It’s pretty nerve-racking to spend so much time and energy trying unsuccessfully to remove caulking from brick surfaces.
In years past I’ve personally sat and scraped with a utility knife for what felt like hours and just couldn’t believe that the removal process took so long compared to how easy it is to apply this stuff in the first place.
I thought to myself, “There must be a quicker and easier way to remove sealant from brick.”
Naturally, I started learning and testing, and found out that there are a few ways to remove dried caulk from brick surfaces, with some being easier than others.
This article summarizes some of the products available and the steps you should follow to efficiently remove silicone from bricks. I promise, we’re going to save you some serious headaches!
The Trouble with Removing Caulk from Bricks
Caulk is designed to stick to most materials in your house and fill every gap to ensure that the area is completely waterproof. That’s it’s job, and it does it exceedingly well.
According to a post in the LA Times (read here), silicone sealant is such a potent compound that you can even use it to repair loose bricks.
It can be stronger than the original mortar compound used during the building process.
This is just one example of why it’s so tough to remove. And most people, myself included, waste time trying to get it off with a putty knife, scrapers, or other abrasive tools.
I’ve even sat with pliers and screwdrivers to extra pulling and prying power, trying to get a clean enough surface to reapply the new silicone or make the brick look good again.
Methods like these work, but they require a big portion of your day and elbow grease.
Not to mention, my hands were full of blisters, and I scratched and knocked chips out of the brick surface with my heavy duty blade edges many times, which only frustrated me more.
My friend then suggested using a hairdryer or heat gun to soften the caulk before pulling it off. This seemed to help…at first.
However, I could have saved time by just hiring a handyman or contractor to do it all!
Many building contractors and maintenance professionals have discovered that there are products designed specifically for caulk removal.
These solutions help soften and dissolve the silicone compound, which makes the removal process much more straightforward.
Sounds good right?
Removing Caulk Like a Professional
Now that we know there are easier ways to do this, let’s discuss how to remove old caulking from brick in this step-by-step guide.
Preparation and Recommended Products
You don’t have to worry about turning off any water or electricity unless there are electric wires within your silicone that you could disturb during removal.
If there is a live wire of any sort, then I recommend getting an electrician’s advice on whether it’s best to put any wires under or over the new sealant that you will apply.
There are a few household products that you can try.
As a bonus, it’s one of the safest products I have come across.
Besides your sealant remover, you’ll also need a couple supplies: a brush to scrub the pieces of caulk off the bricks and a high-pressure hose or water to rinse.
Yes, I said a brush.
Conventionally, you would think of needing to scrape at some point. With brick surfaces, you want to stay away from scraping.
If you damage the bricks, you’ll have to replace them..
Prepping the Caulk for Removal
Your first step with any caulk remover for brick products is to spot check.
This is where you place a small amount of the chemical product you choose to use onto the bricks to see if they get damaged at all such as discoloration or if your bricks are painting, it isn’t removing paint from brick surfaces.
Once you’re happy that there are no adverse effects, you apply your product onto the entire silicone caulk surface and let it sit for roughly five minutes.
If you choose to remove caulk from a brick without chemicals, your best bet is to heat it with a hairdryer or heat gun and pour vinegar.
Like I mentioned above, this method works but can take a couple hours or more say if you’re getting long sections off next to a window or door.
You’ll need to scrape the old caulk off with a scraper, which risks damaging your bricks.
Removing the Old Sealant
Whether you remove sealant from brick around windows, exterior brickwork on your house (brick wall, brick pavers, brick walkways), bricks around the fireplace, or commercial building brick, you can follow the same process.
Once you’ve let the dissolving product set for five minutes, use warm water and a scrubbing brush to remove the bricks’ old caulk.
If possible such as outdoors, I recommend using a high-pressure hose instead of water and a scrubbing brush as not only is it much quicker and less messy, it also gets into those tiny crevices in bricks much better than your brush will.
Removing the Caulk Residue
To remove caulk residue from brick, you can use the high-pressure hose.
If you used the scrubbing brush method, you must simply pour enough warm water over the area to wash the loose caulk particles away.
Prepping the Surface for New Sealant
Your surface should be left clean and only needs to dry before it’s ready for the new sealant to be applied.
Other Uses for Goo Gone Remover on Brick
This is a professional-grade product formulated to remove larger and stickier tasks found in commercial environments.
Goo Gone doesn’t have any major health warnings like other caulk removal products do.It’s also safe to use on cars and many household surfaces.
In fact for brick it could break down any of the following:
- Contractors adhesives
- Caulk – see all methods
- Wet paint
- Tree sap
- Glues (such as carpet glue from wood floors)
- Grease and Grime
- Permanent marker
- Soot – see all methods
Here’s a quick and simple video onhow Goo Gone works to break down caulk.
What will dissolve latex and silicone caulk?
Apart from using digestants, the safest way to strip silicone caulk is to use a sealant remover as mentioned above for your brick surfaces.
Also, vinegar, WD-40, or isopropyl alcohol. Denatured alcohol can work as well.
Is the old caulking that I’m removing toxic?
According to Poison Control, caulk is a moderate irritant. If it has already set and a child swallows a piece of it, it can pose a choking hazard and cause slight stomach distress, depending on the size of the piece.
Simply wash it off with soap and water if it gets on your face.
When should caulking be removed and replaced when sealing around brick?
Over time, even the best sealants will start deteriorating and need to be replaced.
The general rule is that sealants should last up to five years on exterior brick or if exposed to heat, and so it depends on many factors surrounding the surfaces they’re on and the application process.
You should remove and replace old caulking when it starts to crack and lift.
Will using vinegar, acetone, rubbing alcohol, or WD-40 hurt the brick surface?
No, they won’t. However, WD-40 may stain the bricks and will need to be correctly washed off and dried before applying the new sealant as silicone won’t stick to even a thin film of WD-40 or any other greasy surfaces.
Can these methods work on cinder blocks or concrete building blocks?
Yes, they can. The solutions and methods used won’t deteriorate cinder materials or concrete as the chemicals in caulk removers are designed only to break down the silicone and not the underlying materials.
Now that you know exactly how to remove caulk from brick surfaces, you never again have to pay somebody else to do it.
With my step-by-step guide, you can save time and money while still enjoying your Do-It-Yourself home or office improvements.
You’re now equipped with the best solutions.