Draw your guns.Let’s talk caulk.

As promised, this month is going to be devoted to some of the things you can quickly do to spruce up your house. The little things you never take the time to do.

Like sweep out the trundle cage in the basement. I never seem to get around to doing that.

Today we’re gonna go back to the kitchen to focus on that.

While I was painting my kitchen counter grout last week, I came to the realization that no matter how clean the grout ended up looking, the rim around my sink was still going to look gross.  You fancy folks with undermount sinks don’t have this problem.  My sink is not an undermount sink, since it was installed approximately the same time water was invented. So my sink and the area where my backsplash meets the counter around my sink is gross. Mildewy and dirty and gucky.

I had to fix it.

Let’s talk caulk. When you’re sealing in your kitchen or bathroom you want to use silicone sealant. NOT paint and trim caulking. Both are applied with a caulking gun, but caulking is for filling holes and cracks in walls and baseboards and such. Silicone sealant is for sealing up areas that get wet, like around your tub or sink.

Silicone sealants tend to stink. Deal with it. Using the wrong product will end in misery. Gooey, misery.

Keep in mind this is a quick fix.  Not a proper fix.  A proper fix would involve removing all the silicone that’s in place right now.  I didn’t do that.  I went over the old silicone.  Because as I said … this is a quick fix.

So load your gun …




Find the area in need of help …




Fill with a thin bead of sealant. And admire.




As you can see I also painted the grout on my backsplash using that grout pen I talked about last week. The whole project of painting the grount and resealing around the backsplash and sink took about an hour.

It’s not exactly a kitchen renovation, but it didn’t take 3 months and $40,000 either. And it has almost the exact same effect.  Sort of.  If you squint. From Africa.

So for now, that’ll have to tide me over. It’s one of those things you do and think, WOW. I had no idea how awful that was until I fixed it.   Like when you get a new pair of glasses, put them on and think Holy Crap!  I had no idea I couldn’t see before.  Look at all those trees.  And the monsters in them!  Those trees are covered in monsters!  Huh.  Pretty.  

Not as pretty as a kitchen renovation but still, pretty.

** There’s no such thing as a trundle cage by the way. No such thing at all. And you definitely wouldn’t use it for holding fop-fops.


  1. JudyZ says:

    Too funny–I searched google for trundle cage, wondering what important household maintenance I had been neglecting. You are a riot.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I have a fancy-schmancy undermount sink and the caulking is disgusting all the time. We’ve lived here for five years and I’ve removed and recaulked it twice. It is constantly moldy. Don’t know why. Maybe it wasn’t put in properly? I’ve never had an undermount before so I have no idea if this is normal.

  3. Karen says:

    Rebecca – There are some silicones that have an “anti-mold” built into them. I have no idea if they work or not, but they do exist. ~ karen

  4. Tasha says:

    I helped build a playground for the co-op I live in this summer. We spent an evening applying caulk to the posts. Given the 13 year old hilarity that ensued (my caulk is very stiff, this caulk is still sticky, you have to push on the caulk, etc.) I am very, very impressed (and slightly disappointed) that you wrote an entire post without one singe innuendo.

  5. Louise says:

    How oh how did you get the silicone so straight and smooth? We have resealed our bath three times and the kitchen sink twice, and it always looks like a three year old has done it. It comes out in fits and starts and blobs all over the place, I smooth it with a damp finger, and then have most of it..on my finger! Yay! . I think a video clip is in order for us numptys…

  6. dana says:

    Thanks for saying theres no such thing as a trundle cage. After reading your post i was going to google “what is a trundle cage”. Figured its a canadian thing.

  7. Natika33 says:

    I was just about to say that they have silicones with “anti-mold” built in, but then Karen beat me to it.

    They do, in fact, work because I worked in a lab for 6 years or so that tested that kind of thing. Of course, it does depend on the brand, but it *should* work. (Although I should probably plug my old company’s product, the truth is most of our competitors were just as good…*le sigh*.)

