Alternatives To Plumber’s Putty: Getting Reliable Sealants For Your Plumbing Systems!

Are you looking for a more workable solution for plumbing fixes other than plumber putty? Try silicone caulk and say goodbye to the nuisance of handling plumber putty. The mentioned alternative is easy to install and works well to provide a water-tight seal that works on drains and other home applications. However, the silicone caulk tends to be harder than the plumber’s putty making it hard to remove. 

While other plumbers lean towards plumber’s putty, some find it difficult to work with it. Luckily, there are modern waterproof materials that work the same as or even better than the plumber’s putty. You only need to examine your needs and preference as each suits some applications better than the others.

For instance, silicone caulk is best when strength is needed though it might not last long as the plumbers putty. So, it is best to understand all the alternatives to plumber’s putty before deciding. Here is everything you need for effortless plumbing fixes. Read on!

Alternative To Plumber’s Putty

Silicone Caulk

Like the plumber’s putty, silicone caulk is a sealant used for plumbing fixes and sealing wooden marine ships. It is usually packed in a tube that can be squeezed out by hand or using a caulk gun. The caulk is a clear substance and stays the same for about an hour after squeezing it out. After that, it begins to dry out and become hard once it fully cures. However, it does not become so brittle to break and thus can serve for decades.

Unlike the plumber’s putty, the silicone caulk becomes so hard that its removal becomes a challenge.  This, however, is an advantage as the seal remains secure as nothing can break. Besides, the seal remains waterproof for a long.

Installing Silicone Caulk

Using the silicone caulk to seal the sink drain is quite effortless. The silicone is squeezed out onto the sink’s drain assembly underside or around the opening of the sink’s drain hole. Note that some silicone caulk may come out between the sink and the drain hole—this needs to be wiped out as soon as possible before it hardens. However, if it hardens before removal, you will have to buy a caulk softener solution to make it easy to remove. Once done, the drain will be securely sealed for the next 20 years.

Silicone VS. Plumbers’ Putty: What Is The Difference?

Silicone caulk can be used as an alternative to the plumber’s putty as they both keep the pipes and sinks connections sealed. So, anyone looking forward to doing a plumbing-related job should have either of the two as without which plumping cannot be successful. However, the silicone and plumber’s putty differ from each other, as explained below:


Plumbers putty has been in use for over five decades ago. If you check the installations made then, they are still intact 50 years down the line. This gives the plumbers putty an upper hand in terms of durability. The component uses linseed oil and high-calcite lime known to provide reliable sealing on plumbing fittings.

Contrary, silicone caulk tends to last for a maximum of 20 years. Even though it provides secure sealing, the caulk tends to wear or break down faster as it is harder than the plumber’s putty. However, that period is reasonable as the seal remain leak-proof, but not as long compared to its counterpart.


Plumbing systems need regular maintenance for it to function efficiently and effectively. This means using some of the products often. The plumber’s putty provides such a possibility as it can be applied and re-applied as much as fixing needs to be done.

In contrast, silicone cannot be re-applied as it hardens, making it difficult to modify or re-shape. Thus, a plumber’s putty makes maintenance easy, while silicon does not give you a chance for repair. Once the silicone seal cracks or breaks, you will need to remove completely to replace it.


Plumber’s putty is easy to install compared to silicone caulk. This is due to its softness that makes it easy to manage and apply in hard-to-reach places. However, it works best in sealing small places as it might not be reliable for big ones.

Conversely, silicone works best in large areas as it hardens well for secure sealing. Besides, it dries fast, making it more practical than putty that can take some time before it secures the connections.

Drying Time

Since the two components have a different chemical composition, the time it takes for them to dry differs. Silicone dries faster as it is made of synthetic polymers that contain oxygen and silicon. These components form a C-Si bond that must dry and does so faster than the putty—besides, a temperature of 40°F-100°F would speed up the process. You should also maintain a 95% humidity level for silicone to cure well. Otherwise, it takes only 24 hours for it to dry completely.

In contrast, the plumber’s putty is made of clays and oil components, resulting in an expandable texture. Thus, it does not need to dry for it to be useful. This makes it easy to re-shape, re-apply, or apply during maintenance. If, by chance, the putty dries, it becomes useless.

UV Exposure

Silicone is highly resistant to UV rays compared to the plumber’s putty. This is because silicone constitutes dimethyl siloxane that is more stable even when exposed to the sun. Silicone caulk is thus suitable in sealing exposed drains and pipes outdoors.

Plumber’s putty, on the other hand, can be damaged easily by UV rays, thus not recommended for it to be exposed to the sun. When exposed to the sun, the putty shrinks, and thus its flexible nature is damaged. As a result, the putty hardens, and this can lead to breakage of the seal. Thus, the plumber’s putty is not best for exposed areas.  


Some silicone caulks are toxic, depending on the chemical composition. You should always go for the safest type that is 100% pure to avoid serious issues such as asthma and cancer. On the contrary, plumber’s putty is safe as it is made of non-toxic substances such as limestone, linseed oil, and clay. However, it is good to check its purity before purchase as some manufacturers add extra chemicals as they try to improve its waterproofness.

Color And Odor

Silicone caulk comes in various color shade and thus can be chosen based on the color of fixtures. Plumbers putty, however, come in no color, making it invisible once applied. In terms of smell, the putty is neutral as the smell is not strong and can easily go unnoticed. Conversely, silicone smells bad, like old vinegar. Luckily, the smell tends to fade away after 2-3 days.


Plumbers putty is the best option if you are on a budget. Most are affordable and are easy to install. However, the putty cannot serve you well if working on a porous surface. Silicone, on the other hand, is more expensive but gives you the value of your money in the long run. This is because it offers reliable strength and adhesiveness that cannot be affected by the sun or water once it dries out. However, you will need a specialist to install caulk that can further add to the cost.

Summary Table Of Plumber’s Putty VS. Silicone Caulk

Plumbers PuttySilicone Caulk
Stays intact for a long timeMay break after some time
Easy to maintain systems that use plumber’s putty as the substance can be applied and re-applied with easeDifficult to maintain the systems that use silicon caulk as the substance cannot be re-applied unless the old is removed
Does not dry completely, and it case it does, it takes a long timeDries faster
Easily affected by the sun thus not good for exposed areasIt is not affected by the sun therefore good even for outdoor applications
Most are not toxicCan be toxic depending on the chemical used
Available in a neutral color and does not have a strong smellCome in 23 shades of colors with a strong smell that can last up to three days
Affordable and does not require professional for installationExpensive and may require professional help for installation

Why Can’t You Use Plumbers Putty On Plastic?

Plumbers putty is not good on plastic since it contains petroleum that causes chemical reactions. As a result, the plastic can degrade or break down easily within a short period. Even the most rigid plastics can become brittle when it comes in contact with plumbers putty. The effect is noticeable after a while as the tightly sealed fittings begin to loosen after some time.

In fact, the problem can become worse as the affected areas can crack, resulting in leaks and damage. Thus, it is recommended to use alternatives to plumbers putty, such as silicone caulk, as it works well to provide a secure seal on plastics.

Final Word

Whether to use the plumbers putty or its alternative depends on your needs and the projects being worked on. While plumbers putty works well on small areas not exposed, it is not good on plastics. You may decide to go for silicone caulk, the best alternative to plumber’s putty, proven to work on large and exposed areas to provide a secure seal.

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