One of our friends asks about a remodeling job they are doing. It seems that the old shower doors on the bathtub needed to be removed but when they took down the glass doors down there was a large amount of caulk that was difficult to remove. They tried their best by using a razor blade but some still remains on the surface of the tile.
This is a typical situation in bathrooms and its not just in this area. Caulk is used for many things in a bathroom because it is easy to apply and will fill voids around items where water might leak.
Unfortunately because caulk does its job by being sticky trying to remove it can be difficult. The use of a single edge razor blade is normally how I get the caulk off of surfaces that won’t be damaged by light scraping. You would never want to use a heavy hand scraper to try to remove caulk from tile or countertops. With the blade at a angle to the surface run the blade along the surface so it gets under the caulk and removes it.
Once you have done your best with a razor blade you should try a terry cloth towel / rag to remove the rest. Remember if you scrub too hard with something abrasive you might leave marks. Normally tile is pretty strong but the surface can be scratched just like glass.
This may take many tries and the use of solvents probably won’t help a lot if the caulk is clear silicone.
This is why when you are working with caulk you should always do your cleanup before it dries and cures. It is always easier to remove fresh vs old caulk that has been in place for over a couple weeks.
Caulk manufactures will provide a removal chemical that will soften the standard grade white or siliconized caulk. You can get a tube of it for about $5 and your results will vary but it may help. The key to these products is to allow them to work for a long time. Many are in a gel formula that will stick to vertical surfaces. Products like straight alcohol or acetone probably shouldn’t be used.
Heat is also another option to loosen up caulk but again you want to be careful if the surface can be damaged. A heat gun or a hair dryer on high heat and applied for a long time may help loosen the caulk allowing you to remove it.
If caulk was easy to remove then we wouldn’t expect it to last many years. All you can do is your best and the least aggressive methods are the best.
If you have caulk on plastic then a removal gel should help because you won’t be able to use a razor blade or aggressive scrubbing. If it is on tile then I suggest a non scratch scrub pad and some time.