  8. Caron says:

    I have just recently started to “renew” the wet areas in my home and regrouted and recalked the second bathroom (thought I would test the least used room in the house) its so satisfying (and liberating) to do these little jobs!

  9. Pam'a says:

    Aww, c’mon. I wanted to see a picture of your ooky finger covered with all the extra caulk after you smooth it out. …Or is that just me?

  10. Farquist says:

    Ha! Here’s me googling trundle cage at 5 in the morning. Ok, it’s officially time for me to get a life.

  11. Morag says:

    Undermount sinks get just as nasty as top mounts. Nastier in fact because since people can’t see the mold/gunk accumulating, they tend not to bother cleaning it til it gets incredibly revolting and smelly. And it’s harder to keep clean than top mounts are even if you do keep it up on a daily basis. If you have a choice between putting in an undermount and a top mount, choose a top mount.

  12. Suanne Jefferies says:

    Have you tried putting chlorine bleach on a Q-tip or an old toothbrush to clean the mold/mildew off the grout? Rinse off after the “gunk” disappears so it won’t disolve the components of the grout. I’ve done this a few times and it works pretty well.

  13. Mary Werner says:

    I have an undermount sink and don’t see any caulk. It is under the counter. Maybe the counter hole was too big for Rebecca’s sink (or the sink was too little for the hole). Just a suggestion or else maybe I need glasses and then will be able to see my moldy caulk also. Can you tell me the name of the paint pen again as I have a friend with a log home and she cleans the grout between each log every year and repaints them. Looks fantastic all the time BUT it would be easier if she used a pen instead of a brush.

  14. Langela says:

    I have been thinking about doing this in my kitchen. Thinking about it is very tiring, but maybe I can rest up and actually do it.

  15. Reg says:

    Oh Wow. Looks great. Seeing the before and after has me thinking about the caulking around my bathtub. It could use refreshing and the ‘anti-mold’ kind I guess. Is that gun gizmo hard to use? Does caulking come in a tube? A tube may be easier to use for those of us with little or no skill.

  16. Ruth says:

    Great results!

    My response to mildew is to attack with a spray bottle of chlorine bleach, straight no chaser (Aagh!). Yep… I’m more afraid of mold than I am of chlorine fumes. Weird, I know… but I get longer lasting results. The ‘mold frequency’ around here is crazy at this time of the year.

  17. Moe says:

    What a huge difference. Looks awesome. Looking forward to this month of “sprucing up” ideas. Goodness knows my house could use some sprucing up.

  18. Linda B says:

    Trundle cage must be something Canadian. Just across the border, in Michigan, I’ve never heard of it. What IS a trundle cage?

  19. Julie Cucinotta says:

    Hilarious- I’m cracking up bc for one, my sink looks exactly like yours. Except I don’t even have tile and grout, I have a disgusting linoleum backs plash and counter that I try to melt all the time when I cook so my husband will agree a new one it needed! I keep a list of little projects on my phone for when I have time to myself to conquer things and this exact task is on it and I still had not done it..I’m inspired and doing it today- literally right now- THANK YOU for the reminder! 🙂

  20. Karen says:

    Tasha – I’ve already done that post. Cant’ remember when or what it was about … but I did. 🙂 ~ karen

  21. Karen says:

    Ooky, LOL???

  22. Karen says:

    Mary – The pen is actually harder to use than a brush! It gives you the impression it’s easier but .. it’s not. Mine is called “Grout Renew”, but there are a bunch of different ones. ~ karen

  23. Karen says:

    Langela – You sound like me and my income taxes. ~ karen

  24. Nicola says:

    The easiest way is to put tape down first on either side of where you want the caulk to go, do the caulking, wet your finger and smooth it, then remove the tape.

  25. Karen says:

    Ruth – I’ll give bleach a shot when. You’re the second person to mention it. ~ karen!

