Should you use plumbers putty or silicone to seal bathtub drain or sink drain? In this guide, I go over the major differences between the two sealants and which one to choose for your bathtub or sink drain!
When it comes to home improvement, repairs and renovations are just part of the process. You are bound to come across materials and tools that may seem like the same thing but actually have quite a few differences.
Take putty and silicone, for instance. Plumber’s putty is great for homeowners when they have some sort of leak or water intrusion. Not only is it easy to apply in a pinch but it can be removed just as easily in short order, too.
Silicone, on the other hand, does basically the same thing but with a few differences. Silicone is more adhesive than plumber’s putty while also creating a watertight seal. Silicone also tends to last quite a bit longer than plumber’s putty.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are 10 major differences between the two products. Read on to become an expert on the difference between plumber’s putty and silicone.
Plumbers Putty Or Silicone To Seal Bathtub Drain (Sink Drain)
- The Composition
If you want to talk about the differences between the two, let’s start with the chemical makeup. They both work to seal cracks and provide good fittings but are made up of vastly different things.
Plumber’s putty, for example, has limestone, fish oil, and talc elements. These ingredients tend to make it a bit more flexible. That makes it a great option for cracked surfaces and sealing drains.
Think of it like a glue-based substance. That ultimately leads to easier removal when that time comes. Silicone, on the other hand, tends to be more rubbery.
That feeling means increased elasticity, which means it is made up of a denser material. With silicone, it is also quite a bit more difficult to get up. You will need a scraping tool to get silicone up.
- The Uses
The intended uses are also vastly different for the two. Putty should be in every homeowner’s kit so that when something goes awry with a faucet or sink, you can plug up the leak.
It is easy to break out even for the most amateur of DIYers. Even better, it creates a watertight seal and can be easily removed and replaced.
Silicone is more dense and is a longer-lasting fix. Putty is typically a stop gap, whereas silicone is meant to stay. Silicone is also much less pliable and easily maneuverable in nature because it is more dense.
- Areas of Use
Now that we know the intended usage of each, it helps to know what areas we would typically use each. After all, you wouldn’t want to implement plumber’s putty in a place where a more permanent fix would be required.
Plumber’s putty is fine for sink fixtures, drains, or drain baskets. Silicone is better on the pipes of those plumbing fixtures or for holding tiles in place.
It is a much stronger binding agent, meaning it has the strength to hold things together in a far greater capacity than plumber’s putty. Remember that plumber’s putty is best at combating water-related issues.
- Their Upsides and Downsides
Just like any product on the market, there are pros and cons of using them. These two products are no different on the whole.
Plumber’s putty is softer, easier to apply and easier to pull up. It’s also not quite as adhesive as something such as silicone and basically only gets used for exposed areas. If you have pipe issues, plumber’s putty won’t help.
Silicone, meanwhile, is more durable and heavy duty. It won’t crack and has a ton of uses. But it can’t be replaced and you can’t remove it all that easily, especially compared to plumber’s putty.
- Drying Time
Knowing the composition of each material, it helps to know the drying times as well. They have entirely different compositions, so they have entirely different drying times as well.
On a project, that wait time is important to know. Silicone is made of synthetic polymers, which is why it reacts to oxygen the way that it does.
So, silicone tends to have a much shorter drying time than its counterpart and is also a major reason why silicone is favored in more professional settings.
- Durability and Price
These are perhaps the two most important factors. There are also major differences between the two products. Silicone caulk has an expected lifetime of about a year. Moreover, you can get one of those 10-ounce cartridges for about $9.
Plumber’s putty, meanwhile, lasts twice as long. If that weren’t enough, you can get a five-pound tub of plumber’s putty for just over $9.
So plumber’s putty tends to be the more durable of the two and you can get quite a bit more of that than you can of silicone caulk. That’s not to say that caulk isn’t as durable or strong, it just dries out far more quickly.
- UV Exposure
Unless you live under a rock, there will be sunlight getting into your home. Silicone is composed of stable elements, some of which block out UV rays.
That means not drying out as quickly as some of the others on the market. That said, plumber’s putty is generally not exposed to sunlight. That’s because it can’t really hold up to the sun.
Silicone is more durable but if you have a lot of exposure to light, then plumber’s putty may not be the best option to go with in the first place.
- Odor and Color
Color is not necessarily important in this instance, though silicone does come in up to 23 different color variations. Since you should not see either of these after application, color may not matter quite as much.
Plumber’s putty, on the other hand, doesn’t smell at all. It is totally odorless, meaning that you can use it and forget all about it.
- Harmful Compounds
This is an important one. The good news from the silicone front is that it is made up of inorganic compounds. That means it is a nontoxic product. For those leery of chemical components being used in their home, silicone would be a great choice.
That said, there have been studies linking cancer and asthma to those working in close proximity to silicone for longer periods of time. Plumber’s putty, on the other hand, is made up of petroleum-based elements.
While that does not necessarily equate to major toxicity, it certainly does play a part. Both are meant to be used in short order, so there is no worry about prolonged exposure.
What is being lost in all of this is how each of the compounds is applied. Both have applications that make them their most effective. For instance, plumber’s putty works fine on smaller surfaces where it isn’t stretched too then.
Working on a bigger surface means needing a stronger sealant material. That is where silicone would come in handy. Further, silicone does not come off quite as easily.
If you are looking for something bordering on a permanent solution, then silicone is likely the better answer. For smaller applications that are more affordable, plumber’s putty is the way to go.
Hello, my name is David Zal and I’m a plumber with more than 20 years of experience based in Englewood (Florida). I like to teach normal people how to make easy fixes in their homes. I believe that a lot can be achieved just with DYI and that’s why I started this blog.