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Plumbers Putty Vs Silicone: Difference & Benefits

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Do-it-yourselfers often do not know the primary differences between plumber’s putty vs silicone, two of the materials most frequently used in plumbing. It is crucial to identify when to use each method – knowing this will allow you to get the most efficient repair or installation possible.

So what is the main difference between the two?

Plumbers putty is a go-to for many repairmen because it is easy to work with and can take on any shape. It’s perfect for tasks like sealing up sink strainer baskets, drains, faucets, pop-up drains, etc.

Silicone caulk, on the other hand, is a clear, adhesive-like substance used to make areas like tubs, pipes, showers, and countertops waterproof by sealing them off. It may be harder to work with than putty, but it creates a stronger seal.

So, which one is better? Well, it really depends on the application and the material you’re working with. In this article, we will discuss the difference and benefits of plumber’s putty vs silicone, how and when to use each, and related queries.

Let’s dig in!

Plumbers Putty Vs Silicone: Key Differences

Plumbers Putty Vs Silicone: Key Differences

First things first. Before you start your repair and decide on which material to use, it is important to understand each product along with its ingredient, applications, and benefits.

This will help you make an informed decision and avoid any costly mistakes. So, let’s take a look at the key differences between the two.

Ingredients

Plumbers putty consists of clay, soap, talc, and linseed oil. It also contains either flour or limestone to make it more moldable so that it doesn’t harden over time and can be used for a prolonged period.

Silicone, on the other hand, is a more durable elastic rubber-like material made of synthetic silicon and oxygen that dries faster and lasts longer.

Applications

Although plumbers putty can be helpful for various projects, such as caulking cracks and bonding two surfaces together, there are some materials it does not adhere to well. These include granite, marble, and other natural stone surfaces, as well as metal.

Silicone is a waterproofing sealant commonly used in areas such as around tubs, pipes, fixtures, and showers. It can also be used to adhere two surfaces together. Additionally, silicone is more versatile than putty – it works with materials like glass, PVC, metal, porcelain, and tile.

Harmful Compounds

Plumbers putty is made of soap and thus biodegradable, while silicone needs special precautions because it consists of inorganic compounds such as methyl chloride and chloromethane, which are harmful to the environment.

Furthermore, silicone can also release harmful chemicals like Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air, which can be dangerous to your health if inhaled. As such, it is important to use silicone in a well-ventilated area.

Ease Of Use

Plumbers putty is simpler to utilize than silicone. You just need to knead it until it’s soft, and then apply it to the surface you’re working on. Additionally, if you want to remove it, all you have to do is peel plumbers putty off; moreover, a great quality of this product is that it can be reused even after many years have passed.

Although silicone can be more challenging to work with, it needs to be applied evenly on the surface and then smoothed out with a wet finger. However, once it dries, removing it becomes much more difficult

Drying Time

Plumbers putty is not supposed to dry out. If it does, it would become hard and brittle. Totally, canceling its purpose in plumbing your kitchen or toilets.

Silicone, on the other hand, takes around 24 hours to dry out completely. However, it takes around 72 hours to cure which means it would take some time before it can fully do its job.

TIP: If you want to speed up the drying time of silicone caulk, you can use a hair dryer. Just make sure to keep it at least 6 inches away from the caulk.

UV Exposure

When you expose plumbers putty to UV, it will harden and become brittle. This is because the ultraviolet light damages the putty’s polymer chains, causing them to break down. This makes the putty less flexible and more likely to crack or crumble.

So it’s important to avoid exposing plumbers putty to UV light as much as possible. On the other hand, silicone is not affected by UV light. This makes it a better choice for outdoor applications such as sealing around windows and doors.

Water Resistance

Plumbers putty is not waterproof. This means it will absorb water which can cause it to swell, harden, or crack. In addition, water can also cause the putty to lose its stickiness, making it less effective at sealing surfaces. On the other hand, silicone is waterproof and won’t be damaged by water or moisture.

Temperature Resistance

Plumbers putty is not heat resistant. This means it can soften or melt when exposed to high temperatures. In addition, the putty can also become hard and flaky when exposed to cold temperatures.

NOTE: Never use plumbers putty near heat sources such as stoves or radiators.

In contrast, silicone can withstand high and low temperatures without being damaged. This makes it a better choice for applications where there may be extreme temperature changes.

Cost

Plumbers putty is usually less expensive than silicone because its main ingredients are soap and clay, both of which are easy to find. Moreover, it’s simpler to make. A 14 oz putty tub typically costs about $9.

On the other hand, silicone is more expensive because it consists of materials like silicone oil and rubber. Also, it’s harder to produce. A 10 oz cartridge of silicone caulk generally costs about $9.

Odor and Color

Plumbers putty is odorless, meaning it won’t create any sort of stench. On top of that, you can dye the putty to match its surroundings – usually, it comes in off-white or white.

Silicone, on the other hand, does have an unpleasant odor that may last for a few days. However, it is available in different colors apart from transparent/clear. So it gives you the flexibility to choose a color that matches your needs.

