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Plumbers Putty or Silicone To Seal A Bathtub Drain?

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

When it comes to sealing a drain in your bathtub, you have been recommended two particular materials to use to seal it. These two materials are plumber’s putty and silicone. 

If you are not all that familiar with these materials, you are probably wondering what they are and if you are familiar with them, then you will want to know which one is the better option when it comes to sealing bathtub drains. 

Plumbers Putty or Silicone To Seal A Bathtub Drain

That is what we are going to be talking about here. We are going to be taking a look at both plumber’s putty and silicone to see what they are, how they are used and what properties they have that make them so useful.

Then, we will compare both materials together to see which one you should use to seal your bathtub drain. 

So, let’s get into it! 

What Is Plumber’s Putty?

Plumber’s putty is a very soft and very pliable material that is used to make watertight seals around components like faucets and drains, which is why it has earned the name ‘plumber’s’ putty. Its biggest competitor is caulk – another similar material with similar properties. But what are those properties?

Plumber’s Putty Properties

The reason behind plumber’s putty’s popularity are its amazing properties.

The first is that it’s super easy to mold and roll into any shape you want, meaning that it can fit into all kinds of gaps to make a watertight seal.

Because of how pliable and easy to use it is, many people use plumber’s putty for all kinds of projects beyond just drainage but it is often used by those trying out some DIY improvements at home. 

Another great property of plumber’s putty is its thickness. It is a very dense material while still being very stretchy and pliable, meaning that many people can use it to fill very thick gaps with no trouble at all.

This is what puts plumber’s putty ahead of caulk in certain situations. 

Plumber’s putty also takes years to dry so this means you can mold it into place, try it out, and either peel it off or move it to adjust the position without leaving behind a residue.

It does not need to dry in order to function and this property also means you can adjust and reuse your plumber’s putty with no problem!

Although you do need it to ‘dry’ in a sense that working with the putty loosens it up, but this process does not take hours and hours like with some other materials.

So, there are many reasons why plumber’s putty is so handy. It’s pliable, easy to use, quick to use, and it’s also very effective when it comes to preventing leaks. It really is a plumber’s best friend – so let’s check out how you can use it to seal a bathtub drain. 

How To Use Plumber’s Putty

Using plumber’s putty is very easy but to use it for a bathtub drain, you will first need to loosen the drain lip and start to warm up the putty in your hands.

The action of squeezing and working the putty with your hands will make it more and more pliable, so it’s easier to roll out a thin worm of the putty. 

For bathtub drains, you will want a roll that is 1/4th of an inch thick in diameter and then fit it all the way around the drain lip. This will act as a seal and prevent leaks in the future. 

Put the nut of the drain back in and start to tighten the lip around the putty.

Once done, you will probably see some excess putty squeezing itself out from around the drain. Just wipe away this putty and add it back to the rest for future reuse. 

Once that’s done, just leave it to return to its previous, solid state and then try out filling the bathtub to see how effective the putty has worked. 

Disadvantages of Plumber’s Putty

Nothing’s perfect, so here are a few things to keep in mind when considering using plumber’s putty in your DIY objects.

It cannot be used to help with repairs or cracks due to pressure, thus only making it applicable to uses around drain lips and combining components.

If you tried to use a plumber’s putty to fix a crack in a pipe, then the putty will fall apart pretty quickly. 

Plumber’s putty can also wear away over time and dislodge, so you will need to keep a close eye on your putty seal and be prepared to replace and repair it. 

Plumbers Putty or Silicone To Seal A Bathtub Drain (1)

What Is Silicone? 

Another option you have to seal your bathtub drain is to use silicone. 

Silicone is a versatile material that is used for all kinds of uses, including as a sealant in plumbing.

It has a lot of properties that make it so useful for lots of applications including how it can bind surfaces of different materials such as glass, plastic and metal.

It is applied as a liquid and then hardens into a sturdy sealant in all kinds of narrow gaps, making it amazing for fixing leaks.

So, let’s take a look at some of these properties in closer detail below.

Silicone Properties

There are many basic properties to silicone which makes it great for sealing drains, such as how it is resistant to water and temperature so it can easily prevent leaks when used in your bathtub (see also ‘Why Does Water Back Up Into Your Tub?‘).

It’s also easy to apply and is much less messy than using putties. 

Silicone is an adhesive which means that once it is in place, it forms a very tight bond with the materials – preventing leaks for years and years after application. Because of this, many people also use silicone to make repairs to pipes. 

Another great property of silicone is how it hardens once dried. It’s hardness at this point makes it super difficult to remove.

While this can be a disadvantage if you end up making a mistake, it’s mostly seen as an advantage by plumbers because it serves as a long-lasting, resolute sealant for all kinds of plumbing jobs. 

How To Use Silicone

Using silicone to seal your bathtub’s drain is relatively easy as silicone comes in a tube with a pointed nozzle, making it pretty easy to apply to your desired areas. 

All you have to do is to prepare your surfaces and ensure that the nozzle of the silicone gun is on securely.

You will have to make your own nozzle hole when using the silicone gun for the first time using a utility knife, so be careful and try not to make the hole too big.

To check out if the nozzle hole is the right size, you may want to practice applying silicone somewhere else. 

When ready, run a bead line of silicone around your drain and fit your drain cover over the top. Wait for the silicone to dry before trying out your bathtub to see if the issue is fixed. 

Drawbacks of Silicone

One of the biggest drawbacks of silicone comes when applying it to the area you want to. While it works great, an amateur can struggle ensuring  that they use silicone correctly.

The beading needs to be thin but many people end up accidentally making the nozzle hole way too big – and use too much silicone! 


Now that we have looked at both materials in great detail, which one comes out on top? 

A lot of people use silicone over plumber’s putty because it is more secure, less messy and longer lasting.

However, plumber’s putty is still great for quick fixes and some plumbers prefer it because of how malleable it is, meaning they can fit it into place easier. 

Using silicone may take practice but once perfected, it is definitely superior over plumber’s putty in many other areas. 

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases. When it comes to dealing with clogged drains, many homeowners turn