and resist the urge to smooth the caulk further. Doing so can create a messy finish.
Allow Time to Dry
Allow 24 hours for the caulk to fully dry before you use your shower or bathtub. Any exposure to water before the caulk is dry can result in cloudy, lumpy, or moldy caulk. The caulk may be dry to the touch, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready for water exposure. Even indirect moisture from running the bath can interfere with the caulk’s drying process.
- Allow 24 hours for the caulk to dry.
- Continue ventilating or dehumidifying the bathroom while the caulk dries.
- Do not use the shower or bathtub for 24 hours.
- Once the caulk has had 24 hours to cure, it’s time to use your newly sealed shower.
Continue to ventilate the room or run your dehumidifier throughout the 24-hour drying period. This will achieve the best results. Once your caulk has had a day to dry, you’re free to use your shower as normal. Your job is done!
What is the Best Way to Caulk a Shower?
To caulk a shower, first, choose the caulk for the job. White caulk, clear silicone, or colored caulk that matches your grout are all great options. Once you have your materials, ventilate your room to improve caulk curing times. Then, scrape all the old caulk out of the seams in your shower, followed by scrubbing the seams to remove caulk residue. Once the old caulk has been fully removed, tape off the seams with painter’s tape. Then, apply new caulk to the seams, remove the tape, and wait 24 hours for the caulk to cure before using your shower.