Dingy, cracked, or mildewed bathtub or shower caulk can make even a sparkling clean bathroom appear dirty and unappealing.
If you've resisted replacing the bathroom caulking because it seemed like a big job, hesitate no more.
You can make this simple repair, which packs a big decorative punch, with very little effort and only a minimal amount of experience.
However, even the mechanically challenged can usually recaulk the right way by following a few simple steps. This guide to bathroom caulking can help.
One of the common mistakes many people make when they notice that the caulking around a tub or shower stall has become stained or mildewed (or that some has fallen out) is to simply spread a fresh layer of caulk over the dingy or crumbling area.
It does brighten the bathroom - for a week or two.
Then the underlying mildew eats its way up through the new layer of caulk, treating the recent arrival as a little snack.
Before long, you find that you (and your bathroom) are back to dingy and crumbling square one.
Here's how to recaulk the right way, step-by-step.
Using a stiff putty knife and a small, inexpensive razor scraper, remove all old caulking material around the tub.
Dig out as much old caulk as possible so that a shallow groove is formed along the entire edge between the bathtub and the tile or the tub or shower surround.
Next, thoroughly scrub the entire area with a bleach-based cleaner and a stiff brush.
Rinse well and allow to dry completely. A fan temporarily directed at the area will speed the drying process.
Using a latex-based tub-and-tile caulk, in either a squeeze tube or a caulking gun, fill the shallow groove with a thin, continuous bead of caulk.
While the line of caulk is still fresh and before a skin starts to set and harden - within a few minutes, at most - moisten your fingertip and use it to smooth the caulk out and push it thoroughly into any gaps.
Then carefully wipe any excess material with a damp cloth. The trick is to use the least amount of caulk necessary to fill the small gap between two different materials and surfaces.
It should be nearly invisible when complete, and not protrude any farther than the tile or the edge of the tub or shower. Otherwise, it can act as a trap for moisture and allow mildew to grow.
Let the new caulk set for as long as the package directions indicate (it's usually overnight).
Finally, you can probably avoid ever having to do this job again by regularly drying tub surfaces, shower walls, fixtures, and caulked areas with a clean towel.
If stains do appear, try cleaning the caulking with a mildew-killer or other commercially available grout cleaner.