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Can Plumbers Putty Plug a Leak? Using Plumbers Putty to Prevent Leaks

Leaking pipes, faucets, and drains can cause water damage and drive up utility bills. Before calling a plumber, you may want to try sealing small leaks yourself with an easy-to-use putty. Plumber’s putty creates watertight seals to stop annoying drips and prevent more extensive repairs down the road.

What Is Plumber’s Putty?

Plumber’s putty is a very soft, pliable sealing compound made of chalk and linseed oil. It remains malleable and workable over time so it can flex as pipes and fittings shift. Brands like Oatey sell plumber’s putty designed for general plumbing applications like setting faucets, sink strainers, and tub drains. Specialty putties like Oatey’s Stain Free formula resist discoloring marble and stone surfaces.

Comparing Putty and Caulking

Though their names sound alike, putty and caulk serve different sealing purposes. Silicone and latex caulking adhere surfaces together with flexible, waterproof bonds. Caulks bond strongly and solidify, while non-adhesive putty remains pliable. Plumber’s putty lacks caulk’s adhesive properties but conforms to irregular gaps and surfaces. Both have pros and cons for home plumbing repairs.

When to Use Plumber’s Putty

Sealing stationary non-plastic fixtures

Because putty remains flexible rather than drying rigid, it works well on joints between metal sink drain baskets and countertops that shift slightly as weight and temperature changes cause expansion and contraction.

Quick temporary seals

Plumber’s putty offers an air- and water-tight seal effective for short periods. It buys time to schedule permanent caulking repairs.

Irregular gaps

Malleable, non-hardening putty conforms to uneven openings like old or damaged sink flanges better than caulk.

When Not to Use Plumber’s Putty

Plastic surfaces: Oil-based putty can interact with plastics like PVC pipes, acrylic sinks, and fiberglass tubs. Using putty risks permanently staining or damaging these surfaces.

Pressurized systems: While fine for sealing drains and supply lines under static pressure, putty cannot withstand the continuous high water pressures in house supply plumbing.

Permanent waterproof bonds: Caulking offers superior adhesion and water resistance once cured. For sealing countertops, fixtures, windows, and doors that will contact moisture continually, use caulk.

Tips for Applying Plumber’s Putty

Workability and easy water clean-up make oil-based putty straightforward to apply, but following best practices ensures reliable seals:

  • Ensure surfaces are clean and dry first to maximize adhesion
  • Knead a thumb-sized ball until pliable then flatten it into a “snake” and press into gaps
  • Wrap complete 12mm diameter beads without gaps around drains and fixtures
  • Blend and smooth the ends together for uniform seals
  • Tighten drains immediately while putty remains workable
  • Wait 15-30 minutes then wipe away any excess squeezed out during tightening
  • Leave the original seal intact until replacing a drain or fixture

Maintaining tight surface joins ensures the lasting effectiveness of plumber’s putty over the years. Should leaks resurface, reapply using fresh putty for repairs. Over time, its effectiveness diminishes due to drying and compression. Opt for small, sealed containers to keep the putty workable, unlike bulky tubs that dry out on the outer layers. For top-notch performance, always utilize fresh plumber’s putty sourced from sealed containers, especially when seeking a plumber in Rockford.

Watch Out for Potential Plumber’s Putty Issues

Oil-based putty offers leak protection in many situations but exhibits some inherent drawbacks to bear in mind:

  • Dirt pickup can detract from the appearance around sinks and tubs
  • Oil staining can occur on porous natural stone surfaces like marble and granite
  • Brittleness develops as linseed oil components dry out over 1-2 years
  • Oils may transmit taste/odors or promote bacteria in food preparation applications
  • Adjusting technique boosts success and avoids headaches:
  • Carefully wipe away all excess putty with a clean rag after installing fixtures
  • Consider tub/tile caulk or silicone for better appearance and sanitation

With proper precautions taken, handy homeowners can tackle many plumbing hassles on their own without a costly plumber visit. Armed with a basic knowledge of where and when to utilize plumber’s putty, you can seal leaks efficiently as they occur. Pay attention to details like tightly sealing containers and removing every trace of excess putty after fixture installation, and this useful adhesive should protect pipes and brighten bathrooms for years before needing replacement.


Will plumbers’ putty stop leaks?

Yes, a plumber’s putty creates an airtight, watertight seal ideal for stopping small leaks around sinks, tubs, showers, and other fixtures. It remains flexible to seal gaps as surfaces shift.

How do I use a plumber’s putty?

Knead plumber’s putty until soft and moldable. Roll it into a rope and press into the gap needing sealing. Seal fixtures immediately before excess putty is wiped away with a rag about 30 minutes later once set.

How waterproof is plumbers putty?

While not waterproof itself, the plumber’s putty blocks water effectively when sealing non-moving joints and fixtures. It is suitable for use on drains and supply lines under static pressure, but cannot withstand continuous high water pressure.

How long does the plumber’s putty need to set?

There is no exact cure time, but a plumber’s putty sets to an effective putty-like consistency in around 15-30 minutes. Surfaces can be wiped down to remove excess putty after this time. The seal remains somewhat pliable indefinitely.


Before considering a costly plumbing service in Rockford for extensive overhauls, leverage the versatility of plumber’s putty for swift fixes on minor household leaks. This solution swiftly seals drains, faucets, and fixtures, especially those with irregular gaps that standard caulking cannot effectively mend. It’s crucial to prep meticulously—thoroughly knead the putty and meticulously wipe away any excess. This method can effectively stave off ongoing water damage for months, even years.

While not a miraculous fix for all issues, having plumber’s putty readily available allows for rapid response to drips and trickles as they surface, offering a temporary solution that buys time for more comprehensive repairs later on. At the cost of a tube or tub, this putty serves as an economical option, providing leak protection for budget-conscious homeowners in Rockford, giving a temporary solution for plumbing issues.

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