The Best Caulk for Showers and Tubs in 2023 - Tested by Bob Vila

By Manasa Reddigari and Tom ScalisiUpdated Jun 15, 2023 4:53 PM

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The Best Caulk for Showers and Tubs in 2023 - Tested by Bob Vila

While DIYers can obsess about caulking technique, the truth is that laying down the perfect bead will do little good if you don’t use the right caulk for the job. This viscous, waterproof paste is primarily used to seal joints where two surfaces meet (e.g., where the tub meets the wall) or to fill cracks (which commonly crop up in the shower floor) to keep out air, moisture, and dirt.

To defend your shower or tub against these threats, the garden-variety latex caulk commonly used on drywall, window frames, and wooden doors simply won’t cut it. The best caulk for the shower or tub has special properties that keep it pristine and structurally intact in the unique environment of the bathroom.

With so many kinds of bathroom caulk available, it can be tough to figure out which is the best for your situation. We performed hands-on testing with the following caulks in order to suggest only top-notch products. Read on for aspects to consider when buying caulk for your bathroom project and see why we find the following products to be some of the best caulk for showers.

Caulk made of pure silicone or siliconized latex/acrylic (i.e., latex or acrylic caulk with added silicone) adheres well to common shower and tub materials, including porcelain, ceramic, stone, fiberglass, and glass.

Caulk is sold in small squeeze tubes or large cylindrical cartridges, each type suited for different scale projects and requiring a unique application. Generally, cartridges are suited for large caulking jobs, such as sealing the perimeter of a tub, as they contain more caulk by volume and afford more precise application. But they must be loaded into a caulking gun and dispensed by pressing down on the gun’s trigger.

Squeeze tubes are better for small-scale projects, such as filling a crack in the shower floor. The caulk can easily be applied by hand with a simple squeeze of the tube, but it has a smaller coverage area because there’s less of it by volume.

Most pure silicone and siliconized latex/acrylic caulks are formulated with mildewcides and fungicides (chemicals that destroy mildew or fungus, respectively) to minimize the formation of stain-causing mildew or mold on the caulk.

For a rot-proof caulk job, check the packaging for the terms “for bath,” “mildew-proof,” or “mold-proof,” along with the number of years the caulk can be expected to hold up to mildew and mold.

Both pure silicone and siliconized latex caulk are sold in a variety of colors, including clear, white, cream, and brown. Painting over caulks labeled “paintable” gives you even more color options.

Clear caulk, the most versatile choice, blends into showers and tubs that range in color from light to dark; it’s your best option if you want to ensure that there is no contrast between the color of the caulk and the shower or tub. White caulk, which pairs well with most shower and tub colors, is a good option if you’re caulking a white shower or a tub or have darker fixtures and don’t mind a color contrast between the caulk and the shower or the tub.

Pay attention to two time frames listed on the caulk package: dry time and cure time. Dry time refers to how long it takes for the caulk to dry to the touch, whereas the cure time refers to when the caulk will fully set and be ready for use and exposure to water. Pure silicone and siliconized latex/acrylic caulks have similar dry and cure times—anywhere from half an hour to 12 hours to dry and 2 hours to 10 days to cure.

If only caulking the shower or the tub in the house, choose caulks with dry and cure times on the low end of these ranges so that the bath won’t be out of commission for days.

There is a lot to know about choosing the best caulk for a shower or a tub, and shopping for just the right product can feel overwhelming. To help, we performed hands-on testing with all of the following products. After using them, we chose certain awards that we felt best fit their strengths. Use our observations and the above considerations when looking for caulk for your shower space.

Gorilla’s adhesives tend to be a step above the competition, and the same is true for this clear sealant caulk. This 100 percent silicone caulk adheres to most surfaces easily to create a mold- and mildew-resistant barrier. It remains flexible throughout its life, and it won’t shrink or crack like some siliconized caulks might. It dries in just 30 minutes, making it useful for quick repairs or even full bathroom installations.

During testing, we found Gorilla Clear 100 percent Silicone Sealant Caulk to be a top-quality product. It applied easily and created a strong bond for the shower surround. Once dry, we found it was barely noticeable, and the fact that it remains flexible and won’t yellow leads us to believe it’ll stay unnoticeable. While it’s not paintable, this product will work on any seam that needs to be waterproof but doesn’t need a coat of paint. We also liked that it flowed well, was easy to tool, and was not too sticky to tool with a wet finger.

