Plumbers Putty vs Silicone: Know the Actual Difference 

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Bathrooms, like any other part of a home, tend to have issues in one way or the other. And it mostly happens when the fittings of a sink, toilet, shower, or bath tub eventually break or wear down.

In this case, fixing the problem is not as hard as it seems. But you’ll need to pick between two ways of doing the reparation: using either plumber’s putty or silicone caulking.

Both are excellent ways to fix any plumbing issue. Yet, they have tons of differences in terms of advantages, disadvantages, and overall use.

Here, we’re going over all these differences so you can learn precisely what they offer and eventually pick the ideal option for your needs.

So, are you interested in learning more? Keep on reading then!

What Are Putty & Silicone for?

Fixing plumbing is not easy. That’s why plumbers often charge a lot for a job that looks simple. And sure enough, that not only involves hard work and experience that a plumber has but the products he uses.

Among these products, you’ll find both putty and silicone. They’re compounds that help to keep things together and prevent leaks, fix them, or simply seal pipes and connections. Without them, doing most plumbing jobs would be impossible. So, you’ll probably need these two if you’re looking to do any plumbing job yourself.

Now, let’s go over what each one of these plumbing compounds offers.

What Is Plumber’s Putty?

As said before, it is a sealing compound. The whole focus is to watertight connections between drains and faucets, or any other part inside bathrooms or kitchens. An example:

In the old days, plumber’s putty was the most common material for fixing drains and pipes with faucets, toilets, and even showers. It kept the connections sealed and made sure nothing ever loosened up. Nowadays, putty is not as popular as it was decades ago. But it’s still one of the most useful materials you can pick.

Why Use Plumber’s Putty?

Putty is a soft sealing material. That means it won’t harden over time, which makes it easy to disassemble or remove after several years. Apart from that, it is not an adhesive compound. That makes it even easier to mold and remove when needed.

Another advantage is that being so soft makes it easy to handle. It doesn’t need any time to dry out, and it works well for places where hard materials don’t. Lastly, it seals pipes well enough. While it doesn’t stick to the surface or hardens too much, it manages to prevent leaks, keep things together, and provide a reliable union.

When to Use Plumber’s Putty?

Now that you’re familiar with what it offers, you can guess when it works and when it doesn’t. When it comes to using putty, there’s no better choice than using it on sink strainers, pop-up drains, and undersides of fittings. And it works better when it is not visible at all, so it is protected by other materials.

Of course, it is also used anywhere with the chance of removing it in the future. If you’re ever fixing or replacing something, then you’ll want to find putty as it is easy to handle.

What Is Silicone Caulking?

After learning a few things about plumber’s putty, it is time to go over silicone caulking. Similarly to putty, it is a pretty old compound used in marine operations to keep wooden ships sealed. It also helped to keep things together and fix them whenever there was a broken or split plank.

An example:

What sets it apart from putty is how hard it gets when it dries out. In contrast with putty, silicone can be so hard that removing it from surfaces will undoubtedly demand using a scraping tool.

This ensures that almost nothing can break the fitting or connection you’ve made. It keeps things secure, and most importantly, it prevents leaks and other water-related issues.

Why Use Silicone Caulking?

While silicone hardens when it dries out, it is still fragile to use. You will rarely see a silicone caulking fitting cracking or wearing out. This keeps a waterproof seal that prevents leaking and works wonders alongside acrylic and ceramics. And sure enough, it lasts a long time.

When to Use Silicone Caulking?

Silicone works well in all kinds of materials, but it works better in woodworking, walls, and ceilings. But being hard rather than soft, it often ensures a more durable seal. This could affect how you replace it or modify it.

Apart from that, it is better for large jobs where strength is preferable. As it is not too fragile, it handles well in difficult places where putty won’t work well.

Plumbers Putty vs. Silicone: The Differences

By now, you should have a clear idea of what putty and silicone offer. And you should have a better idea of their similarities. Now, let’s explain their differences in-depth.


Kitchen and bathroom fittings that were made 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years ago are still handling well enough. And they surely use plumber’s putty. This happens because of the combination of high-calcite lime and linseed oil – together, they ensure several decades of protection in plumbing fittings.

In contrast, silicone caulk tends to last one or two decades as a max. This happens because it is harder than the former, so it either breaks or wears down faster. It is not bad, though – it still manages to withstand years of use without problems. But it just doesn’t deliver the same durability.


The art of maintaining plumbing fittings demands using the product again and again. Here, only plumber’s putty offers such a possibility. While putty offers the chance to apply and re-apply as much as you need to fix something, silicone does not. The hardness of silicone makes it challenging to shape & modify.

That’s why when it comes to maintenance, putty works way better. While it demands a little more maintenance, it still makes it possible. With silicone, you don’t have that chance – if it breaks or cracks, you’ll need to replace it altogether.


Similarly to maintenance, you’ll find that plumber putty is way more manageable. This allows an easy installation in awkward places. But that also means it is not as durable or reliable over time. So it works only when you need to cover small areas.

In contrast, silicone does not offer such a versatile application, but it is still agile enough. You can shape it in any way you prefer to make it more effective, yet it works better for large areas.

Apart from that, silicone dries up faster, so it is a more practical option at first. If you have some time to wait for the putty to dry up or harden, then it can be your best bet.

Plumbers Putty vs. Silicone: Which One to Go for?

So, what type of compound should you choose? Well, it all comes down to your needs. In the long run, putty is the more durable, but silicone works better in the short term.

Yet, they are useful for far different things, so you’ll have to be careful before picking. Just make sure to consider every fact in this article, and you’ll select the right one. You won’t regret getting the ideal compound for your needs.

These are our two recommendations, go for either one of them regardless of which one you opt for:

Black Swan 45377 Stainless Plumber Putty
  • Won't crack, harden, bleed, crumble, or shrink
  • Stainless putty that will stay soft
GE Sealants & Adhesives All Purpose Silicone 1 Sealant, 10.1oz, Clear
  • This is TrueValue American Product; Made in USA
  • A USA Made Product General Electric All Purpose GE012A 100% Silicone I*, Window and Door Caulk,10.1 Fl. Oz. Cartridge, Clear

Last update on 2021-10-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. BambooBottleCo is user-supported. We might receive a commission on any purchase you make through clicking links on this story.

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