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Plumber's Putty

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Plumber's putty
Aaron Stickley
Plumber’s putty is a soft pliable caulking and sealing compound that is used to make watertight seals around faucets and drains. The use of plumber’s putty can sometimes be confusing. Some of the most common uses for plumber’s putty include sinks and tub drains. Knowing why, where, and how to use plumber’s putty can make many plumbing installations much easier.

Why: Plumber’s putty is one of the basics tools in a plumbers tool bag. The reason Plumbers use plumber’s putty is because the putty remains soft for a long time keeping the watertight seal but allowing you to easily remove the drain or fixture when the time comes for replacing it. Silicone is often used in place of plumber’s putty but if you ever have to remove the fixture it will prove to be quite difficult. Silicone is also not as easy you work with and is not as dense as plumber’s putty, so it is not as good a filler. Silicone is a great sealer but requires dry time before testing and so it is less convenient to use.

Where: Specifically plumber’s putty is used at the base of most faucets and other sink fixtures before setting them on to the sink. Putty is also used on the basket strainers and pop-up drains in the kitchen and bathroom sinks respectively. Plumber’s putty is also used in most tub drains where the tub shoe screws down into the waste and overflow. These are just some of the many uses for plumber’s putty.

How: When installing plumber’s putty pinch off a decent amount, knead it, and roll it like you would make a snake. The snake of plumber’s putty should be positioned around the faucet base or the drain lip before it is pushed into the sink. Some sinks have a large void at the drain area will which you will be filling so roll enough to fill the gaps. Don’t be afraid to use too much because the excess will simply squeeze out and you can put it back in the container for use next time.

Notes:
  • The plumber’s putty should be pliable and easy to roll. If it is too hard to roll or if it cracks when you try to shape it is likely too old. You will need to throw it away and buy a new container of putty to get the necessary seal.
  • Keep the container sealed tight so it will last as long as possible before getting hard.
  • Read the label of the plumber’s putty before using it on porous surfaces. In some cases plumber’s putty can stain certain types of material such as granite. The directions on the container of putty will let you know what surfaces it can be used on. They do make stain-free plumber’s putty for use on stone, granite and other porous materials if that is what you need.
  • Ask for assistance at your local hardware or home improvement store if you have any questions or you are unsure if using plumber’s putty is necessary.

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