Get the Gorilla Clear Sealant Caulk on Amazon.

Anyone shopping for an affordable caulk that will get the job done for less than half the cost of some of its competitors may want to check out DAP Kwik Seal Plus. This siliconized latex caulk creates a 100 percent waterproof barrier and features fungicides that fight stain-causing mold and mildew. Its paintable formula requires 2 hours of drying time before applying paint, and then 24 hours before showering.

Kwik Seal Plus is affordable, but it’s not low on quality. We liked how easy this product was to apply, but it was even easier to clean up—a wet rag is all it took to clean some excess from the tub surface. While the 2-hour dry time seems to betray the product’s “Kwik” moniker, our applied caulk appeared to dry slightly faster (about an hour in our conditions). This allowed us to test it with paint on a spare surface. It passed this test well, taking paint without issue.

Get the DAP Kwik Seal Plus Caulk at The Home Depot.

Cracks, leaks, and other shower woes can happen in some challenging spaces, and getting a caulking gun into position can be tricky. However, with a 2.8-ounce tube of Advanced Silicone from GE, DIYers can make repairs in some very tight spots. This caulk features a 100 percent silicone formula that remains flexible and waterproof for up to 10 years. It adheres to metals, plastic, wood, glass, tile, and fiberglass, and it dries in 30 minutes.

Here’s what we noticed about the GE Advanced Silicone: It might be a lot of work to caulk a whole shower with these tubes, for but small repairs, they’re incredibly convenient. They’re easy to use yet still apply consistent beads of silicone. While we prefer our shower caulk in white, this clear silicone was barely visible and created a strong, flexible seal.

Get the GE Advanced Silicone Caulk at The Home Depot.

Moldy or mildewy showers aren’t very appealing, and this product from Mold Armor can help prevent them from occurring. The Mold Armor Mold-Free Caulk has a silicone formula with fungicides to create a 100 percent waterproof bond while also protecting those nooks and crannies from mold and mildew for 20 years. It applies easily, thanks to the convenient squeeze tube, and it’s water-ready in 30 minutes.

When we first used this product, we thought we got a dud: The first inch of caulk that we squeezed from the tube was clear, despite the tube’s “white” designation. However, as we kept squeezing, the caulk turned white and all was well. This product was easy to apply, and the 5.5-ounce tube is a nice meet-in-the-middle between a small tube and a large caulking gun. We liked that this product created strong, flexible barriers and took only 30 minutes to dry. While it’ll take 20 years to prove that this product is as mold resistant as it claims, it works very well as a shower caulk.

Get the Mold Armor Mold-Free Silicone Caulk at The Home Depot.

A quick-drying caulk doesn’t do much good if a DIYer has to redo it when it shrinks and cracks. That’s not the case with GE’s Supreme Silicone. This special formula creates a waterproof and mold-resistant barrier that doesn’t shrink, crack, or yellow over time. And, better yet, it does it while drying in just 30 minutes.

We used the Supreme Silicone along the longest seam in our test tub and shower, and we were very happy with the result. Not only did it flow well, but it was also reasonably easy to clean up after (for a silicone caulk). Our bead dried in 30 minutes, and the bright white caulk gave the seam a nice finished look. We did have a relatively large gap in the bottom of the surround that we needed to apply a bit extra to, and the 30-minute dry time was a big boost. The only downside that we found is this product isn’t paintable.

Get the GE Sealants & Adhesives Supreme Silicone Sealant on Amazon.

It can be tough to find a caulk for a shower or tub that creates a good seal with plenty of adhesion and also takes paint well, but Red Devil’s Duraguard Kitchen & Bath Caulk does the trick. This product features a special formula that adheres to porcelain, ceramic, marble, glass, plastic, vinyl, fiberglass, and more, though it takes up to 72 hours to dry.

Here’s the thing about Red Devil Duraguard Kitchen & Bath Caulk: the drying time is very long, and it’s important to wait to prevent brush strokes or pulling some of the caulk from the bead. However, we found that once we let it dry, it took paint well while remaining fairly flexible. We liked that it can adhere to a variety of surfaces to create a waterproof barrier, and it comes in white, clear, and tan.

Get the Red Devil Duraguard Kitchen & Bath Caulk on Amazon.

