Plumber’s putty is commonly used by our emergency plumbers in Sydney when sealing drain assembling that connect to a sink. It’s also used as a reliable, waterproof seal on the base of the faucet, even though it’s not primarily used for this purpose since faucets hardly leak from their base.
You’ll often come across hardened putty when replacing the garbage disposal or disassembling the sink drain. Luckily, it’s quite easy to remove dried plumber’s putty.
Here’s how to go about it.
How to Use Plumber’s Putty
Basically, plumber’s putty is soft and extremely pliable when it’s fresh from its container. It takes several days to dry off and harden after application.
When installing the garbage disposal or sink drain, you’ll use plumber putty on sinks made of plastic, porcelain, and cast iron. Putty is also ideal for use with stainless steel sinks.
Hardened putty chips away easily. In case it doesn’t, then you can scrape it off using a sturdy putty knife. It’ll easily come off this way. If there’s putty residue left behind, try to wipe it off with a mineral spirit.
Since the binding compound in putty comprises of linseed oil, you’ll easily dissolve it in a mild solvent such as a mineral spirit.
What Makes Up Plumber’s Putty?
While there’re different blends of putty in the market today, traditional blends of putty comprise of a mixture of linseed oil and clay, with minimal amounts of fish oil. Most putty products also comprise of limestone.
While some brands contain a larger percentage of limestone without mentioning linseed oil as one of its components, traces of the oil are still present in the putty.
Linseed oil stains surfaces that are porous. Thus, plumber’s putty should never be used on marble and granite sinks to avoid staining them. Use a silicone sealant (water-based type) when working with marble and granite sinks.
When considering whether to use silicone or plumber’s putty, remember that silicone sealants are more effective in sealing than putty, but are more challenging to remove from a fixture.
Removing Plumber’s Putty
Putty creates a strong, watertight seal. However, it’s not adhesive. Thus, it’s easy to remove from a fixture upon drying. You’ll simply put some pressure on a plumbing joint to break up the hardened putty.
You’ll easily remove much of the putty that may remain behind using your fingers. You can remove the remaining putty by scraping it off with a sturdy putty knife. However, a film of linseed oil may be left behind.
You can remove the linseed oil residue from most sink materials by scraping it. If you’re unable to scrape it off, try washing it off with water and soap.
If some residue still remain behind, remove them using a paint thinner or mineral spirit. To do this, wet a piece of rag with a paint thinner or mineral spirit and wipe the residue vigorously.
You can remove hardened putty from a faucet or drain flange the same way you’ve done with a plumbing joint.
Silicone or Plumber’s Putty?
Choosing between silicone and plumber’s putty will depend on the area of application. Plumbers generally prefer putty rather than silicone for sealing sink drains because it forms a watertight bond and doesn’t make the bond permanent.
Sometimes, a permanent seal is required and this demands using silicone. For instance, sealing utility drains and outdoor plumbing fixtures requires a permanent seal. Moreover, silicone is the best option for sealing drains on a porous sink.
Always remember that putty doesn’t refer to pipe thread compounds and should never be used for sealing threaded fittings.
Putty is waterproof but not strong. Thus, it can’t seal active leaks effectively. While some sealants may stop a leak, you’ll generally need to replace the faulty fitting to completely stop the leak.