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What is Plumbers Putty and What Does It Do? A Handy Guide for DIYers

If you’ve ever peeked under your kitchen or bathroom sink, you’ve likely seen some gray, clay-like material sealing joints and connections. This substance has an important purpose – preventing leaks from those critical plumbing fixtures. Chances are, it’s a product called plumber’s putty. But what exactly is this stuff, and what does plumbers putty do when applied properly?

In this guide, we’ll explore everything homeowners need to know about this versatile plumbing product. You’ll learn what plumber’s putty is made of, what its core functions are, where to use it, application tips, how long it lasts, and most importantly – is plumbers putty is waterproof enough for water-exposed areas. Let’s dive in.

What Is Plumber’s Putty Made Of?

Plumber’s putty is a simple paste-like product used to create watertight seals around faucets, sinks, drains, and other plumbing fixtures. The base consists of linseed oil blended with chalk and clay. This forms an inexpensive, pliable material that provides an airtight barrier when pressed firmly into gaps.

Some common ingredients in standard plumbers putty include:

  • Linseed Oil – Adds flexibility and adhesion
  • Calcium Carbonate – Chalk and limestone for firmness
  • Clay – Provides structure and density
  • Titanium Dioxide – Adjusts color
  • Mineral Spirits – Changes viscosity and stickiness

The result is an affordable, clay-like adhesive compound. It remains workable and soft, unlike caulking which hardens. The putty is moldable and won’t crack or dry out. You can stretch it into long “ropes” and press it into place for a tight seal. And it sticks to itself, enabling repairs if the seal breaks loose over time.

What Does Plumbers Putty Do? The Core Functions

Now that you know what it’s made of, what does plumbers putty actually do once applied? What are its core functionality and purpose? There are two main jobs performed by plumbers putty:

  • Create Watertight Seals First and foremost, plumbers putty provides a complete water barrier. It blocks leakage between joints, seams, and openings exposed to moisture. Sinks, faucets, strainers, and drains all see plenty of water – putty guards against both leaks and drips.
  • Fill Gaps and Holes
    The putty also works as a flexible filler for cracks and spaces. It molds into uneven crevices between fixtures and countertops. The seals contract and expand as pipes shift. This prevents weak points vulnerable to leaks.

So in summary, plumber’s putty acts as both a sealant and a caulking agent – protecting against water penetration while adapting to subtle surface changes over time.

Where Do You Use Plumbers Putty In The Home?

Plumbers putty truly shines around any fixtures dealing with water flow and drainage. Check under sinks for evidence of this versatile clay compound at work. Applications seen in most households include:

  • Kitchen Sinks – Used beneath faucets & strainers to prevent drips.
  • Bathroom Sink Drains – Prevents water from leaking down the overflow.
  • Bathtub and Shower Plumbing – Applied to pipe connections & fixtures.
  • Toilets – Create a seal between the tank and bowl and around the floor flange.
  • Outdoor Faucets – Protects against rain & sprinkler water leaks.

Essentially, Plumbers Putty provides insurance against leakage at key water contact points. Any joint or seam with water exposure is an ideal spot for the malleable, adhesive material during installation and maintenance.

Tips for Applying Plumbers Putty

Installing fixtures sealed up with plumber’s putty is an easy DIY project. But a few simple tips will ensure you get a tight, long-lasting seal:

  • Knead and Stretch – Soften the putty first and stretch it into lengthy “ropes” for more control pressing it evenly into place.
  • Use Pressure – Once positioned, press very firmly for several seconds to squash it tightly and ensure full contact.
  • Seal The Edges – First seal the outer sides, then fill in the middle area afterward for complete coverage.
  • Wait Before Water Exposure – Give the putty at least 8 to 24 hours for the adhesive seal to fully set before reintroducing water.
  • Remove Old Putty – Always scrape off all old, loose putty residues that compromise the new seal.

Follow those guidelines, and even first-timers find it easy to achieve reliable, leak-free bonds with this versatile plumbing product.

How Long Does Plumbers Putty Last?

When pressed securely into cracks and gaps, plumbers putty remains remarkably durable over years of use. The exact lifespan varies based on several factors:

  • Surface Porosity – Last longer on smooth, non-porous surfaces like metal pipes versus rough, porous sinks.
  • Initial Drying Time – Allowing 24 hours initially to fully cure provides greater longevity.
  • Water Flow Rate – High pressure and volume shorten lifespans faster from erosion.
  • Pipe Movement – Excessive vibrations and shifting can loosen seals quickly.

Under typical household plumbing conditions, plumbers putty stays intact for between 4-8 years on average. However by following best practices during application, seals lasting 10-15 years are certainly achievable.

Regular inspections under sinks every couple of years allow for catching any putty issues before leaks occur. Simply patching small gaps or reapplying fresh putty maintains your plumbing joints for the long run.

The Key Question: Is Plumbers Putty Waterproof?

We’ve covered what this versatile adhesive sealant is made of, its handy applications around sinks and drains, plus how long it lasts. Now for the big question, many homeowners have: is plumbers putty waterproof enough for prolonged wet conditions?

The answer is a qualified yes – plumbers putty provides extremely water-resistant seals when applied correctly. The oil and clay base resists saturation and degradation far better than paper, cardboard, or even some light wood materials. It stands up well to regular water contact, unlike some temporary sealants lacking long-term waterproof abilities.

However – plumbers putty is not on par with specialty waterproof caulking such as silicone. While fine for typical household plumbing tasks, the putty retains some minor water absorption and porosity over time. In particular, soaps and cleansers can slowly erode certain putty seals.

Bottom line – plumbers putty works extremely well sealing average fixture usage in kitchens, baths, and utility wet areas. But for permanent immersion applications like aquariums or pools, opt for top-performance silicone instead.

Choosing the Best Plumbers Putty

For such a simple product, you’ll find plumbers putty available from multiple brands in several grades. What’s the best choice?

Look for putty meeting these criteria:

  • Meets Local Building Codes – Ensure any required certifications for legal compliance.
  • Contains No Solvents – Solvent-free putty works well and avoids annoying odors.
  • Easy To Mold – Softer putty kneads and presses into place with minimal effort.
  • Sticks To Itself – The putty should bond together easily for repairs later on.
  • Provides Adequate Dry Time – Fast initial set, but allows 1-2 days for full curing strength.

Top products like Oatey and Blue Monster brand meet those quality benchmarks above through compositions perfected over decades supplying professional plumbers. These putties mold easily by hand into any shape needed to span joints prone to dripping. They grip tenaciously for reliable seals lasting for years before renewal is necessary. Though always exercise common sense and never take advertising claims as an absolute guarantee.


From its flexibility in sealing gaps of any shape or size to its molded conformity filling uneven joints, plumbers putty handles home plumbing tasks that could trip up lesser products. Molding it into long strips allows you to fully seal hard-to-reach joints. And unlike caulking compounds that harden fast, plumbers putty remains pliable for later adjustments if necessary.

For everyday household plumbing needs, this traditional adhesive sealant is incredibly useful, especially for addressing common drips and leaks found beneath sinks. However, it might not be suitable for highly critical applications requiring absolute waterproofing strength. For professional assistance in Rockford, consider reaching out to a reliable plumber in Rockford to handle those tougher tasks.

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