Subscribe or Renew Membership Subscribe Renew

I hate plumber's putty

TOOS's picture

I hate plumber's putty.  I've always hated it. It is worthy of hatred, because it is useless.  Now I am having problems, yet again, with it.  So I need advice.

As everyone knows, the putty has no internal cohesiveness; it breaks apart at the slightest pressure.  It has no adhesiveness, either; it stricks to nothing.  The dough I bake biscuits with has far greater strength and adhesivity.

So here is my sad story.  I replaced a pop-up in a bathroom sink.  The sink and top are a one-piece, cast fake marble.  The underside is slightly roughened but flat ceramic surface.  I used the PP between the chrome drain rim and the smooth upper surface of the sink.  On the underside, the top to bottom sequence was: sink---PP---rubber gasket that comes with pop-up---PP---hex nut that encircles the 1 1/4" drain tube.  The nut was snugged down carefully, but not overtightened.

Naturally, as soon as I turned on the water to test it, large quantities poured down from the junction of the gasket, the nut, and the sink underside, since of course the PP had disintegrated with light pressure.  This is typical of my previous experiences with this useless crap.

I'm looking for a decent substitute.  I don't want to use caulk because I doubt it could be removed in the future; but perhaps one of you knows of one that isn't too strong and can be peeled off in 10 years.  I have considered using pipe dope; the kind I use on threads is a paste with teflon powder mixed in, about the consistency of peanut butter.  It hardens only a little. 

 I have also thought about using Pliobond, an industrial adhesive made by Goodyear, which is extremely strong, extremely adhesive, remains flexible, is totally waterproof, but can be removed with lacquer thinner, acetone, or MEK.  Of course, to use those solvents, you'd first have to separate the pieces to allow the solvent to contact the glue, and this wouldn't be easy.

Before I re-invent the wheel, though, I thought I'd avail myself of some expert opinion. 



(post #102070, reply #1 of 15)

I've found that some caulks--like latex or acrylic (NOT SILICONE) will come apart with moderate pressure and a utility knife will help. That may work. Butyl will never harden and will work, but talk about a sticky mess! like tar.

Edited 9/6/2006 7:30 am ET by Danno

Edited 9/6/2006 7:32 am ET by Danno

(post #102070, reply #2 of 15)

I don't remember using plumber's putty on the bottom side of the sink next to the rubber gasket. Are you sure you need it there? Its been a while since I did this but I'd double check putting it there - might be your problem. I've only used it in the sink bowl between the popup and the sink bottom.

I feel for you though - somehow drain stuff is always the worst. You think its gonna work and then a drip manages to build up.

As for a substitute - you might try cutting a sheet of neoprene or if you want a caulk you might try windjammer or peel n seal which are used for windproofing windows during the winter season. They have high cohesion but low adhesion. Not sure if they are waterproof though - at least not over 10 years. I think both of those are hacks though. Sorry, no great ideas.

(post #102070, reply #4 of 15)

The undersurface of the sink is pretty rough--fissures and irregularities are about 1/16" variations.  That's why I figured I'd need some kind of goo to fill them in, rather than relying just on the gasket.  But you've given me a couple of ideas.  First, the gasket is a fairly stiff rubber.  Maybe something a little softer would help.  Secondly, I wonder if that stuff the roofers use to prevent ice dams might function like the windproofing stuff you suggested.  It comes in rolls and the bottom side has a strong adhesive.  And it is waterproof.  I can't think of its name right now, but maybe someone can comment on the idea and tell me the name, and whether I can buy a piece that is 2" x 2" and not have to buy a 50' roll.

(post #102070, reply #3 of 15)

The stuff we get here is a white putty, very firm in the tub and a little sticky.

When worked it softens and gets pliable.


I use it at the plug/sink joint and if there is an overflow in the sink......underneath at the nut/sink junction as well. I got caught by that the first time and couldnt work out why water was pouring out everywhere.


The stuff works great here. Lots of guys use sealant.


Not an exponent of the DILLIGAF system.


Not an exponent of the DILLIGAF system.

(post #102070, reply #5 of 15)

Don't use it on the bottom.

Remodeling Contractor just on the other side of the Glass City

Remodeling Contractor just on the other side of the Glass City

(post #102070, reply #6 of 15)

Are you sure theres not a problem with your sink?

