Clear vs White Caulk. Which One Should You Use?

You probably have seen both clear and white caulk at your local hardware or home improvement store. But what are the differences between them, and are there reasons to use one type over the other?

White Caulk vs Clear Silicone

Clear Caulk

Clear caulk, as the name implies, is designed to be see-through. Having said that, even the clearest caulk may have a cloudy quality to it that some may mistake for white.

Generally, most clear caulks dry to translucent and not crystal clear. Make no mistake, clear and white caulk are different, which is most notable when you compare them side by side.

Does the Clear Caulk come out White?

Yes, most brands of clear caulk will come out of the tube white or very cloudy. Whether it is latex or silicone caulk, expect to see it come out as white. It will not become clear until it starts drying or curing.

For instance, the popular DAP Alex Plus clear caulk takes one to two weeks to dry clear. Fast-drying sealants such as this GE 100% Silicone will turn transparent in a couple of hours.

In special cases where you need transparent sealing, consider using an adhesive sealant such as the Baison Polymax.

Make sure the surface is dry before applying the clear caulk for the best results.

However, if the caulk does not dry “clear” and it remains white, then there is most likely moisture present. You will need to remove the caulk, dry the area, and try again.

Advantages of Clear Silicone

  • Clear silicone sealant works best in places where it is difficult to color-match the sealant and the surface. 
  • It also works well where two different materials meet; for example, a stone countertop and a metal kitchen sink, quartz counter and backsplash,  shower tray with metal and glass panel, etc.

Using clear silicone for sink installation

Cons of Clear Caulk

  • The clear silicone sealant is somewhat shiny and may spoil the overall appearance.
  • If you apply clear silicone on visible gaps, it will accentuate the gap.

White Caulk

White caulk is the most popular sealant for indoor use and can be described as the standard caulk with a white pigment added to make it white. It works the same way as clear caulk and other colors of caulk. The only real difference is the pigment or color being used.

Most painter’s caulk or acrylic-latex caulk comes in white.

White caulk works best for white walls and light-colored trims. You could also use the white printable caulk for most decorative wall trims, such as crown molding, baseboards, chair rails, and picture rails.

White caulk also works well for the toilet base. You don’t want to sit and stare at the shiny clear caulk that accentuates the gap between the toilet base and the floor.

Man using white caulk to seal around the toilet base.

Does White Caulk Turn Yellow?

Both clear and white caulk can turn yellow over time. This is mostly due to exposure to sunlight, heat, and moisture. The yellowing is most often associated with UV or ultraviolet rays which can be destructive. The yellowing is a sign of aging and weakness in the caulk which means that it is time to replace it.

So yes, both white and clear caulk may show signs of yellowing. The yellowing process happens faster if the area is exposed to sunlight.

When to Use White Caulk vs. Clear Silicone?

Keep in mind that both types of caulks can be used for the same purposes as they are identical in terms of their adherence and ability to stop leaks. However, the one important difference is that clear caulk is designed to be used without painting over it, while white caulk can be painted over it, provided you are using a paintable sealant.

  • White: For the most part, white caulk is best for securing trim, siding, and baseboards. This works particularly well if you plan on painting over the caulk. Because of the added pigment, white cause adheres to paint better than clear caulk.
    I prefer to use white caulk around the tub and at the toilet base.
  • Clear Silicone: This type of sealant is better when you do not have to paint over it. Because clear caulk has lesser adherence qualities compared to white caulk. Prime candidates for clear caulk include tile and stone, particularly around the kitchen sink or in a shower. Sealing fixtures in tile or stone is ideal for clear caulk.
    HVAC technicians often use clear silicone at places where the coil meets the stainless steel ductwork.

If you have old white caulk in areas where you want to reseal it with clear caulk, then be sure to remove the white caulk first. Otherwise, you will be able to see the white caulk underneath. Plus, the lack of adherence of the clear caulk may cause it to peel off the white caulk over time.