How To Get Clean Caulk Lines Every Time & Clean Old Tile

Ok, so here’s a bathroom update that’s way overdue. This is what our bathroom looked like when we started this whole mini-overhaul in an attempt to salvage our vintage basketweave tile instead of demoing every last cracked and peeling corner of our bathroom (warning: this ain’t pretty):


Now for a few more slightly less than pleasant “during” shots in the spirit of sharing the semi-painful process. First, we cut out all the old caulk with a box-cutter (as captured in this tasty photo):

No caulk

Then we did some serious tile cleaning with the 40% peroxide (purchased at a beauty supply store) that one of our readers recommended (thanks Gimbler!). After we let the peroxide soak in overnight, we scrubbed the heck outta the tiles the next morning and they definitely looked lighter and brighter. So it was on to the next step, which involved taping off all the places that we needed to re-caulk.

Taped caulk

The painters tape was another fab tip from a perfectly helpful perfect stranger (thanks Mary!) which resulted in perfectly straight caulk lines that look much improved. The details: caulk, smooth caulk with finger, and quickly remove tape before caulk starts to set. Easy peasy.

Caulk after

Doesn’t less dingy tile and a clean caulk line make all the difference? It also should be noted that we purchased one replacement tile for the top right hand corner where the tub meets the tile (if you scroll up to the picture where we cut out the caulk, you’ll see that there’s a huge hole where a tile should be). We actually couldn’t find an exact match, but it’s pretty close. Plus the fabric shower curtain hangs down completely obscuring the new caulk line and that tile anyway. But it sure is nice to know that when a guest pulls back the curtain there won’t be a hairy surprise waiting for them anymore.

We also used a little more caulk to totally overhaul our gross-ish drain. Since our tub was reglazed about 8 years ago by the previous owner, the glaze was perfect everywhere except for around the drain. Observe:

drain before

But caulk is like magic in a tube. Look at the difference a little ring of the stuff can make:

drain after

And while we were at it, the old bath and shower fixtures had seen better days. They were original to the house (51 years old) and the corroded knobs and leaky faucet just weren’t up to par anymore.

old faucets

So we switched them. Well, by “we” I mean Mr Rooter. We tried doing it ourselves but the crazy old configuration of the pipes behind the wall made it necessary to call in the experts (who actually needed to use a diamond blade to cut through a 2-inch cement wall to access the old rusty pipes). We’re so glad we knew when to say uncle, because it took two experts over four solid hours to make the change. Luckily they quoted us a price before they discovered the cement wall.

When it came to new fixtures to install, the pickins were slim because we had to match the old three-across configuration of our prior faucets. But thankfully this cute retro-ish set ($136 from Home Depot) looks right at home in our black and white bathroom.

new faucets

Burger loves the mini-bathroom-overhaul (see that happy gleam in his eyes?) and so do we. Mission Save-The-Basketweave accomplished. Thanks so much for all of your help!

Burger floor pic

Update: Alas, a few years of use later made it clear that our cracked and stained wall and floor tiles just couldn’t be saved (although the cleaning and caulking tips above definitely tided us over for a while). So we embarked on a full bathroom overhaul in late 2009. Here are those details.


  1. says

    oh my gosh!!!!! It really does look brand new! I am SO glad you could restore the original tile. It’s absolutely beautiful, and it really does look brand new with the peroxide. And the new caulking makes it look new too! It gives me hope for our bathroom, which is such a mess. (unfortunately, our original tile is circa 1983, not from a stylish decade like yours). You guys did a great job – and I love your new fixtures. I bet it makes getting out of bed a lot easier in the morning when you can go take a shower in your awesome “new” bathroom!

  2. DawnMarie says

    Congrats on working with what you have. It is always so rewarding when you can put a small amount of time and money into a project and be happy with it. With old houses that never seems to happen. Always an unexpected pops up. It looks wonderful, as does everything in your home.

  3. Mary says

    Woohoo…it looks awesome! I’m so glad your tiles whitened up with the peroxide and the tape “trick” worked for you! We went on a caulking spree once we saw the difference taping makes. And your new faucets fit perfectly…nice choice!

  4. Sarah says

    Oh yeah! That’s a good fix! All of it looks fabulous!!! I’m glad you saved the tile…at least for now! I love the basketweave! Good job on all!

  5. YoungHouseLove says

    Thanks so much for the enthusiasm! We were so excited to share the good news, especailly because we couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help. Where would we be without our trusty commenters?


  6. says

    It all looks incredible…love the new tub/shower faucet! I’m so glad you were able to save the tile too! Great job you two :o) Have a Happy Easter!

  7. Kristy Hall says

    Gorgeous results. I can’t believe the tile transformation. I’ve lived in several apartments in NYC with this same type of tile – if only I knew then what I know now!

  8. Carolyn says

    I just found you blog. I knew you lived in Richmond as soon as I saw your house. I look forward to checking out your flickr and archives. :)

  9. says

    oh i feel so encouraged! we live in a 100 year old home and have a very old bathroom. i love it but it looks dingy and needs re-chalking and the tiles are similar to yours. it’s hard to find people who know what to do to fix it. this is so helpful and makes me want to go fix it up right now!
    this is my first time to your blog…through a series of links.
    you both look like you have alot of fun together.
    hope you have a great day.
    i look forward to seeing what else you can accomplish in your young house.

  10. YoungHouseLove says

    It’s just amazing that a bunch of strangers took the time to offer us advice that we could then pass along in the form of this post. So glad you’re encouraged, excited, and super complimentary. We can’t take all the credit, but we’ll happily share it with everyone who wrote us with ideas about cleaning and re-caulking. Nice teamwork, people.


  11. judy says

    Just ripping off vinyl floor sheeting because I remembered the original 1928 flooring to be excellent. Found the ‘basketweave’ design….all excited…until I realized that the vinyl flooring most likely had asbestos. Checked on-line and found the exact design of the vinyl to be used in a ‘how to remove asbetos’ site. Screeched to a stop and am hoping that I have not inhaled asbetos AND am hoping that I can restore the original floor(with professional help) to look just like yours!!! Love it!

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