When To Use Plumber’s Putty Instead Of Caulk

When To Use Plumber’s Putty Instead Of Caulk

Home renovations and maintenance contribute to an improved living environment. Be it your bathroom, or any other part of your home, a plumber’s putty is always there to help you get the toilets, sinks, and bathtubs fixed.

Fortunately, the problems can be fixed easily in such cases. You can choose between silicone caulk and plumber’s putty when repairing the damage. However, you must know when to use plumber’s putty instead of caulk.

And for that, the capabilities, advantages, and disadvantages of both must be known to you.

Table of Contents

1.1. What is Plumber’s Putty?

‘Plumber’s putty’ is a molded sealing material that can be shaped by rubbing the warm mixture between your palms.

It is clay-based and contains vegetable or mineral oils to maintain flexibility.

1.2. What Is Silicone Caulking?

The same as putty, caulk is an older material historically used to seal wood ships during marine operations. In addition to keeping things together, it also helped fix broken and split planks.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of each.

1.3. Why Plumber's Putty?

An essential tool in a plumber’s tool kit is plumber’s putty. Plumber’s putty retains its softness and watertight seal for a long time, which is different from silicone or traditional caulking. Because it is not an adhesive substance, replacing a fixture or drain part is not a problem.

Additionally, its softness makes handling it easy. The material doesn’t take long to dry and it works for a variety of places that don’t require hard materials. It also does a good job of sealing the pipes.

Whereas, silicone is not as easily worked with as plumber’s putty because of its lack of density. Therefore, caulks aren’t recommended to fill more wide gaps.

1.4. Using Plumber's Putty When It's Needed

Having learned how it works, you will be able to determine when it works. Installing faucets and other sink fixtures requires sealing around the base, which is typically accomplished with a plumber’s putty.

Additionally, the product is used inside sink strainers as well as in tub and sink pop-up drains. Also, not being visible is better, so it can be protected by other materials.

If putty were substituted with caulk, it makes removing the part difficult.

1.5. Plumber's Putty: How to Use

Plumber’s putty comes in small plastic containers and is very affordable. Prior to application to a plumbing part, every single shaping is done by hand. Using plumber’s putty is as simple as following these steps:

  1. Using your fingertips, take a chunk of putty out of the tub.

  2. Make a continuous rope with the putty by rolling it between your hands. You can make the rope to whatever length you want, ensuring that the rope is a bit larger in diameter than the gap to be filled.

  3. Install a length of putty rope around the part you’d like to secure, beginning where you want, working continuously around the part, and ending where you started. Ropes that are too short would better be rolled longer and spliced together instead of puttying in sections of putty, which could leak. At the end of the rope, any extra putty should be cut away.

  4. Be careful not to distort the rope as you press it into place. You do this just to prevent the part from coming loose after it’s turned around. Installing the part will cause it to become compressed. At this stage, pressing the putty flat might not guarantee its adhesion to the mating part.

  5. Put the part in place as instructed. It is expected that the putty will squeeze out of corners when you tighten the part; this is good since it means you have used sufficient putty. The part should be tightened up to the maximum (as applicable), and any excess putty should be wiped off later. The extra putty can be re-used if it’s clean.

1.6. Useful Tips for Plumber's Putty

Although a plumber’s putty can be a good alternative to caulk in some cases, it doesn’t take the place of caulk everywhere.

Avoid using plumber’s putty in situations where the adhesive properties are necessary for bonding or stopping materials from moving and in exposed areas where you need a tight seal. For the best results, you might also want to consider these other tips:

  1. Rolling and pliable plumber’s putty is important. When the rolled product is too hard or cracks when shaped, it is old, dried out, and needs to be replaced. Get yourself a new box of putty in that case.

  2. Be sure to read all the labels before working with a plumber’s putty on porous materials. Putty is synthetic and oil-based, and some surfaces, such as granite, may get stained. Putty is designed to be used on certain types of surfaces, which will be specified on the container. On stone or other porous surfaces, there are stain-free formulas of plumber’s putty.

  3. Make sure your putty tub is tightly closed to prevent the putty from drying out. Eventually, it drys out, though this process may take years.

1.7. Plumber’s Putty vs. Silicone Caulk: Pros & Cons

Here’s a guide which compares the pros and cons of using plumber’s putty versus caulk on various surfaces to determine which tool is best used where.

Plumber’s Putty


  • Simple to apply
  • Replacement or removal is easy
  • Softness makes it last longer


  • It is not applicable to exposed areas
  • This isn't suitable for plastic pipes
  • Insufficient adhesion

Silicone Caulk


  • A wide range of applications
  • Is not susceptible to cracking
  • Adhesive properties


  • It is not applicable to exposed areas
  • Removed difficulty
  • Insufficient adhesion

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