How to apply plumber’s putty

Plumber’s putty is a malleable, clay-like compound that creates a watertight seal by filling in the space under a flange to prevent water from seeping through. The product is ideal for setting faucets, sink basket strainers, shower and pop-up drains. It’s easy to wipe away after installation and will not be visible from the outside of the plumbing fixture once installed.

Unlike some other sealants, plumber’s putty remains soft over time and can be easily modified after its first application. Because plumber’s putty is oil-based, it can stain porous materials, such as granite, marble, quartz and sandstone. For application on these surfaces, use a

5. Put the item in place and apply pressure so that excess putty oozes out from under item’s flange.

6. Wipe away excess putty after the item is secured and wipe clean.

7. If putty is being used in colder applications, wait 10 minutes after the initial installation and confirm the product does not need an extra turn to ensure it is properly secure.

8. If the excess putty is clean and free of debris, it can be put back in the container.

Be sure to seal the lid completely, so the putty stays clean and isn’t exposed to air. If the putty is exposed to air for an extended period of time, it can dry out and can’t be reused. The sink, faucet or shower can be used immediately after the part has been put into place. Run the water after installation to check for any leaks. If a leak is present, more plumber’s putty can be added to remedy the situation.

When shouldn’t you use plumber’s putty?

Although this product creates a watertight seal, it is not an adhesive or glue. Thus, it should not be used in any pressurized connection, such as a gasketed fitting or on the thread of pipes. Historically, plumber’s putty was used to seal a leaky toilet or toilet bowl to a finished floor. However, we do not recommend using plumber’s putty for these types of applications, as this product can’t support the weight of a toilet and is not waterproof.

Additionally, plumber’s putty does not have any insulating qualities; and therefore, is not the right choice for sealing windows or doors. Both stain-free and regular plumber’s putty can potentially affect the finish of acrylic surfaces. Plumber’s putty should not be used on plastics (PVC or ABS) because it will affect the integrity of the material and lead to product failure.

Please read manufacturer instructions and recommendations on products to ensure best practices for safe and effective use.

This article was co-authored by wikiHow Staff. Our trained team of editors and researchers validate articles for accuracy and comprehensiveness. wikiHow’s Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article is backed by trusted research and meets our high quality standards.

This article has been viewed 52,039 times.

Plumbers putty is a commonly used supply in plumbing projects. It is probably most often used to put together sinks and seal them to prevent water leaks. By cleaning properly, warming up the putty, and pressing it into place, you can apply putty like a pro!

  • You can often find step-by-step disassembly guides online for different types and models of fixtures.
  • If new plumber’s putty does not fix the problem, investigate other sources for the leak, such as broken gaskets or seals.

You Might Also Like

  1. ↑
  2. ↑
  3. ↑
  4. ↑
  5. ↑
  6. ↑
  7. ↑
  8. ↑
  9. ↑
  1. ↑
  2. ↑
  3. ↑
  4. ↑
  5. ↑

About This Article

Plumber’s putty is a great product for sealing projects and preventing water leaks. Before you use plumber’s putty, clean the area with soapy water and dry it with a clean rag. Take out your putty and roll it in your palms to warm it up and make it more malleable. Then, stretch it into a skinny shape until it’s long enough to cover the area you want to seal. Apply the putty in one layer, pressing down firmly, and don’t leave any gaps. If you’re sealing a sink drain, push the drain into its base on top of the putty and tighten the drain. Clean any excess putty off with a rag and throw it away. For more tips, including what to do if your putty leaks, read on!

Aaron Stickley is a licensed plumber with 15 years of experience in commercial, new residential plumbing, and residential service and repair. He started his own residential service and repair plumbing business. Aaron's articles about plumbing on The Spruce span four years.

  • Pin
  • Share
  • Email

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

If you’ve ever removed an old faucet and found a bead of clay-like material along the underside of the faucet body or where the body meets the sink, most likely it’s old, dried plumber’s putty. In the old days, plumber’s putty was used in many places where caulk is used today, but it’s still the best option for many situations.

What Is Plumbers Putty?

Plumber’s putty is a soft, pliable sealing compound that is used to make watertight seals around faucets, drains, and other plumbing parts.

