How to Use Plumber’s Putty

Plumber’s putty is an essential tool for many DIY plumbing projects and repairs. Knowing how to properly use plumber’s putty can ensure watertight seals on sinks, tubs, and other fixtures. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about how to use plumber’s putty effectively.

What is Plumber’s Putty?

Plumber’s putty is a moldable, clay-like sealing compound designed to create watertight seals around faucets, drains, and other plumbing fixtures. It fills gaps and minor imperfections to prevent leaks.

Plumber’s putty is composed of chalk and linseed oil. It has a thick, doughy texture that allows it to be molded and pressed into spaces. Once exposed to air, the oil in plumber’s putty cures, hardening it and creating a watertight, durable seal.

Key properties and uses of plumber’s putty include:

  • Seals fixtures and fills gaps: By molding putty around the base of faucets, drain openings, and other fixtures, it seals any spaces where water could leak through. It fills minor dents, holes, or cracks.
  • Adheres to wet and dry surfaces: The putty bonds effectively to surfaces whether they are wet or dry at the time of application. This versatility makes it useful in a wide range of situations.
  • Prevents leaks: The watertight seal created by plumber’s putty prevents drips and leaks that could lead to water damage. Using putty for installation provides an extra layer of leak protection.
  • Long-lasting: Once hardened, plumber’s putty seals hold up for years. The seal won’t dry out or crack over time like some adhesives.
  • Easy to apply: Plumber’s putty can be molded and pressed into place by hand. No special tools are required for installation.

Plumber’s putty is commonly used to seal sinks, tub drains, faucets,strainers, and stoppers. It can also be used for some garden plumbing applications. It provides reliable leak protection as both an installation aid and repair solution.

Types of Plumber’s Putty

There are a few different types and formats of plumber’s putty available:

Standard Plumber’s Putty

This traditional putty is designed for sealing drains, sinks, and fixture connections made of plastic, metal, or other non-porous materials. Standard putty works on PVC, PEX, stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper, and ABS plumbing.

It should NOT be used on granite, marble, natural stone, or porous materials as the oil can stain these surfaces. Look for a “non-staining” putty formula if you need to seal around marble, granite, or stone.

Standard plumber’s putty is available as a thick, pre-formed rope that can be sliced to size as needed. It also comes in small tubs or cans of malleable putty that can be pressed into places by hand.

Non-Staining Plumber’s Putty

Non-staining, or “white”, plumber’s putty contains a non-staining formula that makes it safe to use on porous natural stone like granite, marble, quartz, and solid surfaces. It creates a tight seal without leaving oily stains behind.

Use non-staining putty for:

  • Granite and marble sink installations
  • Quartz or solid surface counter tops
  • Stone, porcelain, or ceramic tile
  • Any porous natural stone surface

The non-staining putty costs a bit more than standard putty but is essential for protecting stone surfaces.

Epoxy Putty

Epoxy putties provide similar sealing capabilities but cure extremely hard. Two-part epoxy putties require kneading the separate components together thoroughly before use.

Epoxy putty has greater adhesion strength and can permanently affix fixtures like grab bars. The hardened putty is more difficult to remove than standard plumber’s putty.

Epoxy putty is also more expensive. It is primarily used for heavy-duty bonding situations, not routine sink and drain seals.

How to Use Plumber’s Putty

Using plumber’s putty properly ensures you get an effective, long-lasting seal. Follow these steps when applying standard or non-staining plumber’s putty:

Step 1: Prepare the Surface

The surface you are sealing must be clean and dry for the best results. Remove any old putty or residue with a putty knife. Lightly sand and wipe away dust if needed.

Check for gaps, cracks, or imperfections that could affect the seal. Fill any significant voids with acrylic caulk before applying the putty.

Step 2: Form the Putty

For tub putty, slice off a section of the desired size. For canned putty, take a roughly golf ball sized amount.

Knead and warm the putty in your hands until soft and malleable. Form it into a rope or ball shape.

Step 3: Press Putty into Place

Firmly press the putty into the channel, groove, or gap you want to seal. Ensure it sticks and fills the entire space.

Mold the putty with your fingers, pressing it into tight contact with both sides of the channel. Smooth away any bumps or gaps.

Step 4: Strike and Excess

Once pressed into place, use a putty knife to strike off any excess putty and create a smooth face.

Angle the knife at 45° and smoothly run it along the putty, trimming away the excess. Strike the putty 2-3 times to get a neat finish.

Step 5: Allow Time to Cure

Leave the applied putty undisturbed as it cures. It will harden and dry within 12-24 hours. Drying time depends on humidity, temperature, and thickness.

Avoid retouching the putty while drying as this can affect the seal. The putty will become firm to the touch when cured.

That covers the basics of how to install plumber’s putty around drains, faucets, and fixtures. Follow any additional instructions for the specific plumbing project you are completing.

