bathroom tile and grout

Ok, it’s time to caulk about bathroom problems. Some people never think about their bathroom caulking. It’s just there. Failing to replace your caulking could result in both unsightly stains as well as present some health issues like mold. Homeowners may find it surprising that you will need to replace your caulk over the years.

bathroom tile and grout

When to Replace Caulk

Caulk typically lasts around five years. Some may need to be replaced sooner than that if it wasn’t the right type for the job or if it wasn’t installed correctly. An older home may settle, causing it to separate from the wall.

Indicators that your caulk needs replacing are cracks, discoloration and shrinking which leaves some space on one or both sides of the caulk near the tile.

One indicator that your bathroom needs fresh caulking is a change in smell. New caulking isn’t porous, so water, scum and dirt doesn’t seep in. However, over time, caulking becomes permeable. That means that dirt from showers, baths and, even, even urine from missed aims around toilets get into the caulk. This can cause terrible odors.

Bacteria Growth

Old caulking can contribute to the growth of bacteria as well as mold. Those who notice an orange or pink substance in their showers are probably looking at a bacteria called Serratia Marcescans. This mold is linked to illnesses like urinary tract infections, pneumonia and even meningitis. Mold can be equally problematic as it can lead to respiratory problems, along with eye/throat/skin irritation Products like bleach and vinegar help control the growth, but those who see it repeatedly after cleaning should seriously consider replacing the caulk.

Mildew is mold’s younger brother. It is mold in its early stages. Drying your shower after every use will help reduce it, but old caulk absorbs moisture so it is a perfect spot for mildew to form. Replacing your caulk and cleaning the grout is a cheap way to eliminate these problems.

Protecting Your Home

Something a lot of experts don’t talk about is how old caulk affects the life of your home. Since old caulk takes in water, that means water can enter into the wall. This can cause moisture behind the tile, shower, and bathtub. If there isn’t a water-resistant or waterproof backing, you might end up with extensive and expensive repairs later.

Can You Replace Caulk?

Re-caulking your bathroom isn’t what is difficult. Most of the work is in removing the old caulk. It can be a DIY project, particularly if you are handy, but many people don’t have the time, tools, or experience to handle it. In that situation, it is best to call a professional who can cleanly and easily do the job. It isn’t an expensive task, so it may serve you best to let someone else do it. If you do choose to take on the project yourself, there are some things you will need to properly do it. You will need some caulk remover. One recommended is from 3M. You will also need a utility knife, a pair of needle-nose pliers, a painter’s five-in-one tool, and a sharp putty knife.

Step 1

First, apply the caulk remover to soften the caulk. Then, take the utility knife and slice through the caulk. Hopefully, you will see most of it fall free. Stubborn caulk will require more effort. This is where you will use the pliers to pull old caulk out from the joint. Remaining caulk can be raked out using the five-in-one tool or the putty knife.

Step 2

Once all of that is done, you will need to remove mildew and mold as you clean the surface. You will need to remove soap scum with a non-ammoniated bath cleaner. You can’t use an ammoniated cleaner because you will be using bleach to kill mold and mildew. The two create poisonous fumes when mixed together.

Step 3

To kill mildew and any surface mold, mix 1/3 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. Use a foam brush to put the solution on your bathroom tile. Be sure to push it into the gap where the old caulk was. Next, scrub the entire area with a scrub brush, sponge or other scrub page. Use a clean cloth to dry the area.

Step 4

Applying the caulk is fairly simple. You just apply a bead into the areas where you removed old caulk, being sure to fill up the space. Don’t overfill and wipe off any excess before it dries. The type of caulk you use is the most important decision in this project. You need one that has a fungicide and sealant to prevent any future bacteria growth.

Replacing your caulk will not only make for a healthier bathroom, but will make it look refreshed!