Why Use Plumber's Putty

Plumber’s putty is one of the basics tools in a plumber’s tool bag. Plumbers use it because it remains soft for a long time and maintains a watertight seal, but unlike silicone and other types of caulk, plumber’s putty is not an adhesive, so a fixture or drain part sealed with putty remains easy to remove if you ever need to replace it. Also, silicone is not as easy you work with and is not as dense as plumber’s putty, so it’s not as good at filling wide gaps, and plumbers don’t need time to dry just like caulk does.

Where to Use Plumber's Putty

Plumber’s putty is commonly used to seal along the base of faucets and other sink fixtures before setting them onto the sink. It’s also applied to the undersides of sink strainers and pop-up drainfittings for sinks and tubs. In all of these common applications, the putty is hidden under a flange, lip, or edge and is not visible when the part is installed. If caulk were used instead of putty, it would be difficult to access these areas to cut through the caulk to remove the part.

How to Use Plumber's Putty

Plumber's putty is a very inexpensive material that is sold in small plastic tubs. It is always shaped by hand before it is applied to the plumbing part. Follow these basic steps to apply plumber’s putty:

Make Putty Rope

Scoop out a ball of putty from the tub with your fingers. Roll the putty back and forth between open palms to create a continuous rope (much like making a snake out of Play-Doh). Make the rope any length you need and of a consistent diameter that is slightly larger than the gap you need to fill.

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Place Putty Rope

Lay the putty rope into place on the part you want to seal, starting at any point and working in a continuous loop, running around the part and meeting back at the starting point. If the rope is too short, it's best to start over and roll a longer rope; splicing in sections of putty can lead to leaks. Tear off excess putty at the end of the rope.

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Press Rope Into Place

Gently press the rope into place without deforming it. This is just to keep it from coming too loose when you turn the part right side up. It will squish down when you install the part. If you press the putty flat at this stage it might not seal against the mating part.

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Install Part

Install the part as required. When you tighten down the part, putty will likely squeeze out from the edges; this is desirable, as it means you used plenty of putty. Tighten down the part all the way (as applicable), then wipe up any excess putty with your finger. If the excess putty is clean, you can put it back into the tub for future use.

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Tips for Using Plumber's Putty

While plumber’s putty is better than caulk in some situations, it’s not a universal caulk alternative. Do not use plumber’s putty where you need adhesive strength (to bond materials or prevent them from moving) or where you need a watertight seal in exposed areas. Follow these other tips for the best results:

There’s a good reason why every plumber has plumber’s putty in his or her tool bag — it’s extremely versatile. As a homeowner, you should too.

What many people don’t know about plumber’s putty is that it has so many uses. You can use it to fix leaky faucets or as an adhesive for tiles in your bathroom. In this article, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about how to use plumber’s putty on your home repairs.

Table of Contents

What is Plumber’s Putty?

Plumber’s putty is a type of soft-set, pliable rubber for watertight seals in faucets and drains. It is also used to seal cracks that would otherwise cause leaks.

Because it’s not an adhesive (like silicone), it won’t stick to the parts you use it on. That’s an important feature. Why? In certain applications, like a common faucet drain, you want to be able to remove the drain easily for future repairs or replacements.

For example, it doesn’t crack separate, crumble, harden or shrink. Therefore, it can be used to set bowls, fixtures, faucets, sink frames, and strainers.

It is commonly sold in small, inexpensive plastic tubs. But it also comes in caulking tubes or, for small projects, in stick-like shapes.

How Does Plumber’s Putty Work?

Plumber’s putty adheres to any surface and expands like a sponge when it absorbs water. The expansion creates an airtight seal, which stops and prevents leaks in your pipes, sinks, drains, and toilets.

The best way to understand how plumbers use this material for plumbing repairs is by looking at its chemical properties. Plumbers will mix two parts elastomer with one part solvent (oil). This creates a jelly-like substance which hardens as it dries.

PRO TIP: Do not use putty to “caulk” around the bottom of a toilet. The material is not designed to hold weight. Instead, use silicone for those types of heavy applications.

How to Use Plumber’s Putty

Follow these steps to create a watertight seal:

1. Clean Surface

Make sure the metal surface is fully cleaned. That means removing any previously used putty, tape, or adhesives. New metal surfaces (like a completely new faucet drain system) probably won’t require this cleaning, but it never hurts to check for and remove any dirt and debris.