Common Uses for Plumber’s Putty

Now that you know how to apply it, here are some of the most common uses for plumber’s putty in plumbing projects:

Setting Sinks

Putty is extremely useful when installing and sealing sinks. To set a sink:

  1. Apply plumber’s putty around the drain opening in the sink. Form an even rope around the drain flange.
  2. Set the sink in place and press down firmly to squish the putty into a tight seal.
  3. Attach the strainer, drain, and P-trap below. Tighten from below to compress the putty.
  4. Strike off any excess putty flush with the drain rim using a putty knife.

The putty seals the sink drain and prevents water from leaking at this critical joint. Any water on the countertop flows into the sink rather than through gaps and holes.

Sealing Faucets

Putty also seals faucet bases to prevent leaks under the faucet body. To seal a faucet:

  1. Apply plumber’s putty evenly around the faucet holes on the bottom of the faucet base.
  2. Press the faucet into place and fasten the mounting nuts from below.
  3. Use a putty knife to slice away any squeezed-out putty.

The putty forms a gasket-like seal around and between the faucet and sink surface to block water. This prevents drips under or around the faucet exterior.

Securing Tub Drain Assemblies

Plumber’s putty provides a protective seal when installing bath or sink drain assemblies. Apply putty to:

  • The drain basket flange and strainer body before setting into the drain hole.
  • The tub shoe and drain tailpiece before attaching them.

The putty seals all joints and prevents standing water in the overflow from seeping below. It also blocks leaks between parts. Let the putty fully cure before filling the tub.

Quick Fixes and Repairs

In addition to installations, plumber’s putty is great for quick fixes around the house. Use it for:

  • Faucet leaks: Seal leaky faucet bases and stems. Apply putty around the base of spouts.
  • Sink drips: Fill holes or gaps around strainers, stoppers, and drain flanges.
  • Pipe threads: Seal threads on drain pipes, supply lines, and hoses. Prevent leaks at connections.
  • Toilet seals: Fill gaps around toilet bases and connections. Tighten flange bolts to compress the putty.

The versatility of plumber’s putty makes it a handy solution for all kinds of repairs. Keep some on hand for drips and leaks as they occur.

Tips for Working with Plumber’s Putty

Follow these tips to get the best results when using plumber’s putty:

  • Knead the putty before use to soften it and make it more malleable. This makes it easier to apply.
  • Press putty into gaps firmly to ensure it adheres and fills the entire space. Solid contact with surfaces is key.
  • Use sufficient putty to fill the channel fully. Too little putty can lead to leaks.
  • Strike off excess putty with a smooth, angled motion. Avoid leaving lumps, bumps, or uneven putty edges.
  • Let plumber’s putty cure fully before water pressure is applied. Do not retighten flange bolts while drying.
  • Apply putty carefully around stone surfaces. Immediately wipe away any excess and wash hands to prevent staining.
  • Consider epoxy putty for heavy fixtures like grab bars that require extra holding power.
  • Use acrylic caulk or silicone for gaps wider than 1/8″. Putty works best in thin spaces.

Taking a moment to properly work with and smooth plumber’s putty ensures you get a long-lasting, watertight seal.

Plumber’s Putty vs. Caulk

Plumber’s putty and caulk are both useful sealing products, but have different applications:

Plumber’s Putty

  • Fills narrow channels best
  • Stays malleable to fill gaps as they expand/contract
  • Safe for plastic and metal surfaces
  • Blocks water from penetrating surface pores
  • Easy to mold into place by hand


  • Works better for wider gaps and voids
  • Stays somewhat flexible when cured
  • Bonds well to porous surfaces
  • Some caulk is silicone-based for water resistance
  • Can be smoothed with a caulking tool

In general, use plumber’s putty between non-porous surfaces with small gaps. Use caulk for larger gaps and porous or irregular surfaces. However, there are always exceptions – choose the product right for your specific application.

Plumber’s Putty Removal and Cleanup

To remove plumber’s putty:

  • Allow the putty to fully cure first. Attempting to remove soft putty can damage surfaces.
  • Carefully slice into the putty with a utility knife. Try not to gouge the underlying surface.
  • Use a plastic putty knife to scrape away pieces little by little. Take care around soft metals and plastics.
  • For sinks, tubs, and fixtures, loosen flange bolts or mounting hardware before attempting removal.
  • Softened putty can be scraped away more easily. Let it soak with hot water to soften first if needed.
  • Avoid abrasive scouring pads and cleaners that can damage existing finishes.
  • Wipe away any putty residue with diluted vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Rinse surfaces thoroughly.

Plumber’s putty can be stubborn to remove fully once hardened. Work patiently with plastic tools to minimize damage. A heat gun can also help soften old putty for removal.

