Plumbers Putty vs Teflon Tape

By Joe King

Do I need to use Teflon tape or plumbers putty? Both products provide a sealing against leakage, but they are used in very different circumstances.

When to use Teflon tape?

When joining pressurised water piping, always use tape instead of putty.

Teflon tape is known as thread seal tape, plumbers tape or PTFE for short. It is an adhesive that is used to seal joints on threads on many types of piping. The typical water supply lines in your home require the use of white colored tape that you can find at any home improvement store. This product is used for piping that has a diameter of 3/8 inch. This is the standard diameter for all pressurized water piping in homes.

How to use Teflon Tape

Apply a strip of the adhesive to the male end of your pipe going clockwise. Overlap each rotation of the tape by at least ½ its width until to have covered the threads. You obtain a pressure-resistant seal when both ends of a pipe are joined together.

Plumbers tape is also available in other colors than just white. In the UK, it’s not the tape but solely the reel that has different colors for different uses. The color of the tape indicates a certain thickness and use. Yellow and pink are types of tape with a double and triple thickness and are used for sealing gas lines. Other colors are available but are only used in medical and other industries.

When to use plumbers putty?

Plumbers putty is a clay-like product that is used to seal drains, basket strainers and faucets to sinks or baths. It will remain soft and flexible long after is has been applied. Unlike Teflon tape you should not use this product on any area under any type of pressure. A fully-filled sink or bath actually has a very low pressure on a sealed drain, almost nothing compared to any type of water piping. The putty will not adhere to an area under pressure such as a water pipes. The use for it is merely to act as a seal between the surface of a sink and the base of a faucet, drain or basket strainer.

In conclusion

If you want to seal any water lines that are under a certain kind of pressure, use white teflon tape. For sealing a faucet, drain or basket strainer in your bath or sink, use plumbers putty.

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