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Have you ever been in the middle/close to the end of a project, grabbed a tube of caulk or adhesive that you’ve used in a prior project (maybe just days ago!), only to find out it’s all dried up? It’s happened to me a number of times. In fact, when I started this blog, it happened to me nearly every time (that is, once I learned that caulk, in fact, needs a caulk gun in order to work). Sometimes a long rod (like the ones that are automatically attached to decent caulk guns) works great for getting the dried caulk out of the tube; sometimes, the tube is just too far gone to be saved. Either way, I get frustrated.

how to keep caulk and glue from drying out

Caulk and adhesive aren’t really the most expensive materials on the planet, but after losing half a tube here and a quarter tube there, I got tired of the cumulated cost of constantly replacing them. Not to mention, having to run to the store mid-project, while not at all unusual around this house, was just a recipe for procrastination (and my most common source of project delays… well, procrastination delays the project — lack of coffee delays the post!). So, anything I can do to keep the project train chugging along is a welcome change, which is why I’m glad I picked up this nifty hack (in fact, I’m almost certain I picked it up from going to Haven or whatever, so I’m just going to say thanks to Pretty Handy Girl and Sawdust Girl, who are often my sources for pleasant little tricks like this).

If you know you’re going to use the caulk or glue again soon (say, in less than a week), I’ve found that this is a crazy easy go-to method. And the best part is, it requires literally no other materials than what you’re already working with.

How to Keep Caulk and Adhesive From Drying Out

Step 1

With the caulk gun still in your hand, just let a bit ooze out of the end. It usually happens anyway with caulk, but adhesive (like Liquid Nails) can be a little more stubborn and sticky. I try to let it kind of create a fat little lump on the tip of the tube without touching it (because despite having a blog where I regularly get my hands dirty, sticky hands bug me to no end).* But you just have to make sure that the entire end is oozing out enough so that no air can go down into the tube.

*Dear Lord, how many suggestive things can I say in a single paragraph?

Step 2

Once the end is covered, remove it from the caulk gun (or don’t, if you’re me) and just rest it in a spot where it can begin to air dry (both adhesive or caulk will start setting in a matter of minutes, especially when you live in a warm climate like I do).

how to save caulk and adhesive from dry-out

Step 3

When you’re ready to use it again, just pop off the dried end and continue on. You can see in the shot below that the top part is dry, but the adhesive directly underneath was still fresh!

wet vs cured adhesive

This method has worked pretty well for me, but I also go through caulk and adhesive outrageously quickly, so I don’t have to wait very long between uses. That also means that even though my method has worked well for me and probably would work well for others who use these products on a routine basis, those of you who don’t live, sweat, and breathe DIY might need a hardier method. And, just like any DIY other project, there’s more than one way to solve this problem!

Other methods for saving caulk and adhesive tubes**:

**that people get into internet arguments about when deciding which method is best

  • Stick a nail down the tube (my dad does this, but they rust if you don’t use something like galvanized nails, and then your pretty white caulk has a rust streak in it… no good)
  • Use a golf tee (I can’t help but think if the tube has any existing pressure, the tee would easily slip out… so probably also only a short-term solution)
  • Cover the end with a wire nut (I’ve never gotten a good seal from this, but some people insist it works)
  • Use a resealable latex cap (never tried this, but looks interesting)
  • Use a resealable plastic cap (used these, liked them, but they are costly and I have way too many open tubes for that kind of expense)
  • Duct tape the end (decent, but would probably still let too much air in over time)
  • Jab the end of the tube into an inexpensive toilet wax ring
  • Invert the end in a bucket of water (fine I guess for silicone caulks, but not likely a good idea with ones that are easy water cleanup)
  • Melt the tip down to seal it shut again (usually with thin plastic, such as cut from a milk jug, but be careful not to burn yourself!)
  • A combination of the above methods (or, as I’m sure there will be, other methods mentioned in the comments below)

As you can see above, there are lots of different ideas, and each of them have their own merit. Try whichever sounds worthwhile to you and give it a shot!

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36 Comments

  1. i love this idea! and the ones at the end. but squeezing a drop out and letting it dry is so easy! omg. i can’t believe i never thought of that on my own! thanks!

  2. My trick: cover the end with a small plastic bag. Close very tightly with a rubber band. Doubling the plastic layers is even better. I’ve had this keep caulk soft for months.

    1. Ooh, I haven’t heard or seen that suggested before! I like it (especially because it’s such a frugal option).

    2. I do something similar to this. Have used cheap plastic baggies in the past with mixed results because the plastic can still be somewhat porous and air still gets in where the back is crumpled up under the rubber band.

      What I now use, with great success, is to cut the finger off of a cheap disposable rubber glove (or all of them for 5 rubber cots). [You can buy a box of 100 at Harbor Freight for a little of nothing] Slide the finger tip over the tip of the caulk tube and seal it with a rubber band wound around several times. Make sure the rubber band is at least half way back on the tip or it can easily slide the glove finger (rubber cot) off the end.

      The caulk in the tube will be fresh for your use next year, at least. Next time you use the tube of caulk you will generally have to replace the rubber band. They oxidize and snap when pulled at after about 6 months or so, but will hold for at least a year. Rubber bands oxidize and deteriorate very quickly when left stretched for an extended length of time.

