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What is Plumber's Putty?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Plumber's putty is a pliable substance used to create watertight seals around faucets and drains. The putty is considered one of the basic plumber tools and is often used any time plumbing fixtures are replaced. Plumber's putty should not be confused with Teflon® tape, which is used to seal pipe joints that are threaded.

Different brands of putty often contain different ingredients. Many products make use of some type of clay as a base ingredient. Linseed oil is also a common additive. Other formulas include limestone, a blend of fish oils, or talc.

Plumber's putty is used primarily during the installation of faucets and drains. The putty remains soft for a long time, making it a good choice for situations where a watertight, but reversible, seal is preferred. A bead of putty can be placed around the base of a faucet before it is attached to the sink, and the excess wiped off. The putty will seal the join between the two, preventing water from seeping in.

Along with creating a seal for faucets and drains, this putty is also sometimes used in the installation of sinks. A line of putty is applied to the area surrounding the insert for the body of the sink. The lip of the sink rests of the edges of the insert after the sink is slipped into place. By adhering sinks with plumber's putty, it is possible to create a tight bond between the counter top and the sink that will prevent any water seeping into the area directly under the counter. Not all plumbers recommend using putty to seal a sink, however, suggesting that it does not provide a secure enough seal.

Plumber's putty remains soft and pliable for a relatively long period of time, so it should not be used to seal pipes or fixtures that will be under pressure from water. In such cases, the seal will not hold. Pipes should be sealed using Teflon® tape or a liquid pipe compound. In some cases, the putty can stain the material the sink is made out of; in such instances, silicon caulk may be a better option.

Considered one of the essential plumbing supplies for professional plumbers as well as homeowners working on a do-it-yourself bathroom or kitchen project, plumber’s putty can be purchased a hardware stores, home stores, and any discount retail store where plumbing supplies are sold. The putty is relatively inexpensive and will enhance the quality of the plumbing work while cutting down on the potential for leaks.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including HomeQuestionsAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon991924 — On Jul 29, 2015

Can I seal a small gap in the roof with plumbers putty -- just until the roof is inspected, to keep the rain out for maybe a week?

By anon356378 — On Nov 24, 2013

There is a product used for plumbing called acalpucky or apalpucky or something similar. My dad has used the term for many years to refer to any kind of ointment, lotion, gooey food, etc. I can't convince my family members that there is actually a product by that name. Anyone?

By anon341774 — On Jul 14, 2013

I'm replacing a kitchen faucet, and I want to seal it correctly. Do I use plumbers' putty? Where can I buy a small amount? Where/how do I apply it?

By anon312118 — On Jan 05, 2013

To the guy whose dog ate the pipe dope: If he hasn't had any symptoms yet he should be okay. He'll probably get the squirts and puke, but I'd take him to your local vet if it gets worse than that.

By Ilovemypets — On Nov 17, 2012

I had a new vanity sink installed yesterday. When I turned on the water it ran slowly. I removed the filter cap and it had a blob of off white, sticky stuff. I looked under the sink and the same substance was around the pipe fitting. I also found some up the spout using my little finger. What happened and is this stuff safe for the water to use for teeth brushing?

By anon266812 — On May 07, 2012

My dog ate 3/4 can of plumbers pipe dope. Is it a poison?

By anon187459 — On Jun 17, 2011

How can dried plumber's putty be removed from around a sink drain in a porcelain sink?

By anon174136 — On May 09, 2011

my food waste disposer is D-166, Innuovo model. Its upper mounting assembly seems like it is made from plastic or something else, i don't know what, but for sure not metal.

Problem is, the sink flange that connected between these mounting assembly is leaking. It's slowly disconnecting from the sink flange and water comes out directly from the sink and i have to put a pail under my sink. So what should i do?

By anon165099 — On Apr 03, 2011

Installer plumber used plumbers putty on my granite sink. How do I clean the stain it caused?

By anon111269 — On Sep 15, 2010

Removing silicone sealant Is very difficult and if the parts to be disassembled ever again do not use it, especially on glass. Hydraulic fluid named Skydrol is used in large aircraft, will soften it and will peel but forget about that as Skydrol is a very nasty stuff and the use would need special controls.

Some IDIOTA glued the lid on the toilet tank with silicone. It took hours to take it off by shoving a .010 narrow strip of aluminum-bronze shim-stock to cut through the layer of silicone.

By anon102489 — On Aug 08, 2010

Beware when using silicone to install a sink: you may not be able to remove the sink later! I nearly tore up my countertop trying to remove the sink after using silicone to seal it in place a few years ago. Plumber's putty is removable.

By anon84739 — On May 17, 2010

is it harmful if it is used in a water supply?

By anon79211 — On Apr 21, 2010

can you thin plumber's putty with linseed oil, or should some other type thinner be used?

By anon60614 — On Jan 14, 2010

I was set to use plumbers putty for a new sink drain in a granite sink. Then, I read the label and it said not use on granite. But, to use silicon. What is the best way to seal a kitchen drain installed to a granite sink? Thanks

By anon60546 — On Jan 14, 2010

is there a way to loosen up putty when it becomes hard?

By anon50017 — On Oct 25, 2009

1. Right, pipe dope, is the same cost and is used on the threaded ends of pipes before tightening them to a female end.

2. Charles, silicone would be used in installing sinks, if you want a permanent watertight seal. Plumber's putty is used in installing drains and faucets. As they are removed more than your sink.

3. Plumber's putty will not work on a pool. Plumber's putty can stay soft for years. I had a drain I put in and just took it off, eight years later, and only the outside edge of the putty was hardened. Use an epoxy from any hardware store, and tell them you want to fill in a small leak in your pool.

4. You might have to replace more parts in your existing drain system, since it seems to have been modified. Also, rent a large sewer snake from your hardware store, and get the drain cleared out entirely. There is also a biological drain cleaner, you can use three months a year, to help remove build up in your pipes.

5. You do not need to wait at all. Plumber's putty is instantly watertight in sink drains and under faucets. Get the drain on tight, then run the water to check for leaks. --Sam

By anon41007 — On Aug 12, 2009

how long does the putty need to set up before using sinks again?

By anon40451 — On Aug 08, 2009

We have had sewer water backing up into the basement. We are trying to install drain return valves into the drains but some of the drain heads are too low in the holes. (it is as if a later floor has been laid over the old one) so the resulting hole is too large for the drain anti-return valve to fit. How can we make a fit for the valve?

By anon37206 — On Jul 17, 2009

Can you use this on an above ground pool with a small leak? The pool is pvc.Does it work underwater?

By anon36995 — On Jul 16, 2009

When and where would one use Silicone rubber versus plumber's putty? I am totally confused on this issue. Why would silicone rubber not be adequate for all applications? Is it a cost issue? Thanks --Charles

By anon36649 — On Jul 13, 2009

You don't use putty on pipe threads. You use pipe dope. Two different things.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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