Plumber’s Putty vs silicone caulk

Plumbers Putty vs Silicone Caulk: Head to Head Compression

​Sometimes little issues like the breaking of the fittings of sink or bathtub create big worries for us. We try to fix these issues in one way or another.

They just get worse regardless of what we did to overcome the water leakage or broken shower. What if we are trying the wrong ways to fix these simple issues.

Yes! simple issues because they do not require our worries or different strategies but need a quite easy fix. A sealant can simply seal the leakage area and can join broken pipes.

So, what type of sealants should we choose? Plumber's putty and silicone caulk are the most commonly used compounds in plumbing. If these two words are completely new, don't worry!

Let us discuss them in detail by comparing plumber's putty vs silicone caulk.

What Is Plumbers’ Putty?

Plumber's putty as the name reveals it is a compulsory item in any plumber's toolbox. It is a form of putty that works as a sealant in plumbing work. It is a very soft sealing material mainly made up of linseed oil and clay. However, it can be prepared by different methods and from various materials.

It is a fact that plumbers use this sealant for wide purposes including the pipes linked to sinks and along the base of the tap. The main reason is that this specific sealant is capable of remaining elastic for a long period and strongly seal bulky water.

Chemical Composition

The most commonly used materials to prepare plumbers putty are limestone, talc, or any fish oil. Plumber's putty is flexible stuff that can hard seal drains, faucets, and cracks present around them. This putty seal provides very strong protection against water and prevents any leakage through holes.

Keep in mind that a plumber’s putty is not a glue or sticky paste. And if you ever want to remove this sealant for any purpose, you can easily do it as it will not attach to any material. Now you might be wondering where else you can use this plumber's favorite putty?

The answer is exactly what you already familiar with that its wide range uses are for bathroom fixtures. You can see a clay-like material attach to the base of the faucet, any fittings, showers, bathtubs, tile floor and pipe joints.

That clay you are seeing is plumber's putty. It is mostly hidden below the border or lip of these installed parts. You can also apply it on basket filters and pop up drains in your house. Also you can use it on your roof rain gutter.

How to apply it?

It is very easy to use and you can apply it to any area as a seal by yourself. This sealant is available in the form of small plastic tubs. With the help of your fingers, take out a small amount of this rubbery material.

Simply shape it by rolling it back and forth between your palms. This will create a rope-like structure or a snake.

Circle the rope around the part you want to seal by completely covering the area. Take off excess if any left. Now gently press this snake shapes putty you have applied in a circle form.

Do not put extra pressure or it will ruin the shape of putty and will get loose around the leak or crack.

Always read the instructions before applying plumbers’ putty. This can leave a stain on some material because it is petroleum-based. However, don't worry as those instructions will let you know which surfaces are suitable for the application.

Below are some of the pros and cons of plumber's putty.

Advantages:

  • Remains soft over time
  • No need to dry
  • Easy application
  • Easy to Remove

Disadvantages:

  • Not gives an adhesive strength
  • Don't apply on exposed areas
  • Not for plastic pipes
  • Doesn't seal the space between wall and sink
  • It is not recommended for metal threaded pipes or joints.

What is silicone caulk?

You have already familiarized yourself with plumber's putty! Now let's talk about what silicone caulk is. It is also a sealant but differs from plumbers' putty for many big reasons. A big difference in both is that a silicone caulk cannot be replaced.

Yes, it is a sticky material and is an adhesive one. The good thing is that it is hard enough that you can use it everywhere. It also has a rubbery touch to it that keeps it elastic for quite some time. But keep in mind that it can be so tight after applying, you would need a scrapping tool to remove this sealant.

Chemical Composition

This caulk is a rubbery material that is formed by silicone polymer mostly containing hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. However, there are some different formulations for them. Silicone caulk is a very old compound and was widely used for sealing wooden boats and ships.

It provides a strong resistance against water, air, dirt and can also be used as a mildew sealant component.

Silicone caulk can be used for any kind of purpose but it works much better for woodworking, ceilings, and walls. You can use it in all the places where soft material like plumber's putty will not do any good.

