How to Load and Unload a Caulk Gun?

Although caulking guns are pretty straightforward tools, it can be a little tricky figuring out how to load and unload one if you’ve never done it before.

Man loading a caulk gun
Caulk is a very handy substance that can be used for a variety of different purposes around the house. But whether you’re sealing a window leak, filling gaps in your bathroom tiling, or using your caulking gun for any other kind of fix, you should know how to load the silicone caulk tube and unload it.

How to Load a Caulk Gun? Step-by-Step Guide

Although it is possible to do caulking without a gun, using a caulking gun makes it easier to apply the sealant. First, let me explain how to load a caulk tube into the gun properly.

Step-1: Cut the Spout (Nozzle Tip)

When you’re preparing to load a caulking gun, the very first step is always cutting the tapered spout on the tube of caulk. Doing so will create an opening for the substance to flow out of the container. You’ll need a sharp knife, and when you make your cut, your goal should be to make the opening roughly the same size as the seam you plan on applying caulk to.

Plumber cutting caulk tube nozzle
Once you’ve chosen the right spot to cut, slice off the tip of the spout at approximately a 45-degree angle. To make things easier, the spouts on some caulk tubes will have markings meant to help you achieve a precise cut.

So, why should you clip the tip at 45° angle? The angled opening creates a lip on the top and an opening at the bottom that will direct the flow of silicone sealant downwards instead of spurting out straight. This will make the process easier, and you will get uniform bead with a much smoother finish and better fill.
Correct angle to cut silicone caulk nozzle

Step-2: Pierce the Foil Seal Inside

After you’ve cut the tip from the spout of the caulk tube, you’ll notice that there’s an inner foil seal at the base of the nozzle preventing the substance from escaping. Before you load your caulk gun, you’ll need to pierce that seal.

Fortunately, most caulk guns come equipped with a thin wire poker meant specifically for this task. However, if yours doesn’t have one, you can simply use a coat hanger or a long paperclip to slide into the nozzle and pierce the inner seal.

Once you’ve got the container of caulk open, the next step is to prepare the actual caulking gun.

Step-3: Press the Thumb Release and Pull the Rod Back

Pressing down the thumb-release lever at the rear end allows the plunger rod to move freely inside the caulking gun. You’ll want to hold the rear part of the gun’s handle, then use the same hand you’re holding it with to press down on the thumb release. Next, while holding down the thumb release, you can simply pull the plunger rod back to a fully open position.

Parts of a caulking gun diagram
If you’re using a caulking gun without a thumb release, you can just pull the plunger rod back. Note that you should not actuate the main trigger as it will lock the plunger rod.

Step-4: Place the Caulk Tube in the Gun

Once you have the plunger rod pulled all the way back, you’re ready to insert the tube of caulk into the gun. First, though, you’ll want to inspect the plunger and the rear part of the gun for any caulking material from past uses. If there’s any old material built up, you should remove it before proceeding. If everything looks nice and clean, all you need to do is place the bottom of the tube into the back of the caulk gun, then gently lower the rest of the tube into the cradle.

Step-5: Press the Trigger

After you’ve placed the tube into the caulk gun, you’ll need to press the gun’s trigger several times until you feel resistance and the tube becomes snug with the front end of the cradle. At that point, pressing the trigger any more will push caulk out of the tube, and that means you’re ready to get to work on whatever task you’re doing.

The above video explains the process in detail.

How to Remove the Caulk Tube from a Gun?

Once you’re finished using your caulk gun, you’ll need to remove the tube of caulk from the gun carefully.

Step-1: Release the Caulk Gun

The first step in removing a caulk tube is to release the caulk gun pressure.

Press the thumb-release lever to pull the rod back slightly. This will stop the plunger from applying pressure.

How to remove a caulk tube from gun
Clean the nozzle tip and ensure that the sealant is not dripping out of the nozzle.

Step-2: Retract the Plunger

Once the caulk gun has been released, the next thing you’ll want to do is retract the plunger. To achieve this, you’ll want to pull the plunger rod all the way back to a fully open position.
Steps to release the caulk gun

Step-3: Remove the Caulk Tube

With the plunger rod pulled all the way back, removing the caulk tube should be nice and easy.

Man unloading caulk tube
First, gently push the tube back toward the rear of the gun. With the plunger retracted, there shouldn’t be any resistance when you do this. Then, carefully lift the caulk tube out of the gun, and the unloading process will be finished!

Step-4: Close the Nozzle of the Caulk Tube

The final step should be to re-seal the nozzle of the tube. This step is only necessary if you have a surplus amount of caulk remaining in the tube and you want to reuse the tube.

Cover the nozzle to make sure you don’t end up with dripping caulk everywhere. The silicone or polyurethane sealant will also get hard if exposed to the air blocking the nozzle completely.

There are several ways that you can close the caulk tube’s spout. One popular option is to drop a large nail in the spout, then wrap it with strong tape. Alternatively, you can use several layers of plastic wrap to tightly close up the nozzle. Even if you choose to use the plastic wrap method, it won’t hurt to use some masking or electrical tape to be extra thorough.

And if the sealant cartridge came with a cap, then use it to close the nozzle tip.

Caulk Gun Usage Tips

If you want to use your caulking gun safely, effectively, and without any unfortunate accidents, you should be sure to follow these helpful tips.

Don’t Forget the Gloves

It’s important to always wear the right type of gloves when you’re working with a caulk gun. Ideally, you should use disposable latex gloves and keep a bucket of water with a sponge nearby to periodically clean them as you work.

Find Your Spout Angle

The 45° tip angle works best for most people but not for everyone. I have seen experienced professionals working with 60° tip angle.
My advice is to start with a larger angle, close to 60° and try it yourself. If required, you can always cut a steeper angle later. Once you spend a few hours doing the caulking, you will find the angle that is most comfortable for you.

Practice Makes Perfect

Before you get to work using the caulk gun to fill gaps, take the time to practice a bit. Use a plastic bag or something that you can easily dispose of to get a feel for controlling the gun’s pressure and the way the beads come out of the nozzle. This will give you the best chance of doing a great job with your caulking project.

Read the Instructions

There are several different types of caulk guns on the market, and before you start using one, it’s important that you know the ins and outs of the gun you’re working with. Before you begin, make sure to thoroughly read the manufacturer’s instructions.