2. Warm Your Hands

This might sound like an odd second step. However, plumber’s putty is more effective when it is warmed up. So, get those mitts near some heat before you move on to the next step.

3. Make a Putty Rope

Take a scoop of putty and roll it between your palms until it changes its shape into a rope (or snake).

You’ll want to roll it to the length and diameter you need to sufficiently cover the area you want to seal. Don’t be shy about using more plumber’s putty than you think you’ll need. You can always remove the excess.

4. Place the Putty Rope

Loop the putty rope around the area of the pipe that you want to seal. Start the putty rope at one end of the pipe and loop it around until it meets up with where you started.

5. Press into Place

Gently but firmly press against the plumber’s putty. This will remove excess air bubbles from where it attaches to the surface and creates a more watertight seal. It also prevents the putty from falling off when you turn the part over.

6. Replace the Part

Install the part or assembly as needed.

As the part gets screwed in and tightened, you’ll see putty get squeezed out of the fixture. Remove the excess with your fingers and make it look nice and smooth. The process is similar to smoothing down a bead of silicone from a caulk gun.

7. Put Excess Putty Back in Tub

You’re done! All you must do now is clean up and place any of the excess putty back into its container for the next job. If you seal the tub, it will remain pliable for about two years if correctly sealed.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. It needs to be soft and pliable to create a watertight seal.

It has the potential to be harmful if inhaled for a prolonged amount of time. But DIYers with occasional or moderate use will have no adverse health issues. If your eyes make contact with the putty, they may be irritated temporarily.

Approximately two years if stored correctly in a sealed tub or airtight container.

No, you do not want to use plumber’s putty on plastic materials. The putty will eventually wear away the plastic and cause leaking problems down the road.

Approximately $3-$10 for a small tub which should have enough putty to handle at least a few projects.

Yes, scrape it off with a tool like a putty knife. Then wash with soap and water. Repeat this process as necessary to remove all the old putty and any residue.

Both create watertight seals. However, silicone is an adhesive, which means it bonds to the surface it is applied to. Plumber’s putty is a soft-set compound which gets pressed onto a surface but doesn’t bond with it.

Stain-free plumber’s putty is oil-free and therefore will not create stains on granite, marble, quartz, sandstone, Corian®, or any natural surface that is porous. Regular putty is oil-based and best used with metal parts, such as your faucet drain.

Similar Resources

Final Thoughts

As you can see, plumber’s putty is a great sealant to have in your DIY toolkit. It’s cheap to buy, easy to apply, creates a watertight seal on metal parts, and easy to remove.

Just remember to use it only on metal, never plastic. And make sure you only use the stain-free variety if you’re using it in areas that have porous materials like marble or granite.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) for help with any of your faucet and drain repairs, replacements, or installations.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain, or water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even holidays.

Plumbers putty is the go-to solution in plumbing projects but you need to know how to use plumbers putty first. As a Licence Master Plumber, I use plumbers putty all the time to seal drains in sinks and baths.

Plumbers putty is most often used to put together sinks and seal them to prevent water leaks. By cleaning the area, then warming up the putty by rolling it in your hands and creating a snake-like roll, and pressing it into place around the drain collar, you can apply putty-like a pro!

  • Pull out a golf ball size of the putty.
  • Roll it in your hands to get it warm
  • Now start rolling it into a snake-like shape
  • Make it as long as you need
  • Clean the area that you will use the putty
  • Dry surface with a rag or towel
  • Lay the rope shaped putty into the place where the seal is to be
  • Press into place until secured to the surface
  • Install the part as required
  • Clean away excess putty after the parts installation

Table of Contents

Knowing how to use plumbers putty is important. Plumbers putty isn’t always the right choice for all situations. In this article, we will talk about how to use plumbers putty, when to use plumbers putty and when not to use plumbers putty.
Once you know how to use plumbers putty the right way, you will wonder how you ever could do without it.

When Not To Use Plumbers Putty

Plumbers putty is great in most situations. But you should not use it in places where you need adhesive strength.
Plus it is not recommended to use in exposed areas needing a watertight seal.

Plumbers putty for years has been the go-to product to use to create watertight seals between surfaces around faucets, sinks, and drains. Using plumbers putty in these areas is where plumbers putty shines.

