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hands wrapping plumbers putty around a sink drain

Plumber’s Putty

Originally contributed by Jeff Butler • last updated 1/21/2021

Plumber's putty is one of those things that most people have heard of. For some reason, it’s pretty easy to say and just as easy to remember. However, plumbers putty might not be exactly what you think it is.

Definition

The term plumber's putty typically refers to a pliable clay type substance that is often used as a watertight sealant around faucets and drains. Plumber's putty is not an adhesive, so it creates a seal without permanently bonding things together. Plumber's putty is sometimes confused with pipe dope but it differs because plumber's putty will not stand up to water pressure and is not used to seal threading between pipe fixtures. Plumber's putty is produced and sold by various manufacturers, often with slightly different ingredients and sometimes under different names.

How To Use Plumber's Putty

Plumber's putty has a few applications where there really is no other substitute. At the same time, plumber's putty has its limits and shouldn’t be used to replace pipe dope or caulking:

  • Plumber's putty has the consistency of a pliable clay and works well to bond surfaces such as the bases of faucets and drain collars to sink basins with a watertight seal. It works best when rolled into long thin strands and pressed between clean surfaces.
  • Plumber's putty should not be used in areas that need adhesive strength, such as around bathtubs and countertops. Also, it should not be used to seal threaded pipe fittings, as it doesn’t stand up well to water pressure.
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