Simple Solutions

Tip for Smoothing Silicone Caulk

By: Joe Truini
Misting a bead of silicone caulking with denatured alcohol to make it easy to spread.

Misting silicone caulking with denatured alcohol to make it easy to spread.

100% silicone caulk has great adhesion and flexibility, making it the best choice for caulking around a bathtub, but it’s so sticky it can be hard to spread out evenly.

To make it easier to spread silicone caulking:

  1. Put denatured alcohol in a plant mister type spray bottle.
  2. Use a caulking gun to apply a bead of 100% silicone caulk to the joint.
  3. Apply a fine mist of denatured alcohol to the caulking bead using the spray bottle.
  4. Use your finger to smooth the bead of caulking with your finger before the alcohol evaporates.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Video Transcript

Joe Truini: I’m caulking this tub with 100% silicone caulk. And I like using 100% silicone for two reasons. One, it’s got great adhesion—it sticks to almost anything. And it’s really flexible, so over time it won’t break free.

Now, the downside of 100% silicone is it is not water soluble, so you’ll have to clean up with a solvent. And also, it’s so sticky that when you try to smooth it out with your finger, sometimes you can either pull it out of the joint or leave a really rough surface.

So, here is the trick, and this works great. I learned this trick from a reader, Herman. And what he suggested is using denatured alcohol. You put it in a little pump sprayer like this, a little plant mister, and just very lightly mist the surface.

That’s all you need, just a little light coating. And that allows your finger to just glide right along. Look at that. How perfect is that? What you end up with is a perfectly smooth bead, each and every time.


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9 Comments on “Tip for Smoothing Silicone Caulk”

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  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    June 18th, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Hi, Vivian,
    Great question! We recommend submitting it to the Today’s Homeowner Radio Show for an in-depth answer.
    Please use this form to contact Danny Lipford, America’s Home Expert, directly:
    Take care!

  • Vivian Astridge Says:
    June 5th, 2019 at 5:11 am

    I live in a third world country where most items are as rare as hen’s teeth. I read somewhere that flute, clarinets and saxophone pads coated with silicone sealant make them perfectly leakproof. I have been in the instrument refurbishing business for more than fifty years and obtaining new pads and other parts was no problem but due to the economic situation, import of luxury items is no longer permitted. Instrument pads are available cheaply from
    amazon, India but are are of very poor quality made in
    china. I tried coating pads with silicone sealant and the layer could not be made smooth as it kept sticking to finger, spatulas, or sticks. Denatured alcohol is unheard of over here but alcoholic drinks are available though extremely costly. Can i use vodka or pure ethanol to prevent sticking of the finger to the silicone layer as it is smoothed.
    Thank you sincerely for any help.

  • Janet Barnes Says:
    May 26th, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Can denatured ETHANOL be used to smooth silicone caulk? I found an old bottle of it in my garage but it probably lost it’s “punch”

  • Eddie Says:
    March 18th, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Having just sealed my shower tray.can I put a 2nd coat on when it’s touch dry

  • Brian Says:
    February 23rd, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    Learn from my very recent mistake: This does NOT work with isopropyl alcohol, which prevents the silicone from curing. 5 days later and all the silicone caulking I put around the tub is still soft and sticky like plasticine so I’ll have to do it all over again.

  • Bill Says:
    February 6th, 2018 at 9:23 am

    I have exactly the same question as Brenda. Can you use isopropyl alcohol instead? Will it do the same job?

  • Brenda Says:
    January 5th, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Hi ,

    I was wondering if isopropyl alcohol will work just as well as denatured alcohol to smooth out 100% silicone caulking around your tub? And if not why?

    Thank you,


  • Official Comment:

    Joe T. Says:
    September 18th, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Hi Wally, I’m so glad that our silicone-smoothing tip worked for you. It’s often the little tricks that really make the difference. Thanks again and good luck!–Joe. T.

  • Wally Says:
    September 15th, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    This was one of best how-to tips I’ve come across. I wish I had known about this when I recaulked some seams on my RV; what a mess that was (and still is). My shower stall came out perfect thanks to your tip. I found out that starting with a uniform bead is important for a good result.

    Thanks for the great tip!


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Tip for Smoothing Silicone Caulk