Plumbers putty? Overrated?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by edwardh3, Jan 8, 2008.

  1. edwardh3

    edwardh3 New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Location:
    South Carolina
    With the arrival of other sealants, is the recommendation to use plumbers putty overrated?
    seems to me (limited knowledge) that it is hard to work with, no adhesion, drys out and cracks molds etc

    like for sink bowl drain fittings
  2. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    In the rare occasion a washer was missing, putty saved the day.
    It hardens to a degree over time, but it's oil based, so never actually does dry.
    MFG's are forever attempting to appeal to anyone looking for an easier, faster, better way.
  3. Herk

    Herk Plumber

    Messages:
    547
    Location:
    S.E. Idaho
    Putty still has its place. But that place is not plastic sinks, plastic fittings, or pipe threads. Faucets are no longer designed to use putty - most have plastic bases and sometimes plastic bodies that will be eaten away. But the washer/putty system is still fine on cast iron sinks, stainless sinks, composite sinks.
  4. SteveW

    SteveW DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,053
    Location:
    Omaha, NE
    Another place to avoid putty is in Corian sinks - will stain them. The manufacturer specifies silicone caulk for setting the drain.
  5. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    Marble is rubbush with it too.
  6. construct30

    construct30 New Member

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    590
    Location:
    NorthWest PA
    Most modern plumbers putty say they are OK to use with plasic and won't stain, but they are all mostly water soluble. They washout if you use too much in kitchen sink strainers or other applications. I hardly ever use the stuff any more, use 100% silicone, it will work better and not break the plastic nuts and parts trying to mash it down, however clean up can be a bear.
  7. davefoc

    davefoc New Member

    Messages:
    25
    Location:
    California
    I'm not a plumber, but I follow various plumbing forums a bit and have installed quite a few faucets and sinks for a non-professional.

    This issue is a bit more controversial than the postings have suggested so far.

    A lot of plumbers seem to take a very dim view of using silicone in place of putty for sink drains. Also I have never seen faucet or drain installation instructions that specify anything else besides putty.

    I followed that advice for many years, but a few years ago I found people advocating silicone for those applications on the internet. That gave me enough encouragement to try it. I have had zero failures with silicone in bathroom or kitchen sinks since. I had several with putty. In the units I maintain I have two kinds of sinks that I think are problematic for putty, thin stainless steel and porcelain bathroom sinks. The stainless steel can be bent a bit as the drain is tightened and this can lead to a leak as the putty is distorted by the slightly bent stainless steel.

    However, I have been told by a plumber that he never has had any failures with properly applied putty and I tend to believe that with his superior technique this may be true. But silicone caulk does seem to require less technique for a reliable application and I'm not sure what the disadvantage is.
  8. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    If you think SS basins bend with applying putty...try removing a strainer set in silicone.
    I can see other arguments for not using putty, but bending a SS basin isn't the best I can think of...you'd have to be cranking it with a pipe wrench!
  9. davefoc

    davefoc New Member

    Messages:
    25
    Location:
    California
    You are right and the word bend wasn't quite right. I have had trouble with getting a good seal on the sinks with plumber's putty and I'm not quite sure why. The sinks are old and the openings are no longer perfect and maybe my technique was bad.

    And a small confession. I have never had to remove a drain that has been silicone caulked into place. Maybe that's a big drawback.
  10. construct30

    construct30 New Member

    Messages:
    590
    Location:
    NorthWest PA
    Siliconed drains come right out as easy as putty. The cleanup of excess caulk is the draw back. One guy I knew said caulk didn't work, he was using tub caulk, not 100% silicone.

    I had a problem with the last SS sink drain I put in using putty, I went back to install a disposal and I noticed the drains had been leaking. When I removed the baskets the putty I put in six months earlier was gone. The drain was loose and the gasket on the bottom couldn't work. I never used putty again. The problem, I think was a cheap box store basket that was wavy. The silicone I put in there worked.

    The problem may not really be with the putty so much as the cheap foriegn made parts with too much space. The silicone solves the problem so I use it. I used putty for 10 years without issue then all of a sudden several failures. I don't know the reason, but silicone solved the problem.
  11. Cass

    Cass Plumber

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    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    I only use silicone when the product says not to use putty.

    Most putty problems are from using to much.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2008
  12. construct30

    construct30 New Member

    Messages:
    590
    Location:
    NorthWest PA
    I believe you are correct, but there was a time when I could use tephlon paste alone and never have a leak, or tape. Now the "junk" that most everyone is selling and everyone has to buy won't let you do that.

    I used to put a drain in a stainless steel sink and it fit perfect. I don't think I would have needed anything to keep it from leaking. Same with threaded pipe, now the baskets are wavy and the sink has a flange that looks like some kid making 50 cents a day beat it out on a rock with another rock.

    The silicone fills all the voids and doesn't wash out, so I use it. Like I said I used to use putty for everthing you could too, never had a problem, now I do. I haven't changed how I do it, the putty has changed and so has the fit of the fittings, which is to blame, maybe both, maybe me, I'm just getting older and tired.
  13. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    I haven't run into any as wavy as you are describing but if I did I wouldn't use them with silicone or other wise.
  14. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    drains

    now the baskets are wavy and the sink has a flange that looks like some kid making 50 cents a day beat it out on a rock with another rock

    Maybe you should be buying better quality materials, instead of out of the "seconds" bin. Anything that bad is going to fail regardless or how you install it.
  15. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

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    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I have never seen a properly installed good quality sink drain that was done with plumbers putty leak. If your installing junk drains then by all means you better glue them in with Silicone RTV.

    For sinks that will stain with oil base plumbers putty here is the solution.http://www.herchem.com/products/putty_epoxy.html

    [​IMG]
  16. TMB9862

    TMB9862 New Member

    Messages:
    206
    You beat me to it, I've used that on marble with no problems thus far. Silicon is a last resort.
  17. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    Redwood, my thoughts exactly.


    Marlin, for the most part finished marble "should" be safe...but if there's any imperfection, the oils from the putty seep into the marble grains and it ain't good.
  18. TMB9862

    TMB9862 New Member

    Messages:
    206
    The stuff I was talking about isn't regular putty. It's advertised as safe for porous surfaces. As soon as it stains something they're going to be getting a nasty letter from me but thankfully it hasn't happened yet.
  19. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    I'd hesitate to take that chance...though I'm sure the MFG would bear financial responsibility, I'd be leary if anything went wrong.
    It amounts to a notch against you in the word of mouth game.

  20. Is this the stuff that is pliable like marshmellows? I've been buying that garbage from HD made by harvey's....stuff is always hard to work with.



    I never read the destructions but I've been using silicone more than ever.

    I still putty stainless to stainless for some reason, don't know why on basket strainers.

    Pop-up assemblies I use silicone almost religiously now.
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