Maybe you could hit the botton with a belt sander to give you a smoother surface for your rubber gasket.

I've always used plumbers putty in the application that you describe and have never had any problems. Now I dont do this all day like a plumber would but I'd bet I've done 100 or 2 in my days and I never have a leak from the top side, especially due to the plumbers putty not holding water.


(post #102070, reply #7 of 15)

toos, Marbelite, a cultured marble co. just north of here in Mi. includes a sticker on their tops.  DO NOT USE PLUMBERS PUTTY.  Use silicone.  Their reasoning is that over time the putty can bleed through into the surrounding area, staining and weakening the faux marble.  Same with Corian sinks.

I agree on checking the surface of the bottom of the sink.  There should be no need to use any sealant on the bottom.

A great place for Information, Comraderie, and a sucker punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.

Quittin' Time


A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


(post #102070, reply #13 of 15)

I, too, have never had a problem with plumber's putty.  You do have to work it between your hands and warm it up like to body temperature. 



-- J.S.




-- J.S.


(post #102070, reply #14 of 15)

Thanks for all the advice, guys.  I thought you'd like to know the end of the story.  I decided on using caulk, but didn't want to open a new tube of silicone caulk and use 1/4 oz. of the stuff.  So I used a substance I have used successfully before, a substance that looks like it's silicone but lacks that acetic acid smell and is both harder and tougher than the usual stuff that comes out of the tube: Shoe Goo.  It worked beautifully.  Of course, I did use plumber's putty in the usual place, beneath the drain flange.  I still hate the stuff.  BTW, this is brand-new putty, and it's just as weak and crumbly as it ever was.

(post #102070, reply #15 of 15)

I haven't seen this question asked nor any description of how you're preparing the putty but it sounds like that's your problem.  Putty straight from the tub is of no value.  But if you take a ball and knead it in your hands for a couple minutes breaking down all the granules etc, it becomes very pliant and does its job properly.  After I've done that, I'll roll it into a rope and press it into place then set the pop up.  This little detail makes a world of difference in how the stuff works.

(post #102070, reply #8 of 15)

There is a silicone grease especially for this purpose, to be found in any big box.

How can you understand God if you can't understand people?  How can you understand people if you can't understand yourself?

(post #102070, reply #9 of 15)

I agree with pretty much all of the above.

You shouldn't be needing the putty on the bottom of the sink. If the sink is too rough for the rubber, then sand it.

I cannot imagine how the roofer's ice and water shield product would be useful here.

Instead of the putty on the top, I often use Lexel. I can't vouch for ease of future removal. I bet it can be removed with a bit of cursing at me ("the bozo that put it on"), but in the meantime it works great!

In extreme duress, I suppose you could use Lexel on the bottom. I can't see myself ever doing that, but....

Rich Beckman

Another day, another tool.

(post #102070, reply #10 of 15)

First, I am not a plumber.  I do remodels/repair.  As others said you should not have to do anything to the bottom on the sink, but if it is that rough you can clean it up some.  If there are only minor inperfections I have used the teflon modified paste like White seal, Rectorseal, etc.  (pipe dope) to help seal it. As for the top here is another thread along those lines.

All the cultured marble ones I have seen (at least the quality ones) say to not use plumber's putty.  I like the product in the link above.  There should be no problem using silicone, I too like Lexel much better but woe be unto he who tries to take it apart later.

By the way you must not have had very fresh plumbers putty, usually it does not give up and crumble till after you leave and the customer has all their treasures under the sink.  I believe it has linseed oil in it and that is why it can stain Cult. marble and also why it dries out and crumbles over time.  All the putty or anything else does on top is keep the water in the sink, has nothing to do with leaks at the bottom.



For those who have fought for it Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.

(post #102070, reply #11 of 15)

I have used silicone to place strainers for years without failure. Let it squeeze out and wipe off the excess with alcohol on a rag.


(post #102070, reply #12 of 15)

Agree with a lot of the posts, plumbers putty should NOT be used on the underside of the sink. What I do with sinks or vanties is to use putty under the top side of the pop-up, on the underside I use plumbers dope around the rough surface at the bottom,[I started this many years ago when they deleted the smooth surface]. If you don't want to do it this way, use clear silicone, this most of the time pulls off if you have to work on it. BTW putty has been around a hundred years or so, it must be doing something right. Lots of luck.

"If all else fails, read the directions"