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I have patch a couple of places at the base of my shower with silicone rubber sealant using a caulking gun and it's worked well and water no longer escapes from the shower. However, where I have done the patching it is lumpy but where the original sealant is there is a smooth continuous finish.

Two questions:
1. Can the existing lumpiness (now dry) be made to look smooth?
2. What should I have done to make the finish look smooth and professional?

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See also: diy.stackexchange.com/questions/35/… –  BMitch Jun 11 '12 at 17:12

6 Answers 6

up vote 21 down vote accepted
  1. You will have to remove it and reapply.

  2. The trick is soap. Have a bowl of water and a bar of soap. Dip your finger in the water then rub it on the soap before using it to smoothe the silicone.

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+1 for the soap idea. I've long used the "wet finger" technique, but don't like the mess left on the finger, and am hoping the soap will make that easier to deal with. I'm also thinking perhaps a wet bar of soap itself -- with rounded corner -- might substitute for the finger? –  Jan Steinman Jun 13 '12 at 18:32
    
Silicon and latex caulks are different. With latex often just a wet finger is enough. –  Bryce Sep 5 '12 at 7:53
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Couple the soapy water with disposable latex-free gloves, and you get a smooth bead with easy clean-up. –  Jeremy W. Sherman Sep 19 '12 at 1:49
    
Whoa...soap! Never thought of adding that to the mix to avoid the stuff sticking to the fingers. –  DA01 Dec 3 '13 at 1:04

Definitely use a damp finger, and have a paper towel ready to wipe off your finger if you used too much caulk. Also, with silicone and difficult to clean surfaces, you want to tape both sides of your caulk line first. Remove the tape immediately after using your finger. This isn't needed on trim/painted walls since the caulk will disappear under the paint. But for places where you need a nice edge on the caulk line this makes a big difference.

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Not all silicone caulks are paintable. –  Vebjorn Ljosa Jun 12 '12 at 8:52
    
@VebjornLjosa That's an important point that I probably wasn't very clear on. Thanks. –  BMitch Jun 12 '12 at 10:13
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I recommend against painter's tape. When you remove it after smoothing, you leave these nice mini-ledges at the edge of your bead that just beg you to pick at them, till all your dry caulk comes peeling off. –  Jeremy W. Sherman Sep 19 '12 at 1:49
    
@JeremyW.Sherman The problem with not using the tape is that on some surfaces or some caulks (like unpaintable silicone), once it goes to the wrong place, it's not easy to fix. Worse than a ridge is a bunch of pealing paint or a crooked white streak of caulk in a porous tile. –  BMitch Sep 19 '12 at 11:29
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I've had success with taping. After I removed the tape, I made one more pass with my finger to lay the ridges down. The line stays fairly crisp because the excess was removed with the first pass. –  Josh Bush May 13 '13 at 2:54

There's nothing you can do now other than remove it and re-apply. The pro's often just use their finger to smooth it out.

For those of us who don't have the magical touch, they make tools that allow you to put a nice finish on. There are a variety of different tools - this is just the first one that came up in a search.

Caulk Packer Tool

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+1 for the finger –  BMitch Jun 11 '12 at 17:07

The cheapest tool you can get for the job is a Popsicle stick, which has a perfect end for a smooth finish. First of all, apply your silicone bead, then get a spray bottle with water and washing up liquid solution. Spray your bead sparingly and also spray your Popsicle stick then run it along the bead wiping any excess on a cloth as you go. At the end you'll have a perfect finish.

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The best way is to use glass cleaner spray on your hands. It stops the silicone sicking to your hands so you can get a smooth finish. It also gives the silicone a nice shine when dried.

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Soapy fingers work well. A slice of potato also does a great job and does not spread the silicone as much as a finger.

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