Spackle® is a product which is designed to fill holes and cracks in walls before painting or papering. The act of applying this material to these surfaces is sometimes called “spackling,” and numerous companies sell their own versions as “spackling paste.” Most hardware and construction stores carry it in a variety of weights designed for different tasks.
The word “spackle” is an excellent example of a genericized trademark, because this one product has been so well marketed and distributed that people do not realize that Spackle® is a brand name, not the name of the substance. The trademark is held by the Muralo Company. This word often appears without its trademark or in lowercase in print, further diluting the company's trademark, much to their frustration.
There are two basic forms: powdered, and paste. Powdered Spackle® needs to be mixed with water before use, and it has the advantage of not turning dry and crusty like paste does. Paste Spackle® is, of course, more convenient, since one merely needs to open the container to access the material inside. Paste is available in tubs or tubes to meet a variety of needs.
This material is made from gypsum powder and glue which holds the powder together. After a surface has been prepared with Spackle®, it takes a little while for the material to dry, and then the surface can be sanded and papered or painted as desired. The various types can be differentiated on the basis of their grain. Regular Spackle® tends to be fairly heavy, with large grains of material, but it is also possible to purchase a lightweight version for more delicate jobs. Some companies also manufacture a paste of intermediate weight.
Knowing how to repair holes with this material can be quite useful, especially if you are preparing to move out of a house with small holes in the walls from screws and nails. Small holes require lightweight paste, while large holes need a heavier paste; very large holes will require a backing of some kind or the Spackle® will crumble out. It is a good idea to trim the edges of holes to remove hanging bits of drywall, and then use a spatula or putty knife to smear a daub of paste into the hole, starting slightly above the hole. Allow it to dry and sand it smooth; you may require multiple coats for a larger hole.