How long does silicone take to dry? We give you the answer

Person using a caulking gun to seal bottom of window
Getting your timing right with silicone is crucial (Image credit: Getty Images)

'How long does silicone take to dry?' is a common question when working with silicone. The same applies to caulk. 

Knowing the drying times of sealants is one of the key components to a successful job. Get your timings wrong and you could have to start all over again, and no-one wants that. 

When applying silicone or caulking you don’t have a lot of time to finish it before it becomes impossible to work. Once it goes past the workable stage you won't be able to change the shape or look. Then you need to make sure that you wait long enough before it is exposed to water.

Here we give you the lowdown on how long you have for shaping the sealant and how long before it can be used as intended.  

 How long does silicone take to dry before I can shower?  

A silicone or caulk sealant is typically touch dry within an hour. This means that no dust or debris will stick to the sealant after this point. You will be able to brush off dust to keep clean, but it needs to be left longer before water can fall on the sealant. 

When siliconing a shower the sealant will need to be left for at least six hours, but it is best to wait until it is fully dry – or cured – before it should be exposed to running water. This typically takes 24 hours. 

How long before silicone sets? 

Once silicone or caulk has been applied you have around 10-20 minutes before it gets to the point where it becomes unworkable. You may have less time depending on what type of silicone or caulk you are using. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation on drying times.

Once it gets to the point where it cannot be tooled, you will have to leave the sealant in the state that it has been applied. If this is in an area where the sealant needs to be watertight you may have to remove and start again. 

Peron using an orange caulking gun to seal a shower

After a sealant has been applied you have around 15 minutes to shape and finish it.  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Does silicone take longer than caulk to dry?  

Typically the drying times for the best bathroom sealants and decorators caulk are very similar. Standard sealant is touch dry in an hour and usable in 5-6 hours. But you can buy fast setting or quick drying versions

These can be touch dry in 20 minutes and usable within an hour, but you will need to tool or shape them within five minutes of applying. If possible, it is still worth leaving a sealant for 24 hours before working with it. 

Can you speed up silicone/caulk drying times? 

There are a couple of simple options that will help speed up drying. First make sure that the sealant isn’t applied too thickly. If doing the job properly you won’t have too much sealant and it will dry quicker. Alternatively use a quick drying sealant.

Once applied you can speed up the drying time by making sure a window is open to help air circulate and introduce a fan to push the air around the room.  

What is the difference between silicone and caulk? 

Both are sealants, both are waterproof and both are used to fill small gaps, but while both are similar they have slightly different qualities.

Silicone is more flexible than caulk and is typically used for siliconing a shower or bathroom. The flexible nature of silicone means that it keeps its seal even when a bath is filled with water unlike a filler that would crack. 

Caulk is used for caulking skirting boards, doors windows and architraves. It is still flexible but not as flexible as silicone. It is used to fill small gaps quickly and when dry can be painted over. 

Steve Jenkins

Steve is Homebuilding & Renovating's DIY content editor, and has been a writer and editor for two decades. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating homes. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has strong all-round building skills, having previously worked in the industry for 10 years.