When you’re using caulking around the edges of gaps, door frames, and anywhere else that you need it, the drying time is a crucial factor. It sometimes seems like the process takes much longer than it should. If you’re in a rush or you need a solid holder ASAP, it can be a bit frustrating.
So, how long does caulk/sealant take to dry? Under the right conditions, caulking and sealant take about 24 hours to dry. During this time span, you should try to brace the sealant to prevent it from moving around. Also, keep water and moisture away from it for at least 12 hours.
Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following info:
- What affects the speed of caulking and sealant drying
- How you can make it dry quicker
- How to deal with accidental spills
- How long it lasts before you have to replace it
What Factors Determine How Long Caulk Takes to Dry?
Drying sealant is always a tedious task. It seems like some applications take longer than others, so how are you supposed to know how long it will take this time? Fortunately, there are five factors that directly impact the drying time. Once you learn them, you’ll be able to cut several hours off of it.
Here are the five factors that determine how long caulking takes to dry:
- One of the main factors is moisture in the air. If you’re applying sealant in a humid environment, then it’ll inevitably take longer than if you used it in a dry place. If you live near water, such as an ocean or lake, then there’s a high chance that there’s humidity in the air.
- The amount of caulking that you use also matters. If you’re not applying enough, it’ll dry faster, but it won’t have a strong enough grip. On the other hand, over-applying caulking can cause it to harden on the outside without drying on the inside. Both instances have negative results.
- The size of the gap that you’re sealing also has an impact. If you’re sealing a wide gap, then you’ll need to use more sealant. This application will take significantly longer than a thin, closed gap that only needs a thin bead of caulking to seal properly. Never reduce the amount that you need, though.
- The type of sealant that you’re using is worth mentioning. If you’re sealing glass, metal, or ceramic, then silicone is the way to go. Acrylic latex caulking is good for wood, whereas polyurethane-based caulking is good for outdoor applications and windows.
- If you paint caulk, it will take longer to dry. Try to allow the sealant to dry completely before you start painting. This waiting period will give the formula enough time to cure to the core, preventing it from having a soft, unreliable center. Even if it says it can be painted early, wait the full 24 hours just to be safe.
How to Make Sealant Dry Faster
Since nobody wants to sit around waiting a whole day for the sealant to dry, you could try a few different methods to reduce the drying time. Remember that it will dry on the surface in under an hour, but that doesn’t mean that the formula is cured. Dryness doesn’t mean security; Curing does.
Here’s a list of different ways to make sealant dry faster:
- Point a few fans facing toward the caulking. If you have a ceiling fan or a floor fan constantly aimed at the area, it’ll dry much quicker. You can cut the drying time in half under the right conditions, so why not give it a try? Just don’t place the fans too close, or it might cause holes to form.
- Adjust your thermostat to sit between 40 to 80 degrees F (4 to 27°C). This range is the perfect setting for caulking to dry as it should. If it’s too cold, then it’ll freeze in a porous manner. Warm temperatures prevent it from sealing completely. Neither of these scenarios is what you want!
- Use an unopened tube if you can. This will create a tight seal that cures quickly. Old tubes are usually filled with clumps, and they’ve been exposed to the outside air, causing the formula to dry a bit. By using a brand-new tube of sealant, you’ll achieve the best possible cure within a reasonable time frame.
- Place a dehumidifier by the caulking. The goal is to remove as much moisture from the room as possible. Water is the enemy of sealant that’s trying to dry, so it’s crucial that you remove it from the air. Change out the dehumidifier tank often, ensuring that it’s always fresh and ready to remove more moisture.
- Vice the caulking to the surface that it’s bonding with. If you’re able to use zip ties, locking wrenches, or anything else to hold it in place, you’ll prevent it from moving around. A solid grip will allow the caulking to seal and dry within an hour, curing in under 24 hours without a problem.
What Happens if Caulk/Sealant Gets Wet Before It Dries?
You’ve probably read all of the cautionary warning labels on caulk bottles that point out the dangers of moisture. Whether it’s quick-drying or regular, you shouldn’t ever let the solution get soaked or drenched from any water source.
Realistically speaking, that’s nearly impossible if you’re using the sealant outside or in a shower. Let’s assume that you just applied the sealant not too long ago, and someone else turned on the water. Don’t fret!
You’ll more than likely not have to worry about replacing the sealant. If there’s a noticeable amount of moisture built up on the caulking, take a dry paper towel and gently dab the area. Make sure you don’t remove any of the formula. If you happen to do so, simply apply a bead where you accidentally removed it.
The real problem is if there was a serious rainstorm or a long shower that took place right after you applied the caulking. If you’ve just applied it and water soaks the area, you should remove all of it, dry the surface, and start new. For areas that are extra soaked, use a blow dryer to dry the surface completely.
If some of the caulking has dried and the rest of it has dripped off from moisture, then use a putty knife to remove it. Try out the Warner ProGrip Putty Knife to remove thin strips of caulking that seem too tough to get off. You could also try to use a box knife, though it’s not as safe and controllable.
Note: All caulking eventually needs to be replaced. There’s no such thing as a life-long sealant, so be prepared to use some sort of putty knife or another tool to remove it and reapply a new layer when you need to. If you want to know how long caulking lasts, proceed to the next section.
How Long Does Dry Caulking Last?
Like all good things, caulking doesn’t last forever. If you neglect it or refuse to replace it, your sealant will start to wear down. It won’t keep in moisture, airflow, and anything else that you’re sealing off. What’s worse is that it starts to look incredibly tacky.
So, how long does dry caulking last? Usually, it takes about five years for caulking to require a replacement. By this time, it’ll have been exposed to moisture, wear and tear, and other factors that will deteriorate the sealant.
If you live in a humid part of the country or the sealant is located in a bathroom, then you might have to replace it a bit more often. Having to replace caulking more than every three years is a problem, so you might be doing something wrong if that’s the case. Otherwise, five years is a good estimate to base your schedule around.
Dry regions with caulking that’s used in a low-humidity environment can increase the lifespan up to 7 to 10 years. Too much dryness can actually be just as bad as moisture. When caulking starts to dry, it’ll flake off. Maintaining the aforementioned temperature and humidity requirements will allow you to get the most out of each tube.
You might also want to read: Can You Caulk Over Caulk?
There’s no reason that any type of caulking should take longer than 24 hours to cure under the right conditions. You can remove humidity and add a few fans to speed up the process, but nothing beats following all of the instructions found throughout this article.
Here’s a quick recap of the post:
- Never allow the sealant to get wet before it dries completely.
- There are three main types of caulking.
- Caulking usually lasts up to five years, though it can be as short as three or as long as ten years.
- Use a putty knife to remove the old sealant before you replace it.
- Don’t use too much or too little caulking.