How to Remove Excess Plumber's Putty

A jar of plumber's putty against a white background.
What You'll Need
Flathead screwdriver
Razor blade
Hot air gun or hairdryer
Putty knife
Safety gloves
Paint thinner
Methylene chloride
Shrink-wrap or plastic bag
Sticky tape

When a successful bathroom or kitchen renovation job has been completed, it can be very frustrating to find unsightly remnants of plumber’s putty on surroundings and trim. Fortunately, this material can be removed to ensure that your new decor reflects all your hard work. Read on for advice on how to accomplish this with ease.

Step 1 - Identify Locations

Even if you have only noticed some plumber’s putty in a single spot, it is likely that there will be more elsewhere. Check thoroughly around faucets, pipes, and joints so that you can complete the entire job in one go.

Step 2 - Note the Base Material

The manner in which you remove the putty will depend on the material that it is being removed from. However, regardless of whether you are cleaning it away from ceramics, hardboard, or granite, you should always take care to avoid leaving scratches or other permanent damage.

Step 3 - Remove Excess

To remove large amounts of dried plumber’s putty, use a hammer and chisel or flathead screwdriver to chip it away. If this process fails, carefully use a razor blade to slice it away. Try to get the blade as close to the surface as you can without scraping it. Holding the blade at a 90 degree angle to the surface and working it in a rapid back-and-forth motion is better than trying to dig underneath dried putty.

Step 4 - Add Heat

If the plumber’s putty proves too stubborn to be removed using the above method, try softening it by adding heat. If you have a heat gun, use this on excess beads of the substance before attempting to scrape it away with a putty knife or scraper. If this does not work or you do not have a hot air gun, make use of a hairdryer.

Although the hairdryer may not produce a sufficient amount of heat to soften the putty, it can still be used before repeating the attempt at removal. Alternatively, put on a pair of safety gloves and carefully heat the putty knife over an open flame before attempting removal again.

Step 5 - Remove Staining

After removing the plumber’s putty, you are likely to find that some staining remains. With ceramics and pipe work, this can be easily removed with a soft cloth that has been soaked in mild solvent or paint thinner.

This process is likely to be more difficult with materials such as granite as the oil from the putty can seep into the material and cause an ingrained mark. In this case, a poultice will be required and prepared varieties are available from hardware stores. Alternatively, you can make your own with a mixture of an oil removal substance, such as clay, and methylene chloride. Use safety gloves to mix it into a thick paste that can be spread over the stain and covered with plastic before being left to dry. Tape down the plastic and leave it in place for up to 48 hours. If the stain is a severe one, this will not be a quick fix and you may find that you have to repeat the process several times.