Saving Caulking and Putty After Opening

Woodworkers share their secrets for keeping half-used tubes of caulk or cans of putty from drying out before they're used up. October 20, 2013

I seldom use much caulk or silicone but when I do use it itís never a whole tube. By the time I need to use a little more out of the tube its always dried in the tip and I have to buy more. I came up with an idea, and it really works. Cut the bottom off of a water bottle or soda bottle and screw the lid on tight and screw it on the wall somewhere with the lid end down. Put an inch or two of water in it and stick the partially used caulk tube in it. The water keeps air from drying out the tip and keeps it wet. I did this about eight months ago with some white caulk and used it again yesterday and it was just like cutting the tip on a new tube. Thought Iíd share, it might save someone five bucks and a trip to the hardware store.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor M:
I thought I heard every tip in the book. I can't tell you how many tubes of caulk I have thrown away. This sounds like a great solution. I see I am not the only one that has run into issues with wood putty drying up in the container.

From contributor F:
I think it's a good idea, though up here in the winter that water would dry out in a month! I just use a bit of tape over the ends and it usually gets me several months. Most of the time when I use caulk it's during an installation so this works best for me.

From contributor X:
I wonder if this would work with silicone, but use a solvent like mineral spirits instead?

From Contributor R:
The tape over the tip works for me too. I roll up the bottom of the tube like you would a tooth paste tube and then wrap it with a few turns of duct tape.

From Contributor Z:
Iíve seen tiny rubber caulk tip covers that are packaged in a can like tobacco and are red. They work great.

From the original questioner:
I would say paint thinner would work on silicone but I don't think it would be necessary. I think the main thing is keeping the air off of the material. As far as the wood putty goes I've had the same problems as you have. All wood puttyís are not created equal. Minxax putty dries out in no time which is frustrating. The best I have used is Color Putty and it will dry too it just takes longer. What I do is when we notice that it's starting to dry out is put a few drops of paint thinner in it and stir it a little. That seems to keep it moist for a long time.

I wondered if the little rubber covers worked, glad you mentioned them. I'll give them a try on the tubes that I keep in the truck.

From contributor S:
My dad used to keep putty in a can of water and that stopped it from drying out. Same with paint brushes.

From Contributor Z:
As far as wood putty I donít know what brands you are using. Iíve found Famowood to be the best and they also have cans of the special solvent used. It doesnít matter if you have a brick inside the can - just start adding and mixing and you are back in business.

From contributor F:
I use the Famowood also and although it does dry out faster than just about anything else on the market, as long as you have their solvent youíre good. Unfortunately they don't list what's in the can on the can, as I'm sure one could save money if you knew what solvent to substitute instead of their "special sauce" so to speak.

From contributor M:
I use the water based Famowood. I generally get through about half a tub before the rest dries up.

From the original questioner:
I need to make sure we are talking about the same thing. What I call putty is the little cup that you use to fill nail holes on-site. Wood filler is used before the finish. I was aware of Famowood and their solvent for the filler. The best filler I have used is Zar's. Someone here recommended it to me a couple of years ago and we really like it. When it gets a little dry you can put a little water in it since it is latex based. You can actually use the whole tub.

From contributor X:
I use lacquer thinner to soften Famowood up but it dries fast and has to be done pretty often if you don't have a container with a tight seal.

From Contributor B:
Something we have always had success with trying to save partial tubes of caulk is to use the big grey wire nuts. Simply screw them on the end of the tip like a cap. They seem to work really well for us with the only drawback being you canít cut your tip way back, and also over time the tip can get a little mangled up from the wire nut. I have had tubes last for a long time using them.

From contributor K:
You can work up Famowood with MEK.

From Contributor U:
Acetone will thin Famowood, but like the others it will evaporate pretty fast. Make sure to keep the lid on and keep the inset where the lid sits in clean of any dried out putty.