Whether it’s a new shower going in or a shower getting a refresh, DAP Kwik Seal Ultra can help those seams blend in for a fresh, clean look. This caulk features a siliconized formula that dries to a glossy white finish and repels stains, dirt, and water, providing a waterproof surround when used to caulk seams. The resulting bead won’t crack or shrink and remains flexible after drying (which takes 4 hours).

Of all the caulks we used on the shower seams, this one dried to the nicest finish. It has a slightly shinier finish than the others, which blends in well with the shower surround. It flowed well and was easy to tool and clean up. The result was a clean, sharp seam that looks good, despite the 4-hour drying time necessary before we could check it out. The one thing that threw us for a loop is that this product isn’t paintable, even though it’s not 100 percent silicone.

Get the Dap Kwik Seal Ultra Caulk at The Home Depot.

For yet another shower caulk option, check out Loctite Polyseamseal Acrylic Caulk with Silicone. This product features a special formula to help it remain flexible and waterproof, and it can even work as an adhesive in some cases (like securing loose backsplash tiles). The siliconized formula is paintable once dry, which takes just 30 seconds to accomplish.

We’ll be honest: We did not apply the bronze-colored Loctite Polyseamseal Acrylic Caulk we received to the new white shower surround. Instead, we tried it on the scrap tub we removed, and we liked what we found. First, it adhered well to the fiberglass surround and dried in just 30 minutes, allowing us to test it out with some paint (which it didn’t handle especially well, mostly due to the caulk’s dark color). Luckily, this product is also available in white or clear. It also cleaned up easily, which we discovered when we dripped some on the floor near the scrap tub.

Get the Loctite Polyseamseal Acrylic Caulk on Amazon.

DAP’s White Alex Plus Caulk features a special formula bolstered by added silicone for additional water resistance. The purpose of this formula is to create a waterproof product that also accepts paint well and dries in 30 minutes.

In full disclosure, this is an excellent caulk. However, it’s more suitable for the trim around the shower than it is for the seams or gaps actually within the shower. We have personal experience with this caulk, and we know it does have a tendency to shrink slightly, meaning it could leave a seam open to water penetration.

While we did test it, and it worked well, we know it will shrink a bit once fully cured. For that reason, it’s better to keep it out of the shower, but it will do just fine in the rest of the bathroom space.

For overall strength and see-through stealth, Gorilla Clear Caulk is hard to beat, thanks to its silicone formula and quality. However, for small repairs, grab a tube of GE Advanced Silicone Caulk for its convenience and quality.

Originally, we were going to set up a bunch of fiberglass boxes and caulk all the seams with the different types of caulk, but we scrapped that idea in favor of replacing a shower. So we ordered a shower and set about installing it, using the caulks to waterproof the enclosure.

Each of the caulks (except for the bronze one) was used to caulk a seam inside the shower, and we checked each seam at the designated time to ensure it was dry. Next, for caulks that were paintable, we applied them to the scrap shower we removed and let them dry. After they dried, we painted them and tested their flexibility.

With those tests behind us, we had a good idea of which products were a hit or not. We used those tests and personal experience to develop our list of the best caulk for a shower.

While the hands-on reviews can be extremely helpful for many shopping for shower caulk, every situation is different. Often specific questions arise, so below are answers to some of the most popular questions about caulk for showers and tubs.

Yes, there is a difference. Although the terms are used interchangeably, caulk and sealant differ in elasticity. Both fill cracks or seams, but caulk is more rigid and sealant is more flexible. Sealant can hold up better in areas where materials expand and contract.

You should caulk any areas of the shower enclosure where water can get in, and especially when the existing caulk begins to crack or crumble.

Q. How do I keep my shower caulking white?

The best way to keep shower caulking white is to make sure it has no cracks to let mildew in. Keep the caulk clean and scrub stubborn stains off with a soft brush like a toothbrush. To clean naturally, try a paste of baking soda mixed with water or vinegar, or use bleach or your regular bathroom cleaner. A caulk or grout pen can hide some stains that remain after cleaning.

Any sign of mold or mildew on or around shower caulk is a sign that water can be getting through. Clean it thoroughly and evaluate the existing caulk to see if it needs replacing, taking proper safety precautions when removing the moldy caulk.

If mold is a problem in a shower, choose a silicone sealant for the best chance of keeping water and mildew out. Ventilate the bathroom to remove moisture from the air when showering and re-caulk as needed to make sure water does not seep through cracks in the caulk.

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The Best Caulk for Showers and Tubs in 2023 - Tested by Bob Vila

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