What is Plumber's Putty?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

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.

Plumber's putty is used to create a watertight seal around the faucet where it joins the sink.
Plumber's putty is used to create a watertight seal around the faucet where it joins the sink.

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.

A toilet being sealed using silicone caulk.
A toilet being sealed using silicone caulk.

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.

In addition to plumber's putty, plumber's tape is also useful in preventing leaks.
In addition to plumber's putty, plumber's tape is also useful in preventing leaks.

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.

Linseed oil is a common additive to plumber's putty.
Linseed oil is a common additive to plumber's putty.

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.

A liquid pipe compound is used to seal connections between pipes.
A liquid pipe compound is used to seal connections between pipes.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


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?


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?


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?


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.


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?


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


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


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?


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


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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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?


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


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


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

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