A Femme’s Guide to Improvement: Caulking Your Disgusting Bathroom

by L M

This is not a judgment of you, your cleanliness, or your choice of cleaning products. Instead, consider it an appraisal of the ventilation your bathroom probably lacks. Maybe you don’t like keeping the window open because you’re paranoid about home invasions after watching one too many episodes of Dateline, maybe it rained relentlessly for a weekend, maybe you have a bunch of roommates, whatever. The point is, your bathroom failed to fully dry out for a few days in a row, and now, scrub and bleach as you may, you have mildew. Alternately, the contractor your landlord hired was lazy and botched everything and now cracks have appeared in the discount caulking s/he decided to use. Choose your own adventure, the ending is the same: You have to re-caulk.

“What? I don’t have a weekend to spare! I have brunches to drink and shopping to do!” Pfft. Clearly, you have been deceived by the DIY overlords, as this will take you 45 minutes, tops, and be a great outlet for any pent-up aggression you might have.

You’ll need:

1. A can of silicone-based aerosol-type caulk (I used DAP Easy Caulk in white, as white always makes things look hyper-clean).

2. A caulk tool (you can get the type that’s just for applying, or the super-fancy applier AND remover).

3. A window scraper (which you can also use to, you know, clean paint off windows. Awesome).

No, you do not need a caulk gun. This is a myth, and nifty though a caulk gun sounds, it’s not. They’re a pain to use, and impossibly difficult if the caulk you use is at all dry. (Though they will give your arms a great workout, if that’s what you’re trying to do.) The gunless type of caulk is basically like Cheez Whiz. Waterproof Cheez Whiz for your house.

Step one: Wield that window scraper (which is like a boxcutter) with the handle above, rather than behind, the blade, and cut away all the old caulk, resting the blade against the tile or porcelain. You should be able to just pull the caulk away; use your scraper or remover to get at any stubborn bits.

At this point, the cat and dog might come by to inspect your work, while you enjoy your ’90s radio station, which you put on in hopes of landing some vintage En Vogue action. Then your girlfriend might come by to note that you, stripping caulk while your cat watches and Melissa Etheridge sings about how she has razors rippin’ and tearin’ and strippin’ her heart apart, are the biggest lesbian ever.

Accept this and move on to the next step, which is brushing and wiping away all the dust and debris. (A cleaning brush and paper towels are perfect for this.) Make sure everything’s nice and dry and clean. Dry is key, here, because that’s how this whole mess began, remember?

Use your window scraper to cut the tip off your can of caulk — if you use the type I did, you can remove the applicator tip before doing this, and then just stick it back on the can — at a 45-degree angle. I laid the tip flat on a cutting board and pushed the scraper blade into it from above. Just take the very tip off, making a small, small opening — you can remove more later if you need more flow. If you’ve used a traditional caulk/gun setup before, cut an even smaller tip than you think you’ll need: This type of caulk dispenses easily.

Drag the tip along the seam of whatever you’re sealing, applying pressure gently. Don’t worry if the can blows its load at first: This wipes up easily with a damp sponge or paper towel. (Ahem.) After your seams are caulked, run the smoothing tool over the caulk, pressing gently with your index finger.

That’s it. Really. Wipe up all the excess and let it dry. (Or, in caulk-speak, “cure.” Just like a ham.) If you have little excess bits here and there, know that you can cut them away easily with the scraper once they’ve dried to the touch, which will take about two hours in dry weather, more if it’s humid. (Don’t, obviously, do this if rain is in the forecast.) And you’re done! Now take a shower, you pig.

Previously: Home Ec 101.

Lucia Martinez reads too many old poems and tries to be a lady.