Silicone caulking is also used for sinks, pipes fittings, and bathtubs. This does an amazing job while working with acrylic and ceramics.

Silicone caulking will make a hard sealant and will provide strong protection for a long time. There are so many types of silicone caulk that it is important to know which type of caulk you want for your project.

How to apply it?

An easy way to apply this silicone caulk is in the form of a thin bead. Adjust your silicone tube into a silicone gun tightly.Make a hole on the silicone tube at a 45-degree angle. Test it before using and see if you need to make a bigger hole.

At first clean and prepare the surface on which you are using a silicone tube. Always buy a quality gun. The quality gun will maintain an easy application and prevent it from sticking everywhere. Wipe off any excess from the whole bead of silicon by using a finger.

A best practice while doing this job is to use your wet finger to maintain the level of the thin bead after applying a small amount.

Remember that silicone caulk is not paintable as the paint will never remain stable on the surface of this sealant. It is good for every type of waterproof project but is not recommended for holding weight-bearing structures.

It can be used on all metals like aluminum, glass, metal, plastic, wood, and granite.

Advantages:

  • Strong adhesive
  • Multiple uses
  • Remains flexible for sometime
  • Doesn't crack

Disadvantages:

  • Not removable
  • Cannot be replaced
  • Sticky and leaves a stain

Difference Between silicone caulk vs plumbers putty

You have become fully aware of what plumber putty and silicone caulking do. Let us discuss their differences in detail for better understanding.

Drying Time

The drying of both materials completely depends on chemical compositions. Silicone has different types mostly containing both organic and inorganic compounds. The synthetic polymers in silicone are comprised of both silicone and oxygen making joined C-Si bonds. That is why they must dry.

It requires a little patience. To speed up the process of drying this caulk, maintain a temperature between 40°F and 100°F. A humidity of less than 95% is also a requirement to cure it properly. Normally silicone caulking needs 24 hours to dry but always check it before exposing it to water.

On the other hand, a plumber's putty is based on oils and clays having a very expandable texture. Due to this, it doesn't require any drying. Plumber's putty has versatile uses due to its flexibility and drying it doesn't make any sense. If putty gets hard and dry due to any extra exposure, it cannot be used again.

Water Resistance

Waterproofing an important consideration while comparing both of them as both serve mainly as a water sealant. Silicone has a rubbery gel-like material that makes it a strong waterproof seal. But how long does silicon stay water-tight and how much water it can resist?

A life span of water sealant silicone is around 20 years. It strongly protects the joints and material from moisture exposure because of its rigidity. It means it can deal with heavy water pressure. Though, it has its limits with greater pressure.

On the other hand, a plumber’s putty is also a 100% water-proof material but due to its flexible nature, it doesn't get hard. So, it is more useful for drainage pipes and joint sealants where water pressure is smooth. Typically, plumber's putty lasts for almost 10-15 years.

Both plumber's putty and silicone sealant come with a warranty mentioned by their manufactures.

UV Exposure

The main basic polymer in silicone is dimethylsiloxane. It is a stable compound. However, if you are using silicone caulking mainly to prevent UV rays, select a type that has more inorganic compounds. Inorganic compounds are more stable to heat than organic compounds.

Due to the presence of these inorganic compounds, silicone has a high resistance to sun damage. Moreover, Si-O bonding proves it to be a strong weatherproof agent. On the contrary, a plumber’s putty cannot be exposed to the sun.

This is due to its elasticity. Exposure of sun damages its flexible nature and makes it shrink.

Longer time under the sun will make plumber's putty hard. Eventually, it will break. It is also not a good weatherproofing compound and is limited to water-tight seals.

Application

Plumber's putty is best to work with if you need to apply sealant in a small area. However, if you are working with bigger projects which need a lot of sealant material, go with a silicon adhesive.

Silicon dries up into a hard form while a putty remains soft and doesn't require drying. So, if you are working with projects that require a strong bonding and cannot accept a little bit of flexibility, silicone caulk is no doubt a practical option.

There are a large number of applications of silicone caulk as compared to putty. Silicon sealants also work as a strong weather sealant and provide resistance against dirt or moisture. They are used in automobiles, cables, and many other electronic appliances.

