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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 dry caulking out of the tube; sometimes, the entire tube is just too far gone to be saved. Either way, I get frustrated.
Caulk and adhesive aren’t really the most expensive materials on the planet at just a couple bucks a pop, 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
With the caulk gun still in your hand, slightly squeeze the trigger; 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. Bam. Airtight seal. And you’re only wasting just a pea-size bead of caulk.
*Dear Lord, how many suggestive things can I say in a single paragraph?
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).
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 hardened caulk, but the adhesive directly underneath was still fresh!
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 different method is best
- Plug a long nail or common screw 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 tip of the nozzle with a wire nut (I’ve never gotten a proper seal from this, but some people insist it works)
- Use a resealable latex cap as a caulk saver (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 caulk tubes for that kind of expense)
- Duct tape the end (decent for short term, but would probably still let a little air in over time)
- Jab the end of the tube into an inexpensive toilet wax ring (Makes storage a little strange)
- 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 caulk tube 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 for sealing an opened tube, and each of them have their own merit. Try whichever sounds worthwhile to you and give it a shot!