Recycle Caulk Tubes for Re-use




About: Drunk posting ill conceived instructables since 2009.

Here is a quick and easy way to recycle caulk tubes for re-use.  Apply whatever substance you like in a caulk like manner even if you can't buy it in a caulk tube.  Re-fill as many times as you want.

I wanted to be able to apply drywall compound from a caulk tube to do some touch ups on one of my projects.  Nobody seems to make drywall compound or spackle in a caulk tube.  Empty caulk tubes are also not readily available.  None of my local hardware stores carry them.  I found a few suppliers selling them online, but they were pretty expensive with shipping factored in.

The only supplies you will need are:
A caulk tube (preferably with water based contents)

An air compressor with an air nozzle
Optional:  bottle washer attachment for faucet

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Empty the Caulk Tube

Empty the caulk tube of as much of its contents as possible.

If you just want an empty tube to use, but don't have a spent one from a project, you can buy a new tube of painters caulk for $1.38 at Home Depot.  Obviously, it is least wasteful to use the caulk for something rather than just throwing it out.  But, if you don't need the caulking and need the caulk tube, this is the cheapest way to go.  Buying empty tubes online and having them shipped will run you at least $3/tube.

Step 2: Extract the Caulk Plunger

You can extract the caulk plunger with a little compressed air.  First, point the back end of the caulk tube somewhere you don't mind getting some caulking, such as into a trash bag. Or you could put a rag over the the back end of the tube.  After that press the air nozzle of an air compressor firmly against the opening on the tip of the caulk tube.  One burst of air should launch the plunger out of the back of the tube.  Retain the plunger for re-use.

I also tried using a steel rod to push the plunger out, but the rod poked through the plunger.

If you don't have an air compressor, you might try one of those cans of compressed air.  I haven't tried that so I don't know if it will work.

Step 3: Clean Out the Caulk Tube

If the contents of the caulk tube are water based, rinse the inside of the tube and tip with water until all contents are removed.  I made use of my bottle washer which sped up the process and used less water.  You can get a bottle washer like this from a beer making supplier.  If you use one of these put your finger over the tip of the caulk tube to keep from spraying your ceiling.

If the contents of the tube are not water based, you will have to use the appropriate solvent to clean it out.  This is probably not worth the trouble or expense, so I would stick to recycling caulk tubes with water based contents.  You might be able to use a rag and a paint stirrer to clean most of the residue out also.

Step 4: Now You Have an Empty Caulk Tube

Fill this back up with whatever you like.  I'm using mine for drywall compound, but you put epoxy, homemade Sugru (silicone + corn starch), or anything else you need to apply.  You could probably even use this process to make custom colored caulking.

Be the First to Share


    • Instrument Contest

      Instrument Contest
    • Make it Glow Contest

      Make it Glow Contest
    • STEM Contest

      STEM Contest

    9 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Ok, so I tried applying two part epoxy wood filler with a caulk tube and succeeded in making a huge mess. I think the filler was a little too viscous and half of it leaked between the plunger and tube wall. It was a pain to clean off my caulk gun. Next time I am going to try to thin it a little with denatured alcohol next time.

    I thought about doing this to re-grout tiles. Googled it, and, yey, gonna do this tommorow!

    Thanks :)

    I thought about doing this to re-grout tiles. Googled it, and, yey, gonna do this tommorow!

    Thanks :)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Suffice it to say, I applaud recycling. However, to mention disposing of
    original compound in order to obtain the container is not recycling as I
    understand it. I realize it is sometimes not cost effective to warrant
    otherwise, but that is unfortunate.

    For example, recycling is reusing a container after the substance contained
    in said container (for example caulk) has been utilized as intended by the
    original design intent.

    To use economics to warrant otherwise is environmentally unsound.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I clean out and reuse a lot of silicone rubber cartridges. I poke the plungers out with a piece of 1/4" rebar. Grind the tip a little to remove any sharp edges from cutting. I almost never poke through the plunger, thus eliminating the need for an air compressor, or splash problems with the material. Of course, you have to cut the nozzle hole big enough to stick the rod in.

    Dried silicone doesn't stick well to the cartridge plastic, so you can just rub and peel it out. No need for solvents.

    For a similar technique with smaller batches of material, try getting syringes with curved conical plastic tips (used for feeding baby birds) at a pet shop.


    5 years ago

    Yippee! Last night I bought 2 empty tubes from amazon. This morning it hit me--why hadn't I looked at ibles first, duh! Fortunately I only bought 2, cause I have A LOT of caulk in the garage I am not going to use but couldn't bring myself to throw out. Now for the emptying & refilling, let the fun begin. Thank you for this ible!!!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I didn't know you could buy 'em empty.

    I've always wanted to try this out with peanut butter and jelly or icing or something, but I was concerned about used ones. Might have to pick up some empties.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I saw someone selling these for making something similar to Jello-shots. Presumably these are 'food grade' tubes. Search for "caulk shot".


    8 years ago on Step 2

    like this, thanks for the tip!