Caulking doesn’t have to be difficult when you have just a few tips to keep you laying straight clean caulk lines. Here are a few tips to help you out. First, it’s important to know that there are mainly two big categories of caulk: latex and oil based. Latex caulk can be cleaned up with water. When using oil based caulk, you will need mineral spirits to cut it. I use paint thinner. When trying to decide what type of caulk to use, answer this simple question: Will you be using the caulk inside or outside?

Generally speaking it is best to use oil-based caulks on the exterior and water-based caulks on the inside. There are exceptions, but this is a good place to start for the average do-it yourselfer. Oil-based caulks will be more durable and last longer when used on the outside of your home. Oil-based caulks will take a bit of effort to work with since they are more sticky and gooey. To deal with that, I wear rubber gloves and a rag soaked in paint thinner.

Once a bead is applied, I use a finger to smooth out the bead. Then I wipe my finger with the thinner-soaked rag. The best way to get a smooth bead is to keep going over it with you finger until you are satisfied with the look of the bead. When you get really good at it, you may get a nice smooth looking bead after the first swipe. You will want to be sure that your rubber gloves are rated for the solvent you are using. The finger you are using to smooth with must be clean.

The principle of smoothing with a finger is exactly the same with latex caulks with a slight variation. You will still wear gloves. The difference is you will be cleaning your hands and smoothing the caulk with a water-soaked rag. Because the latex is a water-based caulk, the water will literally dissolve the caulk. I like to rinse my rag every so often, so I will keep a bucket of water nearby for just that purpose.

When caulking bath tubs and countertops, you may find it helpful to tape off the area with painters tape. The tape will assure you of a nice straight line. To use the tape, you will want to tape off the area first, apply your caulk, smooth the bead accordingly, then carefully remove the tape before the caulk dries. If you get too much caulk applied in your bead, you can always begin to wipe the bead with your wet rag. Clean the rag often in your bucket of water and keep wiping the bead until it gets down the size and look that you desire.

Some people like to use tools to smooth the caulk. But I have not found one that works, that I like. So my preferred method is to wipe with my finger and throw away the gloves when I am done. This assures a quick, easy, smooth bead every time.

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