Pipe Joint Compound and How to Use It

While it’s a good idea to work with a plumber for major issues, sometimes it’s easier and more convenient to take the job into your own hands. For minor leaks and pipe problems, pipe joint compound is your golden ticket to a simple plumbing fix. But before you run out to the store to buy some, read on to learn the specifics of what pipe joint compound is and how to use it.

What it is

Pipe joint compound, otherwise known as pipe glue, PVC glue, and pipe dope, is a gooey paste-like adhesive. It’s a type of plumbing sealant that can be used with threaded pipes. Pipe joint compound can be used for pipes that carry air, gas, oil, and, most relevant to plumbing, water. After application, it dries like glue to create a strong seal. It also serves as a lubricant for threaded pipe joints.

Where to buy it

You’ll find pipe joint compound at hardware stores, and it’s a great addition to any homeowner’s plumbing tool kit. It’s generally available in a tube or a canister, with a brush applicator included for ease of use. Before you buy some, make sure that the pipe joint compound you’re buying is ideal for the job you’re doing. Some brands are only meant to be used on one certain type of pipe, while others are universal—meaning they can be used for both metal and plastic.

How to use it

When you’re dealing with a pesky leak under the sink or elsewhere in your home’s plumbing system, pipe joint compound is an easy at-home solution. In only a few steps, you can stop minor leaks before they turn into expensive plumbing emergencies. Here’s how to use pipe joint compound to fix small plumbing leaks and other minor problems.

Step 1: Turn off the water

As with any plumbing job, the first step is to turn off the water. You’ll need to locate a water shutoff valve to do so, and these vary in location depending on which plumbing fixture you’re working on. For sinks, look underneath the sink for the water supply tubes. Both hot and cold water have their own shutoff valve, so make sure to turn both of them off. To turn off the water to your whole home, you can find your home’s main water shutoff valve in one of several locations:

  • The garage
  • The basement
  • On an exterior wall
  • Buried underground near the street

To turn off the main shut-off valve, you will likely need a tool such as a meter key. Or, you may be able to twist and open the valve with an adjustable wrench.

Step 2: Prepare your workspace

Make sure the pipes you’re going to seal, and the surrounding area, are clean and dry. Pipe joint compound can be slippery and difficult to wash off of surfaces and skin, so make sure to prepare a clean workspace. It’s helpful to wear gloves to keep your hands clean and have a towel nearby for quick cleaning if any compound spills.

Step 3: Brush the pipe joint compound onto the pipe

Remove the pipe from its fitting and use the included brush applicator to apply an even layer of pipe joint compound onto the threads of the pipe (the grooves located on the end of the pipe). Make sure to rotate the pipe so all sides of it are covered.

Step 4: Tighten the pipe into its fitting

Insert the pipe back into the opening of its fitting or segment. Screw the pipe into place, turning slowly until it’s tight. You can use an adjustable wrench to finish tightening the pipe as well.

Step 5: Wait 5–15 minutes

The pipe joint compound will take 5–15 minutes to begin solidifying. Don’t turn the water back on until this time has passed. Once it has, turn the water back on and see if the pipe is working leak-free as it should. If not, repeat steps 1–4 or call a plumber to help you troubleshoot.

Teflon tape (plumber’s tape) vs. pipe joint compound

When you’re in the hardware store looking for pipe joint compound, you’ll likely see Teflon tape nearby. But, what’s the difference, and which one is best to use? Pipe joint compound and Teflon tape are both pipe sealants, but they’re ideal for different jobs. Teflon tape is a nonstick tape that easily wraps around pipes and fitting and is useful for preventing leaks. It comes in different thicknesses for different pipes. If the pipe or fitting you’re wrapping is in a visible area, like a showerhead or shower arm, you may opt to choose Teflon tape for aesthetic purposes. Teflon tape is also less messy than pipe joint compound, and quicker to use.

Pipe joint compound has varieties that work with all types of piping and fitting materials, making it more versatile than Teflon tape. It also produces a stronger seal, so plumbers generally prefer to use pipe joint compound instead of Teflon tape for permanent applications. The bottom line is, as a temporary fix for a leaking pipe, Teflon tape will do just fine. But, for a permanent fix or a major job, reach for pipe joint compound instead.

More plumbing tools to have on hand

A good home plumbing kit is full of things you rarely think of, but you will thank yourself for having it on hand when things go wrong. Along with pipe joint compound, a good home plumbing kit will have the following:

• Five-gallon bucket
• Washers or replacement cartridges for your faucets
• Sink and toilet plungers
• Duct tape
• Flashlight
• Gloves
• Pipe wrench
• Adjustable wrench
• Slip-joint pliers
• Screwdriver set

Pipe problems? Call Chas Roberts

We know pipes inside and out, so don’t hesitate to contact our expert plumbers to conquer problems big and small. After all, with more than 75 years of experience in the Valley, we’ve helped countless homeowners with plumbing repairs, replacements, and installations. With superior customer service every step of the way, our team works hard to provide a good experience on all service jobs.