TIP: If the odor of silicone is too strong for you, try using a vinegar-soaked rag to clean up the area.

Durability

Plumbers putty is not as durable as silicone. This is because it can degrade over time, especially when exposed to UV light or water. Silicone, on the other hand, is more durable. It does not degrade over time and can withstand extreme temperatures. In addition, it is also waterproof and can resist UV light.

How to Use Plumbers Putty to Seal Sink Drain?

One of the top advantages of plumbers putty is that it is super easy to use. This is typical because of its dough-like soft texture. Here’s how you can use it to seal a sink drain:

  • Step 1: Take out a small amount of plumbers putty from the container using your fingers.
  • Step 2: Roll the putty into a long, thin rope. The thickness of the rope should be around 1/4 to 1/2 inch.
  • Step 3: Wrap the putty rope around the drain opening. Make sure to press it firmly into place.
  • Step 4: Use a putty cloth or putty knife to smooth out the edges of the putty.
  • Step 5: Run water over the putty to check for any leaks.
NOTE: Use putty to seal connections that don't require pressure such as drain lines, but never use it for pressurized pipe fittings. Furthermore, avoid using putty with PVC or granite as it may leave a stain.

How to Use Silicone Caulk for Plumbing Sink Drain?

Applying silicone caulk is pretty similar to using putty. The main difference is that caulk comes in a tube with a nozzle while putty doesn’t have one. Here’s how you can use it to seal a sink drain:

  • Step 1: Cut the tip of the caulk tube at a 45-degree angle using a sharp knife.
  • Step 2: Pierce the inner seal of the caulk tube using a nail or wire.
  • Step 3: Insert the caulk tube into a caulking gun.
  • Step 4: Clean the sink drain and make sure it’s dry before proceeding.
  • Step 5: Apply a bead of caulk around the drain opening or pipe. Make sure to smooth out the bead as you go.
  • Step 6: Install the pipe and press it firmly into place and remove the excess silicone. Remember to clean it off both from the bottom and top of the sink.
  • Step 7: Let the silicone dry for about 24 hours. Then run the water and see if there are any leaks.

Plumbers Putty Vs. Silicone Putty: Benefits & Drawbacks

Here’s a quick comparison of the pros and cons of both plumbers putty and silicone.

Benefits of Plumbers PuttyDrawbacks of Plumbers Putty
Much cheaper than silicone caulkNot as durable as silicone caulk
Easy to use and doesn’t require any special toolsIt can degrade over time, especially when exposed to UV light or water
It can be easily removed if neededCan’t be used on metal, marble, or granite
No unpleasant odor
Benefits of Silicone CaulkDrawbacks of Silicone Caulk
More durable than plumbers puttyIt’s more expensive than plumbers putty
Versatile – can be used as a sealant on a variety of surfacesIt can take longer to dry than plumbers putty
Doesn’t degrade over time and can withstand extreme temperaturesGives off a synthetic odor
It’s waterproof and weatherproof.Hard to remove and reapply
Available in a variety of color combinationsCan’t be painted over.

Which one is better, plumbers putty or Silicone for the sink drain?

It really depends on what your needs are. If you need a quick, easy, and cheap repair, then go for plumbers putty. However, if you need a more durable repair that will last longer, then go for silicone caulk. This is because silicone is excellent for waterproofing and fixing leaks.

Furthermore, silicone can also be used to repair cracks and holes in the sink. So, if you need a more permanent solution, then go for silicone. Otherwise, plumbers’ putty will do the job just fine.

Is Silicone the Same as Plumbers Putty?

Silicone and plumbers’ putty both fill, but they are good for different things because of their different properties. Silicone is waterproof so it stops leaks while a plumber’s putty can seal non-pressurized joints such as drain lines.

Why Silicone is Used in Plumbing?

Silicone is most famous for its use in plumbing, where it offers benefits related to weather resistance, waterproofing, and leak repair. Additionally, it can be used to patch up holes and cracks in pipelines. For instance, you can use it in the toilet to repair a fractured flange or tank or to caulk around the toilet’s base.

Is It Better to Use Silicone or Plumbers Putty on a Shower Drain?

If you need to clear a clogged shower drain, it is more straightforward to use plumbers putty rather than another product. Especially, if your shower drain gets blocked often. Using putty will allow you to easily remove the drain when needed to clean.

However, If you need to repair a leaky shower drain, then it is better to use silicone. This is because it will create a waterproof seal that will last longer.

When Not to Use Plumbers Putty?

You should not use plumbers putty on surfaces that might be stained by it, such as marble or granite. Also, don’t use it to fix leaks in pressurized pipes.

Should I Use 100% Silicone Caulk or Hybrid?

100% silicone caulk is best for waterproofing and weatherproofing. Hybrid caulk is best for painting over and adhering to surfaces. This means that if you need to waterproof or fix a leak, then use 100% silicone caulk. However, if you need to fill a hole or crack and plan on painting over it, then use hybrid caulk.

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