Rock Out With Your Caulk Out
This was originally published on my blog Fussy some ten-odd years ago, but somehow Squarespace thought everyone might like to see it again in 2018, and I’m not going to fight it. Enjoy.
Along with light bulbs, nuclear energy, and shows on a network I don't really watch, General Electric now also makes caulk. Personally, I like to focus on just doing one or two things at a time, like beading and knitting, until I can do them well, as opposed to GE's tack which seems to be "let's manufacture an impossibly wide variety of somewhat evil products. And make an ass-load of money." So that's one clear difference between G.E. and me: I bead for free. Profit motive aside, the packaging for these decidedly non-electric "caulk singles" G.E. sent me to review is great. A+ for that, General Electric! They're hefty and squeezy and feel great and not at all evil in your hand. So I took my little packages of caulk into the bathroom because I had some cracks in the grout in my shower. Because being married to a contractor does not guarantee that you'll live a grout-crack-free existence. It guarantees a lot of other things, including food to eat, cable TV, and fancy hand-me-down cellphones, but between Jack's understandable desire to come home and stop working and my housework ADD, a lot of shit can go by the wayside. So I thought I'd try fixing up our shower grout cracks all by myself with some free G. E. caulk.
Anyway, here you see some of the cracks I had to tackle. I'm a crack tackler!
Nice housekeeping, I know. Please.
Once I had photographed my cracks, Cookie and I examined the free caulk.
The best choice seemed to be the one on the right: white waterproof silicone. I set the others aside and opened up the label to read the directions.
"Remove dirt, grease, moisture, and old caulk." I supposed my shower was clean, grease-free, and dry. Enough. No old caulk, just the original grout.
Then came this mysterious piece of advice: "To finish: Smooth or "tool" bead if needed." I knew for a fact that I didn't know what "tool" beading was, it sounded like some sort of professional tile-setter lingo. But I knew that if they were marketing this stuff to people like me it couldn't be that hard to use, right? Just squirt in in the crack and let it dry! What could possibly go wrong?
God, isn't this exciting? I can't wait to see what happens next.
What happened next is that I made somewhat of a mess. The caulk has the consistency of toothpaste so it's easy to manipulate. But it squeezes out of the package kind of irregularly, and I ended up with cracks that looked like they were filled with badly applied toxic birthday cake icing. And because I still didn't know what "tool beading" was, I went and got a Q-tip, thinking I could jam the grout deeper into the cracks and then smooth it out nicely. Why I thought a cotton swab would be the best tool for the job, I have no idea, but it ended up just creating little peaks and swirls with the caulk and just generally looking like hell. So then I did what any normal cave-dweller would do, I used my finger. This had the advantage of smoothing out the caulk somewhat more evenly, but once you get this shit on your hands it's almost impossible to wash off. I went and got a damp paper towel to wipe the excess caulk off the tiles, but then I'd accidentally touch the caulk and mess it up and have to start all over again.
This is what my cracks ended up looking like:
Jack came home for lunch and inspected my work. He immediately went to the utility closet and got a big yellow sponge that had been left by the guys who originally set all our tile. He showed me how you make it damp and then wipe the caulk off the tile. But it didn't wipe off. Then he went and got a scraper and scraped it all off the tile. Then he tried to wipe the caulk off his hands and said, "What the hell is this shit?"
"It's caulk. By G.E.," I said. I showed him the package. "See? It's for small jobs."
"Why don't you just buy a tube of Dap? It comes with a cap, you don't have to use it all at once, it's waterproof, and it wipes off a lot easier than this shit," he said, scrubbing his hands with a wire brush.
"But this is for people who are intimidated by big professional products. It comes in a cute little package."
"So you're paying for a cute package filled with shitty caulk, I get it," he said, lowering his welder's mask and firing up a blowtorch to clean his fingernails.