Silicone sealant is a durable, flexible sealant that can last for years with proper care. However, even the best sealants can fail over time and need replacement. Or you may have a seal with a sloppy application, leaving sealant where it shouldn’t be.
In any case, silicone sealant is easy to remove with materials you may already have lying around the house.
White spirit does remove silicone sealant, but not on its own. The white spirit will soften the sealant and break down its adhesive bond. Then, you can cut away most of the sealant and scrape up any remaining residue. Using the same application method, you can also use methylated spirits, denatured alcohol, white vinegar, or branded sealant removing products.
What Is White Spirit?
White spirit is a chemical solvent that comes from petroleum. It also goes by the names Stoddard solvent, mineral spirit, paint thinner, and turpentine substitute.
This clear liquid is a common ingredient in paints, varnishes, adhesives, and even printing inks. However, you can also use it as a cleaning solvent, and it does well to break down paint.
You Can Remove Silicone Sealant With White Spirit
White spirit not only breaks down paint, but it can also remove silicone sealant. It doesn’t break down the bulk of the sealant, however. Instead, it softens the material, which lessens its adhesion.
It’s difficult to remove large amounts of sealant with white spirit alone. You may need to trim away most of the sealant before you apply the white spirit.
In addition, since white spirit can remove various types of paint, you have to be careful where you use it. For example, it works best on surfaces with no finish, such as concrete or brick.
If you have paint around your windows, you may want to consider using a less harsh solvent.
How To Remove Silicone Sealant With White Spirit
What You’ll Need
- Drop cloths (optional)
- Face covering
- Rubber gloves
- Lint-free cleaning cloths
- White spirit
- Straight razor blade
- Putty knife or other scraper
1. Make Sure The Area Is Dry And Protect Other Surfaces
If there’s any wet sealant, clean up as much as you can with a cleaning cloth. Dry the area with a cloth or let it air dry.
If you’re working with a large area of sealant, you may want to lay down drop cloths. This will catch any debris and protect your walls and floors.
2. Soften The Silicone Sealant
While wearing gloves, soak one of your cleaning cloths in the white spirit. Then, apply the cloth to the silicone sealant you want to remove to soften it.
Wait a few minutes for the white spirit to soak through.
3. Cut Away The Sealant
Using a razor blade, cut and peel away the now-soft sealant, being careful not to cut yourself.
You should always wear protective gloves when handling sharp tools.
4. Scrape Away The Remaining Residue
Using a razor will remove the bulk of the sealant, but you will likely have some residue left behind.
Soak the remaining silicone sealant with more white spirit. Then, use a putty knife or other form of scraper to scrape the rest of the silicone away.
Other Methods For Removing Silicone Sealant
White spirit isn’t the only product that can remove silicone sealant. WD-40, an oil-based solvent, can break down the sealant’s adhesive as well.
You can also use methylated spirits or even household vinegar to soften silicone sealant. White vinegar is an inexpensive alternative, but it’s not always as effective as white spirit.
You can apply each of these alternative methods in the same way you would white spirit. There are also products, such as Unibond, made specifically for the purpose of removing silicone sealant.
These may be more expensive and take longer than the white spirit method, depending on the brand. However, they also have additives that may make them more effective than other methods.
White spirit has many helpful uses around the house. You can use it as a paint thinner or a cleaning solvent for dirty paint brushes. It’s a common ingredient in various paints and finishes you can buy at any hardware store as well.
One of the most helpful uses it has is the removal of silicone sealant. Silicone sealant is a durable and strong adhesive. Therefore, it’s very difficult to dissolve it completely like you would paint or softer adhesives.
However, white spirit does soften the silicone material and weaken its adhesive properties. After soaking the silicone sealant you want to remove, it will become pliant enough to be easily cut away.
Methylated spirits, denatured alcohol, and white vinegar can also help you remove silicone sealant in a similar way. There are also branded products like Unibond that are made specifically to remove sealant.
Each method has its pros and cons, from cost to ease of use. But in general, white spirit is a cheap and effective way of removing your old or unsightly silicone sealant.