Everything You Need to Know about Plumber’s Putty

Updated: February 13, 2023


You may have heard of plumber’s putty if you’ve ever had a plumbing problem with your bathroom or kitchen drains. We are going to go over everything you need to know about it, including how to use it, its benefits, and when not to.

You might have observed a dried-up, clay-like substance at the bottom of a faucet if you have ever removed it. It becomes hard over time, but when applied, it has a soft, clay-like consistency. Let’s take a look at the components, uses, and applications of plumber’s putty now that we know what it is.

What is it made of?

There are various blends of plumber’s putty, each with its own set of ingredients, but powdered clay and linseed oil are the most common ones. Some even use blends of limestone, talcum, or fish oil, as different brands produce different versions. It is not toxic on its own, but if certain ingredients are added, the putty may become toxic.

Plumber's Putty

I always make sure to read the label before purchasing a tub of plumber’s putty to ensure that no harmful ingredients are included. For example: When looking for plumber’s putty, crystalline silica, which is known to be harmful, is a component I always avoid.

You can quickly conduct a Google search to obtain a more comprehensive list of harmful ingredients, and you should avoid purchasing products that contain them. Additionally, I store the tub securely in my cupboard, out of reach of my children. Small children may mistake it for clay and play with it because of its consistency like playdoh. If you have young children, ensure that they do not touch it.

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Ideal application for plumber’s putty

The best use for plumber’s putty is on faucets, pop-up drains, and sinks, which are the most common applications. It is also known as “sink drain putty” because it is made to solve specific plumbing problems. It can stop small leaks, but it doesn’t always work for things like sealing pipes that carry pressurized water. Due to its waterproofing properties, it is typically applied to the upper part of the drain before the sink or faucet is installed to save time and effort. The “basket drain” part is where the putty is applied by rolling it into a narrow snake shape around the drain’s circumference.

It is then gently pressed after being applied, allowing any extra putty to be squeezed out and removed with a damp cloth. Similar steps are followed when applying plumber’s putty to a faucet, which is always done prior to installation. I was dissatisfied when I applied plumber’s putty for the first time and didn’t know that it was okay to put it back into the tub and use it again later.

When applying plumber’s putty, the two most important considerations are as follows:

  1. Clean surface: It is essential to thoroughly clean the surface to remove any undesirable particles because they can eventually cause holes in the putty. Before applying any putty, I always clean a dry, clean rag first to clean the surface. You should never disregard this crucial step because doing so could result in negative consequences down the road.
  2. Heat is important because plumber’s putty is a soft, clay-like substance, so heat is important when using it. Therefore, warming your hands before applying it will be very helpful. Before I begin applying the putty, I always rub both of my hands together for some time.

How is it beneficial from other sealants?

It is one of the most fundamental and necessary tools a plumber has and is utilized worldwide to stop leaks. Because it is not an adhesive, plumber’s putty can be easily removed whenever you want, even though silicone caulks are currently utilized for the same purposes. It also stays soft for a long time after you apply it, making it easier to remove. You can chip away at it without spending too much time or effort, even if it becomes difficult.

Silicone caulk is an excellent sealant, but because it is so difficult to remove once applied, it is more of a permanent fixture. It is also less dense than plumber’s putty, making it less effective at filling in large gaps. I once used silicone caulk for my sink by accident, and it was extremely difficult to remove later. Therefore, you should never apply a sealant without knowing what will happen. Let’s look at the main advantages and disadvantages of both sealants to learn more about this matter.


Pros of plumber’s putty:

It’s easy to use and doesn’t require any plumbing knowledge.

You don’t have to dry it artificially.

It prevents leaks well and stays soft for a long time.

It’s easy to remove even after it has dried.


It’s very hard to get off;

it’s sticky to the touch and makes a little mess;

it can stain clothes.

The right way to apply plumber’s putty

If you ever find yourself in an emergency situation where you are unable to wait for a plumber to arrive, the steps outlined below will show you how to apply plumber’s putty correctly. I can tell you from personal experience how helpful it was to have a tub of plumber’s putty around when I first needed it.

  1. To begin, use your fingers to scoop out the required amount of putty from the container. If necessary, gloves can be used, but they are not required.
  2. To form a long shape, you must then roll it in your hand. The size of the area where you need to apply this shape will determine its length, but it is always preferable to make it longer. In order to effectively close the gap, you must also ensure that the thickness remains constant.
  3. Now spread the putty all the way around the part you want to seal. If there isn’t enough putty, it’s better to start from scratch than to add more putty on top because consistency will break down.
  4. You must gently press it down after applying it to the area to prevent it from becoming loose later. It won’t be able to properly close the gap if you apply too much pressure.
  5. You can continue installing the component after pressing the putty. Any remaining putty can be removed with a damp rag after the part has been tightened. If you don’t want to waste any more putty, you can put it back in its container.

Still have questions:

If you still have questions about how to apply plumber’s putty correctly, you can watch some videos online to make sure you don’t make any mistakes. When I first started using plumber’s putty, they were a huge help. The speed with which you can use your sink or faucet after applying plumber’s putty is one of its best qualities. Because there is no drying time, you can use your sink or faucet almost immediately.

Tips to best use plumber’s putty

Applying plumber’s putty should always yield the best results if you do the following:

  1. Make sure it feels pliable and soft to the touch before using it. The putty has dried out if it feels hard or has cracks. Always select a brand-new container of putty in this instance. It is readily available and very affordable.
  2. To keep the putty as soft as possible after using it, you need to properly close the container. Putty usually takes a long time to dry, so you shouldn’t rush the process.
  3. Before using the putty, you should always read the label on the container. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Because some brands aren’t good for all surfaces, you might get stains if you use them. This is especially true for surfaces made of granite and marble. You must select a different sealant option if your surfaces are porous.

Why you shouldn’t use plumber’s putty on plastic pipes

Despite its versatility, plumber’s putty has a few drawbacks, one of which is that it can’t be used on plastic pipes. Putty made from petroleum breaks down the chemical structure of plastic, making it less durable over time. This effect gets worse when the plastic parts are constantly under tension, which makes them leak. Therefore, sealing the component will result in a larger problem. Therefore, silicone caulk is preferable when it comes to repairing shower drains made of plastic.

Plumber's putty

Robert Daines

Robert Daines

Robert M. Daines is the Pritzker Professor of Law and Business, Associate Dean, and Senior Faculty for the Rock Center on Corporate Governance at Stanford. He is also Professor of Finance (by courtesy) at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Also CEO of Dailynewsworlds.

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