  26. Susan says:

    Perfect timing, Karen. I just bought silicon caulk to fix my kitchen sink. It’s gross.

    Rebecca, I spray a solution of one part bleach to 5 parts water on the sink caulking and let it sit overnight. Rinse in the morning and it’s white and clean. It stays that way about a month. (If you decide to try this and you have cats, you might want to confine them overnight so they don’t get bleach on their paws. I’m pretty sure mine are into everything while I’m sleeping!)

  27. Susan says:

    Sorry! When I entered my comment I could only see three others. Apparently the bleach idea is old news! 😉

  28. Karen says:

    LOL. That’s O.K. Sometimes we all need it drilled into our brains anyway. (I was approving all the comments at the same time you were leaving yours … that’s why you couldn’t see them) ~ karen

  29. Erika says:

    Reg – caulk does come in a tube, which is great for small projects. The caulk gun is super simple to use for larger projects, but you have to watch your pressure and release the little lever thingy on the bottom between squeezes or caulk will keep squirting while you are trying to smooth. That’s my experience, anyway, but I’m usually cauliking room corners and around windows.

  30. Karen says:

    Erika – There are caulking guns now that lock once you’ve stopped squeezing so you don’t have to press the handle to get the goo to stop coming out. I don’t have one, but they do exist. ~ karen!

  31. cred says:

    makes me what to try bleach again- I have a problem with the bathroom tiles. I asked at home depot and the dude assured me that the clorax bleach pen would solve the problem- he lied! It didn’t do shit.
    I tried the grout pen and a grout colourant and it didn’t cover very well- the shower tile grout lines are so thin, it’s difficult to get in between. And on the floor tiles in the bath, it just didn’t cover well enough- it is more like ink than paint and the grunge (the floor tiles aren’t mildewy just dirt that won’t scrub off) shows through.
    I just tried a recipe with ammonia that the big fat liar internet said works and shockingly it really does. I have tried so many different products/recipes and spent far too much time on my knees scrubbing grout with a toothbrush that I didn’t expect it to work.
    Now I have to find a good sealer- scrub it with the magic solution and seal it up once and for all.

  32. Mary says:

    Everything I read said you had to remove the old caulking before doing new or it would peel up quick. Let me know if yours sticks because that would save me a ton of time, lol.
    PS: We saw a mini-van on the road that was rusted out. They had filled all the holes with that expanding yellow caulk. I said “look at that van filled with caulk” and both my kiddos started cracking up. Apparently they didn’t know what caulk was and thought I said something else.

  33. v says:

    My comment is going to seem really weird to most but here goes. I once got “white out” correction fluid on a blouse. I washed it countless times and could never ever remove the white out no matter what I did. For those needing white grout cover up type paint, have you considered using white out correction fluid?

  34. kate-v says:

    i don’t think you’d want an undermount sink. I work in differnet households and the ones with the undermopunt sinks are always grody and mildedwy and black moldy under the rim of the counter at the edge of the sink. what do you expect from an area where it is frequently wet and never sees the light – after all it’s under the ‘lip’ of the counter top and doesn’t get much ventilation. This is a recipe for mold. I don’t think anyone ever drys the underedge – it is more or less out of sight out of mind – even though it is right there in front of you, you can’t really see it without holding a mirror up to it. this is a pooor design, i think. the top of the sink may get yucky, too but at least you can see it – it is in the open air and it gets light and your can scrub it every time you clean the sink

  35. Reg says:

    Thank you Erika and Karen

  36. Barbie says:

    Nice job….looks like a professional did it! Someday you will have an entirely new and fabulous kitchen. I can’t wait to see that post! 🙂

  37. Christine says:

    I think I might have some bad news for you. I tried the same method a while ago in our bathroom. While your sink definitely looks loads better, it probably won’t stay like that very long. In out bathroom it was only a matter of weeks until the mould on the original silicone came through the new stuff. (http://www.littlehouseonthecorner.com/caulk-vs-silicone/) In the end I had to remove everything and start over again. Ups. Fingers crossed that yours hold up better!