While putty is only for plumbing work. And it is also mainly for sealing leakages and cracks in the drainage system. It has limited application for example it cannot be used to fill up any space between pipes due to non-glueyness.

Silicone caulk is the perfect choice if you have to work on different kinds of projects but if you are only working on plumbing, use plumber's putty due to its easy usage.

Toxicity

Silicone caulking has various types and that's why contain different chemical compositions. It is not right to say that caulk is non-toxic. However, if you want a non-toxic silicone caulk, choose a 100% pure silicone caulk. Some chemicals used in silicone caulking can cause cancer and asthma.

As plumber's putty is simply made up of clay, linseed oil, and limestone, it isn't anyway near to being toxic. However, some manufacturers add extra chemicals into plumber's putty to make it more water resilient.

This can cause some toxicity. Some manufactures also make petroleum-based putty. Always read the ingredients and chemical composition before buying one.

The plumber's putty is also flammable while silicone is not. Try to avoid using plumber's putty near any heat source.

Color and Odor

Silicone caulking comes in varieties and thus has various colors. It is also present in clear, no color, or different 23 light shades. A plumber's putty is not visible after applying and is not used in exposed areas. So, color doesn't matter that much. It comes in off-white rubber material.

Silicone has a really strong bad odor. Sometimes it can smell as bad as an old acetic acid (vinegar). However, this smell only lasts for 2-3 days and disappear. The plumber's putty doesn't have any strong smell.

Durability

Both sealants are highly durable when it comes to bathroom fittings and different drain pipes. But as we know that plumbers’ putty is soft compared to silicone caulk. This is the reason that silicon durability is less than a plumber’s putty.

How? A silicone caulk hardens after drying and loses all its flexibility. It can break by heavy exposure to water or after a long has passed. On the other hand, a plumber's putty keeps its elasticity and doesn't get hard after drying. It can also be easily removed and replaced.

If we talk about the capacity of dealing with huge water or which sealant is stronger over a limited period. It is caulk! Plumber's putty will never be able to provide an adhesive strength.

Caulk has many multi-uses and is also used in construction materials. It is so strong adhesive that besides as a waterproofing agent in plumbing, it is also used for woodworking sealing projects.

Maintenance

You can easily remove a plumber's putty from a fitting or a joint and reshape it or reapply it again. Silicone caulk cannot be maintained after applying. The reason is its hardness and less material flexibility.

Silicone caulk is stronger than plumber putting, so it doesn't require it to modify or reapply it again. While a plumber putting needs to fix and maintained after some time due to its ability to modify.

If the plumber's putty gets hard after removing, then it cannot be applied again. To check it simply try to roll it in your hand. If it's difficult to roll, it simply means that it is too old and dries out completely.

You have to keep the tub of putty sealed or covered tightly because if not covered properly, it will eventually get dry and cannot be used for any future purposes.

It has become clear that when it comes to maintenance, you can't do anything with silicone caulk but can always change and maintain a plumber's putty the way you want.

Price Difference

If you are low on budget, a plumber putty is a great choice. It is far less expensive than silicone caulk. But never underestimate the strength and adhesiveness of silicone caulking. You should also consider if you want to do work yourself or you are willing to pay labor costs.

Plumber's putty can be easily installed while caulk needs extra care and professional handling. Though, if you are working on any porous surface, never use a plumber's putty.

Plus, when dealing will multiple issues, select a silicone rather than putty because plumber's putty only works best for various plumbing projects. In the longer run, silicone will represent a better value to your money due to its longer life span.

Conclusion

We have tried best to clear all the similarities and differences about plumber's putty and silicone caulk by comparison.

Now it's completely up to you to choose the perfect one for yourself. It is so obvious that they are useful for different purposes.

Requiring both water-proof and weatherproof compound demands a silicone caulk. The best flexible material and easy to apply in just minutes demand a plumber's putty.

If you have read all the information that on silicone caulk vs plumber's putty, then you will be able to choose the ideal material for you. We are sure that you will not regret selecting one after considering all the facts.

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