What Is Plumbers Putty?

Plumber’s putty is a pliable clay-like substance and the uses are to create seals around faucets and drains. Ease the putty into a ring that matches the circumference of the drain or bottom of the faucet fixture.
Fit the drain or fixture into place, and this will ensure a watertight fit and limit the chances of having a leak

How Long Does It Take For Plumbers Putty To Dry

If you wait for plumbers putty to dry, you’ll be waiting 10/15 years. It doesn’t “dry”, but plumbers putty will “dry out “. You can use the drain fixture immediately after installation with plumbers putty.

  • Plumber’s putty should be pliable and easy to roll. If it’s too hard to roll or it cracks when you try to shape it, it is too old and dried out. Get a new tub of putty.
  • Keep the tub of putty sealed so the putty will last as long as possible before getting hard. It does dry out in the tub, but this can take years.
  • Read the label of the plumber’s putty before using it on porous surfaces. Plumber’s putty is petroleum-based and can stain some materials, such as granite.
  • The directions on the container of putty will let you know what surfaces to use it on. There are stain-free forms of plumber’s putty for use on stone and other porous materials

How soon can you use the sink after applying plumbers putty?

The beauty of plumbers putty and how to use plumbers putty is amazing. You can start using the sink drain or faucet immediately after installing plumbers putty. There is no drying time because it doesn’t dry. It just seals the gaps and the sink, drain, or faucet which can be used immediately after application of the plumbers putty.

Is it better to use silicone or plumbers putty?

Each of these materials has its purpose. According to Silicon Beachla “Plumbers Putty Vrs Calk” there are advantages and disadvantages for both products. Here are some of the results of this review.

Plumbers Putty Advantages
  • Remains soft over time
  • No need to dry
  • Easy application
  • Easy to Remove
Plumbers Putty Disadvantages
  • Not gives an adhesive strength
  • Don’t apply on exposed areas
  • Not for plastic pipes
  • Doesn’t seal the space between wall and sink
  • It is not recommended for metal threaded pipes or joints.
Silicone Caulk advantages
  • Strong adhesive
  • Multiple uses
  • Remains flexible for sometime
  • Doesn’t crack
Silicone Caulk Disadvantages
  • Not removable
  • Cannot be replaced
  • Sticky and leaves a stain

Can You Use Plumbers Putty Under Water

The short answer is no, Plumbers putty isn’t used for underwater applications because it isn’t meant to create a bonding watertight seal. The applications for plumbers putty are mainly used on faucets, sinks, and drains to keep water from seeping through.

What happens if you use plumbers putty on plastic

The reason plumbers putty is so popular is that it is so versatile because it sticks well enough to surfaces to prevent leaks but can be removed easily even after years of use.

However according to Sioux Chief Blog,

Most plumber’s putty is petroleum-based, which keeps the material pliable and resistant to water for long periods of time. However, the petroleum component in the putty causes the chemical structure of plastic materials to degrade, or break down.

Most rigid plastics installed using putty will eventually lose their durable, resilient structural characteristics, and become brittle – sometimes brittle enough to break with your fingers.
This effect can be accelerated in plastic components that are under tension, like fittings or drains that are threaded tight to sinks or shower floors, causing cracks which lead to leaks and damage.

For this reason, Sioux Chief always recommends the use of silicone caulk when sealing ABS or PVC shower drains to the shower floor.
While putty may still be preferred when installing brass drains, the permanent, flexible, plastic-friendly seal created with silicone caulk is the only sealant recommended when using any plastic-body shower drain.

Can you use too much plumbers putty?

It is normal to use an excessive amount of plumbers putty because as you tighten the parts together the excess putty will squeeze out. You can then reclaim the squeeze-out and use it again.

What can I substitute for plumbers putty?

According to Plumbing Glove There are a few alternatives to plumbers putty is you have some of these products around the house and not plumbers putty. Some of these products include:

  • Silicone Calk
  • LDR 502 7200 TUB CAULK.
  • The Loctite 1716864 Tube Plumber and Marine Adhesive.


I hope I answered your question “How To Use Plumbers Putty and When Not To Use Plumbers Putty” as you can see there are uses for plumbers putty that is undeniable then there are other alternatives that are best suited for other purposes.