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What Is the Difference Between Silicone and Acrylic Sealant? 

 October 19, 2020

By  Dale Keese

Silicone and acrylic sealants are items commonly used in and around the home. Notably though, there are significant enough differences between them that should prevent you from considering them as completely interchangeable.

Acrylic sealants are applied around windows and doors to patch leaks that prevent proper insulation. Meanwhile, silicone sealants are commonly used inside the bathroom where their flexibility is helpful on fixtures. Their curing rate, durability, and their paintability are other notable differences.

Figuring out which particular sealant should be used in a particular situation is important if you want to get the most out of your purchases. You’ll find out specifically how to best use acrylic and silicone sealants by continuing with the rest of this article.

The primary objective for all types of sealants is to close a gap. Gaps are problematic because they are spots where air could escape and moisture could gather. It would be best to seal them up as soon as they emerge.

Obviously though, not all gaps that show up in and around your home are similar. Some gaps show up in places that are often moved around while others are in stationary spots. The rate of exposure to the elements also varies depending on the spot that needs to be sealed.

All of that is to say that you have to be more discerning when choosing a type of sealant to use. The different types of sealants have their own strengths and weaknesses. You need to be cognizant of them in order to get the best results.

Let’s start with acrylic sealants. Acrylic sealants are the ones you mainly want to use for the gaps around your windows and door frames.

What makes acrylic sealants particularly useful for windows and doors is that they are not prone to over-expansion. They won’t exert force upon window or door frames and cause them to warp out of shape. You obviously want that for elements of your home that are visible for anyone to see.

cracked doors and windows

It is worth pointing out though that acrylic sealants don’t work well on larger openings. Since they don’t expand that much following application, they may not be able to completely cover up a big opening that’s present along a door or window. You’ll have to rely on a different kind of sealant in that scenario.

The way in which acrylic sealants cure is also worth highlighting. Acrylic sealants can be washed away by water if they are not allowed to dry properly first. That’s obviously a disadvantage.

However, you don’t have to wait that long for acrylic sealants to dry. They should be firmed up and good to go even just 24 hours after initial application. Some silicone sealants can match that curing time, but for the most part, they will need more than a day to set completely.

Once it has cured, you can also paint over the acrylic sealant to blend it better into its surroundings. Maintenance long-term is also easy because you can clean up acrylic sealants using just water.

Moving on now to silicone sealants, these are the items you most want to use in high-moisture locations such as bathrooms. Probably their most common use is to cover the gaps around newly installed bathtubs. Silicone sealants can handle the small movements that bathtubs tend to make because of how flexible they are. A bit of movement in any direction is not going to cause the silicone sealant to weaken.

That flexibility, which is missing from acrylic sealants, is also the reason why silicone sealants are often recommended for patching up plumbing joints or covering fixtures that need to be used a lot. They are great on faucets in particular because they address the leak without affecting the functionality of the fixture.

Another reason why silicone sealants are used most often in high-moisture locations is because of their water resistance. All kinds of sealants are water-resistant to a certain degree, but the silicone variants excel more in that regard. They can easily handle constant exposure to moisture and prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

bathroom

You should also consider using a silicone sealant if the gap you want to fill is on the larger side. It can capably cover that up without its effectiveness being compromised.

Cleaning up silicone sealant with some mineral spirits is important from time to time, but a wipe with a damp cloth will do more often than not. Painting over silicone sealant is a no-no, but that’s just about the only real disadvantage to using it.

Lastly, silicone sealants are remarkably durable. They are known to hold up longer than acrylic sealants.

How Are Silicone and Acrylic Sealants Similar to One Another?

Similarities can also be observed between silicone and acrylic sealants.

For instance, both items are known to possess adhesive qualities. You shouldn’t use either item for heavy-duty adhesive applications, but they can be used on smaller pieces of molding or peeling segments of wallpaper. They are comparable in terms of their adhesive strength.

You can also expect the same level of insulation from both items. They both do an excellent job of maintaining the temperature you want inside your home by preventing air leakage.

Acrylic and silicone sealants are also comparable in terms of cost. Feel free to get the specific type of sealant you need because you’re getting great value either way.

Tips for Applying Acrylic and Silicone Sealants

The application method is pretty much the same for both acrylic and silicone sealants.

You will have to start by cleaning the surface you want to use the sealant on. The presence of debris on the surface can prevent the sealant from being as effective as it needs to be so cleaning is essential. Wiping the surface clean and then letting it air dry completely is recommended.

Once the surface is dry, you can proceed with application.

Place the tube of sealant into a caulking gun and begin extracting the sealant carefully. Try your best to apply the sealant evenly.

Now that the sealant is on the surface, you can press it into place with a putty knife, a scraper, or a spatula.

If you don’t happen to have a caulking gun available at the time of application, you can still squeeze the sealant out of the tube by hand. Just go slowly as you press on the tube to keep excess sealant from pouring out.

You should then allow the sealant to dry for the length of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use Acrylic Sealant in the Place of Silicone Sealant and Vice Versa?

As we noted earlier in the article, acrylic and silicone sealants are not completely interchangeable. However, you can substitute silicone sealant for its acrylic counterpart in a pinch.

To be more specific, you can use silicone sealant to patch up the small holes along your window and door frames. It should work with no issue for that application.

On the flipside, using acrylic sealant in the place of silicone sealant is not recommended. Like we talked about earlier, flexibility is not a characteristic that acrylic sealants feature. Using them on a spot that has to move around lot will probably lead to them wearing down quickly and chipping away altogether.

Is It Easier to Find Acrylic or Silicone Sealant?

Silicone sealants are probably the most widely available options on the market today. You can walk into just about any hardware store and find a tube of silicone sealant.

Acrylic sealants are still fairly common, but there’s a higher chance that you won’t find them the next time you head to the store.

Is There More Than One Type of Silicone Sealant Available?

If you’ve gone shopping for a silicone sealant, you’ve likely noticed that there is more than one kind of it. What we focused on in this article is the household silicone sealant because that’s the type you will likely need.

You can also find silicone sealants that are specially formulated for construction. They are meant for heavy-duty applications.

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