    3. I have gotten in the habit of labeling all of my caulk/adhesive tunes with the month and year when I buy them. Time flies and now I know if I see a tube that is a few yrs old it probably isn’t good anymore.

  3. Screwing the tip is the method in this house! No oozing. But if you don’t use it, it’ll dry out eventually.

    I’m sure we could come up with more of these suggestive observations . . .

    Still, nothing worse than getting down to business to discover the tube of liquid nails has gone hard as a . . . nail . . .

  4. Step 1 had me laughing out loud. Thanks for your great sense of humour and your handy advice.

  5. I stick a nail and the put a bunch of electrical tape around it. It works, but your method seems easier, I should try it.

  6. Hi Sarah

    When it come to Tubes of Caulk when i buy the tube, i make sure that they always have that red cap with the tube, and that way when i’m in the middle of doing some caulking i just pop on the red cap, and no dried up goo.

    Barry (ENG)

    1. That could work, though I’d probably wind up just saving the red caps so that I didn’t have to keep buying it (I like the performance of certain brands vs. others and they often don’t have a cap). They have caulk-saving caps that they sell separately as well, but this option saves me in a pinch when I don’t have a cap. My dad used to stick a nail down in the tube, but I hated that because the nail would rust or corrode somehow and dirty the clean caulk. Lots of waste in that case! Glad you found an option that works for you though.

  7. Unscrew the spout from the tube. Use a thin layer of plastic, like from a plastic bag. Place this over the end of the tube. Screw the spout back on, over the plastic. Apart from the caulk in the spout the rest is kept usable for months. The caulk in the spout Will harden but it is easily removed by using a thin screwdriver, or similar, to push it out from the thin end to the fat end. This works well for me.

  8. I use a large wire nut like for 220 size wire and fill it with Vaseline then screw it onto the tube of caulk. I have kept it for months this way. I tried most of the other ways mentioned with little to no success.

  9. Like your ideas about saving caulk. I saw a hack on Pinterest to stick a wine bottle cork screw on the end of the caulk tube. I have not tried this yet, but will the next time I use caulk.

    1. I hesitate to use metal in the end in case it rusts, but that sounds like it could be worth trying!

  10. I had to look up what you (and another reply) meant by “wire nut”. These are what are called “Screw-its” here.
    I just wrap the end of the nozzle in cling film/cling wrap. As long as it is tight, and not disturbed, it lasts a long time.

    1. As long as it works! Lots of methods and many are better than what my dad taught me to use (he favors nails that rust and ruin the caulk, ha! ?).

  11. When i am finished with the tube I get a small amount to come out and then I double wrap the tip with the foil tape for duct work and make sure that I fold over one of the wraps and then cover that with the remaining wrap…this has worked well for me for some time…you will have a somewhat difficult time getting the foil tape off as it sticks so well to itself and anything else…think that I have tried almost everything on the retail market !

  12. When you open a tube of silicone caulk you have to pierce a thin aluminum foil vapor barrier, the reason why they use this is because it’s the only thing that works. HVAC foil tape.
    It’s expensive but it’s handy to have around the house for other stuff.
    Snip off a 4 inch long strip, fold a crease in it in the middle, pull off the paper for backing, adhere one side to the nozzle leave a little space above the tip fold it down over the other side of the nozzle and then as best you can squeeze the two adhesive surfaces of the tape together and then rub the tape to the nozzle so that you can eliminate any possible way for air to enter (actually really it’s to prevent the acetic acid in the silicone from escaping!). Peel it off when you want to use it again and then as soon as possible put back a new piece of aluminum foil tape.

  13. Close to a factory seal. Melt paraffin or a candle with a heat gun in a small can and dip the end into it about 4-6 times. Especially good for clear silicone.

    1. I’m sure that works great, but that’s a little more effort than I am usually willing to make. But if it provides a really great seal, I’m sure that will come in handy for me to know for other uses down the road, so thanks for the info!

  14. Hi Sarah and other DIY enthusiast..

    I have used just about everything lying around like screws, rusty nails ..self cut plugs from scrap wood etc.
    Alu duct tape (or such) would work great but the best i’ve found is to keep a used dried up caulking tout.
    Just screw it on the “freshly used” caulk tube and it will seal itself.

  15. Caulk, adhesive etc all getting too expensive to let dry out. I use a dab of sticky plumbers putty. Also have good results with kitchen plastic wrap with a good rubber band multi looped.Lather some caulk on the plastic first then apply plastic wrap then loop on the rubber band.

  16. There are many great ideas given and one just has to test them all. My problem has been is what do u do when it has already dried? Not the whole tube but almost the whole end. I’m about to tell u something that I only learned in the last 2 years. I use to use a nail or blunt object but it only pushed the clump up further and would only reclog. Here’s my tip that has worked every time. Take a drill and drill bit that is just about the size of the hole and run it all the way up the tip until I hit soft material and pull back out clean the bit off and run it back in as many times as it takes to clean the tip out and whala. The tube is ready to use.

    1. Many caulk guns have a sharp pointed pin that hinges outward that you can use to unclog the hole! I use this every time and have yet to have an issue like you’re describing. Hope that helps!

  17. just cut a peice off the end of a straw , put some caulk in it and let it dry ,then use it when you want it !