Many plumbing projects list plumber’s putty as a necessary material. Unfortunately, unless you’re a plumber or an avid DIYer with a closet full of plumbing materials, you might not have plumber’s putty on hand.
Now, you’re partway through your faucet installation and just now notice that the directions explicitly state “plumber’s putty.” And yes, you could go to the store, but you were hoping to get this done without another trip to town.
So, you may be wondering: do I really need to use plumber’s putty, or can I get away without using it? Well, the answer to the all-important question depends on what you’re doing. Continue reading to find out if your project actually requires plumber’s putty.
Is Plumber’s Putty Necessary?
Technically, this question has two answers: yes and no. If you’re installing a faucet, it may be necessary, but you also might not need it. The reason being is that some faucets come with a rubber or plastic gasket or trim ring near the faucet deck plate that fits over the faucet holes in the sink. In that case, plumber’s putty isn’t completely necessary but doesn’t hurt.
Now, if your new faucet didn’t come with a handy-dandy little rubber gasket, plumber’s putty is your best bet. It’ll help create a watertight seal around the base of your faucet, helping to ward off any unwanted leaks. While you could skip it and take your chances, you might as well get it done right the first time.
So, if you’re headed to the store for supplies, perhaps a basin wrench (great for installing faucets), grab some plumber’s putty while you’re there. Then, the steps in your installation process will be that much easier.
How To Use Plumber’s Putty
Plumber’s putty is like grown-up play-doh. It has a very similar consistency, which makes it easy to work with. For this part of your project, here’s what you’ll need:
- Plumber’s putty
- Damp rag
- Dry towel
- Plumber’s putty knife
Before you prepare the putty, clean the area to which you’re applying it. Make sure the surface is dry. If it’s not, dry it with a clean rag or towel.
Start with a decent amount of putty. Roll it around in your hands to warm it up, then begin to roll it into a snake-like shape, making it as long as you need. Then, lay the putty into place where the seal will be. Press it into place until it adheres to the surface.
Use the putty knife to scrape away excess putty, and then you’re all set.
How Long Should You Let Plumber’s Putty Set?
Contrary to the common belief that plumber’s putty requires time to set, it actually won’t dry like you think it will. Many people wonder how long they need to wait for their putty seal to dry. You’re going to have to wait a long time if you want it to be dry. It doesn’t really set like glue or caulk.
So, once your seal is complete, the faucet should be ready to use, providing you’re done with everything else.
Is It Better To Use Silicone Caulk Or Plumber’s Putty?
Silicone caulk and plumber’s putty are variations of sealing compounds that are commonly used to provide a watertight seal for sink drains, showers, faucets, and fittings. They’re both great for sealing various plumbing projects.
Plumber’s putty is easier to work with, as it stays malleable. If the placement is off, all you need to do is pull it off and reapply it. It’ll last for a long time and is easy to remove when you’re removing whatever it’s sealing off.
However, it isn’t an adhesive and won’t fix cracks or hold parts together. Additionally, you’re going to have a tough time getting it to fixate onto a surface where gravity isn’t in your favor. It’s also not the best choice if you need to seal off a large area.
On the other hand, silicone caulk is excellent for larger areas. It can be used as an adhesive and is often used to fill breaks or splits. It hardens considerably as it dries and isn’t prone to cracking or breakage.
Silicone caulk can be tough to remove. You’ll need some sort of scraping tool to remove all of the little bits of it, which you’ll need to do if you want to get a good seal on the replacement fixture. Once it’s applied, it isn’t easy to manipulate, so you need to get it right the first time.
What Can Be Used Instead Of Plumber’s Putty?
You have a few other options if you don’t have plumber’s putty. So, before you wander off to the store, check in your cabinet for these alternative materials.
- Silicone: We mentioned this one in our answer to the last question. If you don’t have plumber’s putty, give this one a go.
- Adhesive: You can buy various types of adhesives that will create a watertight seal. They are great for using on plastic instead of plumber’s putty, which doesn’t stick well. However, it takes a while to dry, so keep that in mind.
- Aquarium putty: While it may not seem like a suitable choice, aquarium putty is excellent for plumbing. It’ll still create a watertight seal and can handle up to 1000 PSI of water pressure. It does take about 25 minutes to an hour to cure.
- Plumber’s chalk: This is one of the best alternatives to plumber’s putty. Plumber’s chalk is weather-resistant and water-resistant and is easy to use in various scenarios. Additionally, it’s easy to apply and is resistant to mold and mildew.
Can You Use Too Much Plumber’s Putty?
Yes, technically, you can use too much plumber’s putty. However, it should be pretty evident that you’ve gone a little overboard. No worries, though. If you used too much, peel it off and start again or scrape away some of the excess with a putty knife.
Is Plumber’s Putty Safe For Drinking Water?
The answer to this question depends on the particular putty in question. If you’re wondering whether your plumber’s putty is safe for drinking water, check the label. It’s safe for drinking water if it explicitly has NSF certification. If it doesn’t, and you need it for an area that will come into contact with drinking water, you probably shouldn’t use it.