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When to Remove Masking Tape After Caulking

Using masking tape and then caulking between the lines is a popular way of achieving nice straight lines with your caulk. There is one thing that is often overlooked with this method though and that is how long to leave the masking tape before removing it.

Do you do it straight away while the caulk is still wet, or do you wait until the caulk has started to dry before removing the tape? I was interested in this question and it is not a method I have used so can’t just give you an answer from experience.

So in order to find out which is truly the best method, I decided to do some experimenting.

Testing When to Remove Masking Tape After Caulking

So the only real way I know to answer this question for you is to do some real-world testing.

The test setup

The test setup

Peeling straight away

So here we have the test setup. Two different areas for me to apply decorators caulk too. The top one I will leave to dry before removing the caulk and one the bottom one I will remove the masking tape straight away.

With the caulk applied

With the caulk applied

So now I have applied the caulk it is time to get peeling on the bottom run.


Results from peeling straight away

Results from peeling straight away

So here is how it turned out. Pretty well I would say, there is one issue and I have highlighted it above with the red circle.

Because the caulk was still very wet some of it came up with the tape and then sort of peeled over. This happened a few times but the one circled red is the most obvious example.

I think this would be fairly easily fixed by running a wet finger or siliconing tool over the caulk with light pressure once the tape has been removed.

If you want to see the peel in action I have a quick video clip for you below. In this video, you can see the caulk lip up and then turn into the sort of peel looking shape.

Peeling After The Caulk Has Started to Dry

So let’s see how the other part of our testing goes. Is it better to let the caulk start to dry before removing the masking tape? I will fix the issue of the tape liping up, but I imagine it will be very hard to actually remove once it has started to dry.

I won’t be letting the tape fully dry as that just wouldn’t work at all. You would then have dried caulk on top of the tape so it would be impossible to remove it without damaging the caulk and defeating the whole purpose of using the tape.

After the peel 2 hours wait

After the peel 2 hours wait

The end result was worse from letting the caulk partially dry. You can see how much it pulled up when the tape was removed. I would definitely say you should remove the masking tape immediately after caulking rather than waiting for a skin to form.

How to achieve the best finish

So if peeling straight away can leave lips in the caulk but leaving the caulk results in an even worse finish then how do you go about getting a good finish?

Well, the easiest way to get a good finish when using decorators caulk and masking tape is to only use the masking tape as an edge.

What I mean by this is only use the masking tape to keep your edge line straight. You don’t want much caulk if any to be going over the tape. So make sure you only put a thin bead down before spreading it out.

You can also go back over the caulk once the tape has been removed to smooth out any lips. You can just use your finger for this. Make sure to keep it wet by dipping it in some soapy water. Many people just used to use spit to lubricate but apparently, that can introduce bacteria which makes mould growth on the caulk more likely.

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