Plumber's putty is a pliable substance used to create watertight seals around faucets and drains. The putty is considered one of the basic plumber tools and is often used any time plumbing fixtures are replaced. Plumber's putty should not be confused with Teflon® tape, which is used to seal pipe joints that are threaded.
Different brands of putty often contain different ingredients. Many products make use of some type of clay as a base ingredient. Linseed oil is also a common additive. Other formulas include limestone, a blend of fish oils, or talc.
Plumber's putty is used primarily during the installation of faucets and drains. The putty remains soft for a long time, making it a good choice for situations where a watertight, but reversible, seal is preferred. A bead of putty can be placed around the base of a faucet before it is attached to the sink, and the excess wiped off. The putty will seal the join between the two, preventing water from seeping in.
Along with creating a seal for faucets and drains, this putty is also sometimes used in the installation of sinks. A line of putty is applied to the area surrounding the insert for the body of the sink. The lip of the sink rests of the edges of the insert after the sink is slipped into place. By adhering sinks with plumber's putty, it is possible to create a tight bond between the counter top and the sink that will prevent any water seeping into the area directly under the counter. Not all plumbers recommend using putty to seal a sink, however, suggesting that it does not provide a secure enough seal.
Plumber's putty remains soft and pliable for a relatively long period of time, so it should not be used to seal pipes or fixtures that will be under pressure from water. In such cases, the seal will not hold. Pipes should be sealed using Teflon® tape or a liquid pipe compound. In some cases, the putty can stain the material the sink is made out of; in such instances, silicon caulk may be a better option.
Considered one of the essential plumbing supplies for professional plumbers as well as homeowners working on a do-it-yourself bathroom or kitchen project, plumber’s putty can be purchased a hardware stores, home stores, and any discount retail store where plumbing supplies are sold. The putty is relatively inexpensive and will enhance the quality of the plumbing work while cutting down on the potential for leaks.