  38. Chris says:

    ARGGH! I just got a cup of coffee and was looking forward to another funny post but no Karen you had to remind me I have to stop bleaching the old caulk around the shower and just damn well replace it. But I did learn from all your readers comments that when I get around to replacing my kitchen I will use an integrated sink instead of an undermount. Thanks everyone for enlightening me.

  39. Nanette says:

    Cred, was it the recipe with ammonia and Dawn? My bathroom tile and grout are stained with soap/minerals and nothing seems to get it out. The White Out does sound like a good idea for us lazy people.

  40. KJ says:

    It’s where they put the Linda B’s when they are done with them!

  41. KJ says:

    Unless you are lucky like me and have a mother-in-law who checks your undermount sinks and tells you when they are dirty under there!

  42. Karen says:

    Yes, LOL … “someday” being the operative word. 🙂 ~ karen

  43. Karen says:

    Hi Christine – Oh, I don’t expect this to be any long term fix so we’re O.K. Just enough to get me through. I will eventually remove the old stuff. I just wanted something that would clean things up quickly for now! ~ karen

  44. Violet says:

    I repeatedly had to remove/replace the caulking around the inside of my tub because it would constantly turn black. I often came across the tip that if you coat new caulk with a layer of car wax (I think it was car wax) after it cures, that protects against mold and mildew. I always meant to try that but never did, because I’m lazy that way, but considering all the other things we use wax to protect, it makes sense.

    The other thing is, when you recaulk, be sure to clean the groove you’re filling extremely well, because if there’s any mold/mildew spores in there when you caulk, they’ll attack the caulk from behind. (That’s what was going on with my tub.) Tea tree oil is great for killing mildew. Just be sure to clean all oil residue off before caulking or the caulk won’t stick properly. Just scrub, scrub, scrub with rubbing alcohol and a toothbrush and wipe. I recommend repeating that process at least three times.

    Also, be vigilant about following all surface prep and curing instructions for the caulk to the letter. Nothing is more frustrating than having your pretty new caulk start to pull away from the surface in a couple of months because it didn’t adhere properly. ARGH!

  45. Cat says:

    My mum, who used to do odd jobs for a construction company, recommends outdoor caulking products for the kitchen and bathroom. They’re meant to stand up to being wet a lot and not degrade or mould quickly, but they only come in grey and white (probably primer colours come to think of it).
    Also, use baby wipes to clean your fingers after wiping the seam, apparently that’s what the pros use.

  46. Rebecca says:

    Hmm, thanks for all the tips! The bleach does next to nothing (I’m always crazy with the bleach-straight up and let it sit) I think because the funky moldy stuff starts behind the caulk. But I will try the anti-mold stuff next time. I feel the need to defend the undermount sink though. I LOVE that I can just wipe all the crumbs and veggie peels into the sink and clean it out later. Even with the nastiness, I will totally put one in if I ever redo a kitchen.

  47. Christine says:

    Yep, I know the feeling!

  48. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Isn’t your trundle cage where you all keep your hockey equipment up there..snicker..snicker..I knew someone would ask..that’s how I always tell who reads the comments first and who just scrolls on down..sorry I’m late..been sick..spent 4 hours at Emergency Room yesterday..I guess that’s Urgent Care to you..not the flu..stomach virus.. trundle cage..you kill me Karen..lol

  49. sera says:

    I have no idea how I missed your original grout post. Since we just remodeled our kitchen which wiped out the savings, we have to make do with a truly ugly almond colored tile (with 70’s brown flower accent) as our bathtub surround. The grout is disgusting and chipping away. The question is, how long do I wait before I have to give in and regrout even though I want to take a sledgehammer to it?
    And if I do have to give in, how long do I have to wait to take a shower in my only bathroom?

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