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How to Apply Plumber’s Putty to a Kitchen Sink Drain

If you’ve noticed water slowly seeping from where your kitchen sink drain meets the sink itself, this likely indicates that the plumber’s putty seal needs replacing. Thankfully, armed with a few basic tools and materials, reapplying plumbers putty is an easy DIY job that can prevent minor leaks from becoming major headaches down the road.

In this comprehensive guide, discover the importance of utilizing a plumber’s putty in various plumbing services. Gain insights into the necessary supplies, techniques, and the significance of applying new putty around a sink drain to ensure a durable, watertight seal. For expert plumbing service in Rockford, follow these step-by-step instructions to achieve a lasting and reliable solution for your plumbing needs.

When is Plumber’s Putty Application Needed?

Plumbers putty serves as an inexpensive, temporary sealant that conforms to uneven surfaces between drain strainers or fixtures and sink basins. It is commonly used when installing new drains or repairing leaks in existing strainer assemblies.

Over time, the putty can dry out or crack, allowing water to seep through. Typical signs include moisture gathering around the drain basket and under the sink, slow drips from the drain pipe connections, softened or damaged putty, and visible gaps between the fixture and sink.

Reapplying plumbers putty can serve as a temporary fix until you’re ready for a more permanent solution like replacing old piping or sinks. It also buys time to schedule repairs that require a professional plumber for extensive fixtures or piping replacement.

Before starting any emergency plumbing project, remember to turn off the main water supply leading to your kitchen sink so no water is entering the drain system.

Supplies You’ll Need

  • Plumber’s putty
  • Pipe wrench
  • Bucket
  • Putty knife
  • Clean rags or cloth
  • Pliers

Step 1: Turn Off the Water Supply Lines
Before removing any pipes or drain baskets, locate the shut-off valves controlling water flow to your kitchen sink. They are typically under the sink or near the water meter. Turn the hot and cold water valves clockwise all the way until tight to prevent water from entering during repairs.

Step 2: Disassemble the Drain Piping Underneath With the water off, you can begin disassembling the drain pipe parts to access the area needing fresh putty. Start by loosening the pipes leading from the sink tailpiece, using a bucket to catch any leftover water.

Use a pipe wrench to carefully separate the slip-nut connections of the curved P-pipe sections from the sink strainer and tailpiece. Remove other connectors leading toward the main drain line one section at a time until you reach the area where the leakage is located.

Step 3: Detach Strainer from Sink The strainer itself will either thread onto a drain pipe flange or sit in a friction-fit gasket inside the sink hole. For threaded connections, insert the putty knife edge into the gap between the sink basin and the strainer basket. Twist gently to break the putty seal.

Use pliers to finish unscrewing the basket counter-clockwise and set aside. Lift friction-fit baskets directly out of the hole. Inspect the empty sink basin for any old putty residue or damage requiring repairs.

Step 4: Knead Plumber’s Putty Till Soft While sinks manufactured from enameled cast iron or porcelain can last for decades, their mounting holes are rarely perfectly smooth or even. This allows small gaps for water to seep through around drains over time.

Plumber’s putty is designed to seal these irregularities via its malleable, clay-like properties when warmed. Take a portion of fresh putty and knead between hands until soft and pliable.

Step 5: Roll Putty into Snake and apply to Drain Underside Once malleable, roll the putty out into a “snake” approximately 1/4″ thick. Wrap this firmly around the basin-contacting lip of the threaded drain basket or gasket-style flange. Press putty over any small holes and create a smooth, adjoining surface sealing the entire underside.

Step 6: Set Basket Back & Tighten With fresh putty applied, simply set the basket back into the sink drain hole so the putty makes contact all the way around. If using a friction-fit gasket, firmly press the basket down into the place where it seals against the sink bottom.

For threaded connections, reach below with one hand to start the drain thread clockwise. Use the pliers above to tighten down, smushing the putty into all gaps until the basket sits flush with the sink basin.

Step 7: Reconnect Pipes & Restore Water Once the basket is re-seated, rebuild the curved P-pipe assembly leading to the drainage system. Hand-tighten any slip nuts before finishing with your pipe wrench. Remove the bucket and turn the main water valves back on slowly.

Check for leaks as water begins to fill pipes. Tighten slip nuts further if necessary. Run water and test sink functioning before excess putty fully hardens.

Step 8: Allow Putty to Dry Completely
While the plumber’s putty provides an immediate seal, full drying is still required to set the clay-like material firmly in place. Drying time can vary based on humidity, putty composition, and thickness applied. Review manufacturer guidance, and avoid submerging, over-torquing, or bumping joints before putty fully hardens.

A Note on Plumber’s Putty Duration

How long does plumber putty last? When applied correctly around 1/8” thick, high-quality plumber’s putty should seal drains 6 months to a year before drying, cracking, and necessitating replacement. Harsh cleaners and extreme temperatures can shorten lifespans.

While helpful for quick fixes, frequent putty changes indicate larger issues needing attention like corroded sink basins or damaged piping. Consider proactive replacements if you find yourself reapplying putty more than once annually. Investing in higher quality sinks and fixtures can minimize leaks for decades versus cheap alternatives.

In the end, applying a touch of plumber’s putty and periodic maintenance work wonders in averting water damage, ensuring a durable kitchen. Follow these simple steps for application, allow proper drying time, and enjoy a leak-free experience until your next checkup. For reliable assistance, consider hiring skilled plumbers in Rockford to maintain your kitchen’s functionality.


How do you use plumbers putty on a sink?

To use plumbers putty on a sink, first turn off the water supply and remove the pipes, drain basket/strainer, and any old putty residue from the sink. Knead some new putty until soft, roll it into a snake about 1/4″ thick, and firmly wrap it around the bottom of the drain basket/strainer. Set the basket back into the sink drain hole so the fresh putty seals the gaps. Reconnect pipes, turn the water back on and allow the putty to completely dry and harden per manufacturer instructions.

Do I use plumbers putty on the kitchen faucet?

Plumbers putty can help provide a good seal between a sink deck or countertop and a kitchen faucet base to prevent leaks. After setting the faucet and fixtures in place, roll the putty into a snake and press it firmly around the faucet sockets and between the faucet base and sink surface. Allow to fully dry.

Does plumbers putty need to dry?

Yes, plumbers putty needs time to dry and set completely after application to attain full sealing performance. Drying times vary based on environmental factors and putty thicknesses applied, so always check manufacturer guidance. Avoid submerging, over-tightening, or disturbing fresh putty joints before the putty has hardened fully.

Will plumbers putty hold a sink in place?

No, plumbers’ putty alone should not be relied on to hold a sink permanently in place against sinks or walls. Supplemental fasteners and hardware specifically made for supporting sink fixtures should be used together with putty to securely anchor basins. The putty instead helps create watertight seals between sink drain components.

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