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Caulk - Healthier Choices

By HHI Staff

Most modern caulking products contain a variety of synthetic, petroleum-derived ingredients. As a result, caulking could release acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl porpionate, and a variety of other noxious substances into the air, depending on the exact type and brand.


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One-hundred-percent silicone caulkings are often suggested for sensitive individuals. Silicone is actually a synthetic product consisting of alternating oxygen and silicon atoms. This particular molecular combination results in a material that’s both rubbery and very stable. As a result, silicone caulkings are resistant to high temperatures and water. Although most 100%-silicone caulkings are quite strong-smelling when first applied, once they’re dry they are often quite inert. However, the main reason they’ve been recommended to sensitive persons for some time now is that they’re quite durable, so they don’t have to be replaced for many years. One serious drawback to 100%-silicone caulkings is that, as a rule, they can’t be painted. Fortunately, some brands are now made in white, brown, and a few other basic colors besides clear. If you’re interested in purchasing 100%-silicone caulking, it’s usually sold in most local hardware stores and building centers.

Most silicone caulkings contain acetic acid, which aids in curing. “Neutral-cure” silicone caulkings don’t use acetic acid, so they are a little less odorous, but they can be more difficult to find. Some people recommend using aquarium-grade silicone caulkings. These caulkings are usually FDA approved, but they generally contain acetic acid. To buy aquarium caulking, check with local pet centers and tropical-fish shops.

In situations where it’s desirable to paint the caulking, you might try a “latex” caulking. Originally, these were made with natural or synthetic rubber (along with other ingredients). However, some caulkings that are called “latex” today use entirely different formulations, because the word “latex” has now become a generic term for any water-based caulking.

A real advantage to “latex” caulkings is that, unlike silicone caulkings, drips and smears can be easily cleaned up with water—that is, if they haven’t had a chance to dry. But one real disadvantage to latex caulkings is that they’re not nearly as durable as their 100%-silicone counterparts. You should also be aware that “latex” caulkings are not odor free. They definitely have an odor when they’re being applied, which could persist for a few days or a few weeks. Then, too, those with real latex in them are obviously not suitable for latex-allergic people. If you’re interested in using a “latex” caulking, virtually all hardware stores and building centers stock them.

Note: Because of the odors and ingredients in most caulkings, it’s best to follow certain precautions when using them. Have plenty of ventilation when you’re applying them. Also, it’s a good idea to wear a chemical respirator mask. It should be stressed that the actual time that will be required for any caulking product to become less odorous or odorless will depend on the brand, the amount used, the temperature, the relative humidity, and your individual tolerability.



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Caulk - Healthier Choices:  Created on April 12th, 2008.  Last Modified on November 2nd, 2009


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