Safety Tips for Plumber’s Putty Usage

When working with plumber’s putty:

  • Read and follow all label directions carefully.
  • Apply in a well-ventilated area. Avoid breathing in vapors.
  • Wear gloves to protect hands and prevent skin irritation.
  • Carefully follow instructions when using epoxy putties and handling the components.
  • Keep putty away from children and pets while curing.
  • Dispose of excess plumber’s putty properly. Allow to fully harden first before throwing away.
  • Wash hands after use. Do not eat or touch eyes after touching putty.

While generally safe for intended use, work carefully when applying and removing plumber’s putty. Follow basic safety measures to prevent ingestion, skin exposure, or inhalation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Plumber’s Putty

Here are answers to some common questions about plumber’s putty:

How long does it take plumber’s putty to dry?

Plumber’s putty fully cures and dries in 12-24 hours. Drying time depends on temperature, humidity, ventilation, and putty thickness. The putty will get firm to the touch before fully hardening.

Can I use plumber’s putty on PVC or ABS plastic?

Yes, standard plumber’s putty bonds very well to plastics like PVC, ABS, and CPVC. It creates reliable seals on plastic sinks, drain pieces, and pipes.

Does plumber’s putty dry out over time?

Properly cured plumber’s putty creates a permanent, watertight seal that will not dry out or crack over time. The putty hardens once exposed to air and remains effective for years.

Can I use plumber’s putty on threads?

You can use plumber’s putty to help seal threaded fittings and connections. Apply a thin layer to pipe threads before assembling joints. The putty fills small voids and prevents leaks.

Is epoxy putty stronger than standard plumber’s putty?

Epoxy putties form stronger, heavily bonded seals than standard putties. The hardness of epoxy makes it more difficult to remove later. Use epoxy putty when creating permanent fixtures.

Does plumber’s putty go bad if not used?

If stored properly, plumber’s putty has a long shelf life and does not go bad. Keep the container sealed when not in use. Over time, unused putty may dry out slightly but can be re-kneaded.


Plumber’s putty is an indispensable tool for both installing fixtures and completing plumbing repairs. Learning proper putty use technique helps ensure you achieve durable, watertight seals. Pay attention to surface prep, proper application, and complete curing when working with putty. With practice, you can use plumber’s putty to expertly seal drains, faucets, and pipes like a professional.

How to Use Plumber’s Putty on a Tub Drain

Installing or replacing a bathtub drain is a common DIY plumbing task. Securing the drain assembly properly with plumber’s putty is crucial to preventing leaks under the tub. Follow these steps to learn how to use plumber’s putty on a bathtub drain correctly.

Prepare the Bathtub Surface

Before applying any putty, ensure the tub surface around the drain hole is clean. Remove any old putty or caulk remnants with a plastic putty knife. Give the surface a wipe with rubbing alcohol to remove soap residue. Lightly sand if needed to expose fresh material.

Check for any hairline cracks radiating from the drain hole. Use acrylic sealant to fill these fully before putting in new plumber’s putty.

Apply Putty to the Drain Parts

Form plumber’s putty into a rope approximately 1/2-inch thick. Press this firmly around the flange of the drain basket and adhere it to the strainer body, creating a ring.

Next, take another section of putty rope and press it onto the beveled end of the tub shoe. Wrap putty around the tailpiece thread section.

Cover all surfaces that will contact the tub, basket, and pipe.

Insert and Tighten the Drain

With putty in place, insert the drain down through the tub hole. Press down firmly to squash the putty into a tight seal around the drain flange.

Under the tub, slide the tub shoe into the drain basket, sandwiching putty in between. Tighten the slip nut coupling over the tailpiece.

Hand-tighten the nut first, then use tongue-and-groove pliers to tighten an additional 2/3 turn. Do not overtighten.

Smooth Away Excess Putty

Use a putty knife in a sweeping motion to strike off any excess putty squeezed out around the drain’s rim. Remove this completely to finish the seal.

Allow Time to Set

Leave the installed drain undisturbed for at least 8 to 12 hours for the putty to fully cure. Avoid filling the tub during this time. Once cured, the plumber’s putty will prevent any water leaking under the tub.

Be sure to follow any additional manufacturer instructions for installing the specific tub drain. Let the putty harden completely before use. With this technique, the plumber’s putty seals the drain assembly in place for years of leak-free baths.

How to Use Plumber’s Putty on Plastic

Plastics like PVC, ABS, and CPVC are common in drain lines, P-traps, sink basins, and other DIY plumbing projects. Plumber’s putty works great for sealing these plastic fixtures. Here is how to apply putty properly when working with different types of plastic.

Clean and Prepare the Plastic

Plumber’s putty will not adhere correctly to dirty or greasy surfaces. Start by washing the plastic with dish soap and warm water.

Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry with a clean cloth. Gently sand with