How to Properly Use Plumber's Putty

Replacing a kitchen sink faucet.
  • 2-4 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 5-20
What You'll Need
Damp and clean cloths
Plumber's putty
What You'll Need
Damp and clean cloths
Plumber's putty

As water leaks are the most common aspects of plumbing work, plumbers putty is one of the most vital items in a plumber's toolbox. Used in the installation of drain pipes, sinks, and valves, plumber's putty will ensure a watertight seal.

Providing that the putty is softened before use, it's incredibly flexible and pliant texture enables plumbers or DIY enthusiasts to apply the putty relatively easily. Plumbers putty is inexpensive, readily available from most hardware shops, and is a crucial asset in providing quality plumbing work.

Step 1 - Clean the Fittings

Before you start to use plumber's putty, always ensure you have wiped clean the area you are going to be working on with a clean, damp cloth. Tiny molecules of dirt and dust which are not visible to the human eye may result in irregular and potholed putty which may ultimately cause water to leak through the seal.

Step 2 - Apply Heat

Heat is the vital element needed for plumber's putty to work effectively. Trying to use the putty when it is too hard will prove an almost impossible task. Heat your hands on a radiator or rub them together and roll the substance in both hands for several minutes. Plumbers and DIYers who do not soften putty prior to use are faced with a much more difficult process.

Step 3 - Make a Snake Shape

Mold the plumber's putty, like you are molding modeling clay, into a long, thin snake shape which should be smooth and soft in texture. Try to roll the putty into the desired size needed to seal a fitting.

Step 4 - Apply the Plumber's Putty

Plumber's putty is used to create seals around faucets and drains. Gently ease the putty into a ring that matches the circumference of the drain or bottom of the faucet fixture. Fit the drain or fixture into its appropriate place, and this will ensure a watertight fit and limit the chances of having a leak.

You should never use plumber's putty to seal joints between threaded pipes, metal or plastic, or to cement together non-threaded plastic piping. Consider alternatives such as Teflon tape for sealing joints, or PVC primer and cement for attaching plastic pipes.

Step 5 - Wipe Off Excess Putty

When you apply the substance, excess putty will inevitably ooze out. It may sound obvious, but be sure to wipe off any excess plumber's putty with your second clean, damp cloth before the material actually dries. Leaving the excess putty to dry on a fitting will prove difficult to remove and if left unattended, it will not only look unsightly but it may also hamper the effectiveness and quality of the plumbing job.

Step 6 - Let the Putty Dry

Do not be over enthusiastic in trying out your plumbing work by running water before the plumber's putty is dry. By gently prodding the substance with your finger several hours after applying it, you can decide whether it is dry enough to be safe to use. Premature use may cause the seal to break and the whole process will have to be repeated.

Although plumber's putty is an effective, inexpensive, and easy way to install faucets and drains and seal leaks, it can cause a minimal amount of staining to surrounding areas like white cupboard fronts or drawers, so be careful to keep application under control. If you are worried about causing unsightly stains, silicone caulk can be used as an alternative to plumber's putty.