What’s the Difference Between Drywall Mud and Spackle? 

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 04/08/24 •  7 min read

Drywall mud and spackle each play a different role in building or maintaining your home. If you use one where the other should be used or substitute one with the other because you ran out, you can end up with unintended consequences ranging from caking to cracking to not sticking. If the issue is large enough, you may end up redoing the space entirely.

Since you don’t want this to happen to your wall, keep reading because we’re going to answer the common question, “is drywall mud the same as joint compound?” and give a brief rundown of the differences between drywall and spackle, the best situations to use each, and when you can substitute one or the other.

Is Drywall Mud the Same as Joint Compound?

Drywall mud and joint compound are the same product: A limestone-based paste that bonds quickly and very hard. Drywall mud gets used for:

The purpose of drywall mud is to get a smooth, level finish before applying any paint to the wall. If applied properly by a good “mudder” drywall joints are visible, but the border between the drywall mud and the drywall is a smooth and seamless transition so it can’t be seen under paint.

There are a few different types of drywall mud you can choose depending on what part of the drywall process you’re using it for. Most of the choices of mud come in either “dry” or “wet” varieties, which have their pros and cons:  

What’s the Difference Between Drywall Mud and Spackle?

Spackle is like drywall mud in its appearance and consistency, however the two have very different properties.

The principle difference between drywall mud and spackle is that drywall mud is not good at sticking to plaster, painted walls, or anywhere outdoors.  

Drywall mud is not commonly used as a repair compound but due to its similarity to drywall itself, and low cost, it’s ideal to seal the joints and bumps in newly hung drywall. Drywall mud is also thicker and forms a more secure bond.

Spackle, on the other hand, is designed to be used as a repair product on painted or plastered walls and some types of spackle can be used on other indoor and outdoor surfaces. Spackle is lighter than drywall mud and quickly fills small crevices and cracks. 

There are several types of spackle, including:

Standard

Spackling compounds are formulated with gypsum, the same material used to make drywall or Sheetrock thus, it can be used to repair larger holes or more extensive damage to walls.

Standard spackle is great for the occasional patching of holes. It dries quickly and sands easily and smoothly. 

Lightweight

Lightweight spackle uses a mix of sodium silicate with an adhesive and is the most fragile type of spackle.

That said, it’s perfect for areas that have very low or no potential impact since it dries very quickly, usually only requires a single coat and doesn’t shrink.

Touching, bumping, kicking, or running into lightweight spackle can result in it cracking though so it’s not ideal for high-traffic areas.

Acrylic

Like vinyl spackle, acrylic spackle is applied in layers and is able to handle damage up to an inch thick without shrinking or cracking.

For larger holes and gouges on the interior or exterior of your home, acrylic is an ideal choice. It’s flexible, making it suitable for repairs to drywall, wood, and plaster, but it can even be used on stone and brick.  

Epoxy

Epoxy spackle sands easily and is very durable, but it is also quite complicated to apply since it requires pre-mixing.

Epoxy spackle comes in two separate bottles, one containing the resin and the other containing the hardener, which must be mixed just before use. As epoxy spackle is oil-based, it also has water-resistant properties, making it better suited for outdoor applications than other spackles.

Vinyl

Elastic polymers in this type of spackling compound provide excellent strength, making it suitable for interior and exterior applications.

In contrast to other compounds, vinyl is usually applied in layers, allowing each layer to dry between applications. In this way, it can be used to repair deeper gashes and holes. 

Powder

Powder spackle is like quickset drywall mud; you must mix it with water to work.

Drywall mud is thicker and bonds well to the many types of drywall textures, even when applied in multiple layers. If a rough patch needs to be applied to a hole in the drywall, you will use drywall mud to smooth the seams between the existing wall and the patch. Drywall mud also covers seams between drywall planks and screw holes used to affix drywall.

On the other hand, spackle only works with smaller repairs, so contractors do not use it normally. Homeowners use it to cover nail holes in walls or other small holes that are a product of everyday life. Spackle is the “go-to” product for renters to be able to fix walls to secure their deposits back.

A final difference is the price of each. Joint compound is much less expensive than spackle on a unit level cost. You must, however, purchase more of it at a time, which can lead to waste if your project is not very large. You can buy spackle in much smaller units, which is also why it tends to be more expensive. 

When to Use Spackle and When to Use Drywall Mud

As mentioned, drywall mud is New construction with raw drywall needs large amounts of drywall mud while patching small holes and dents in a finished wall is an ideal challenge for spackle. 

A contractor will choose drywall mud for an unfinished wall because it is a thicker, more robust substance that can bond and strengthen a seam in the drywall and create a hard surface for screw holes. On the other hand, Spackle is not a particularly good bonding agent, but it is a good filler and light enough to be applied to very small projects.

Those descriptions cover when to use drywall versus when to use spackle. You should use drywall mud if you are building a wall and need a strong, durable bonding agent. Spackle is best for when you are covering up the nail holes left by pictures, etc. 

If you were to use drywall mud as spackle, the drywall mud would fill the hole but also likely cake or, on some surfaces, not hold. Conversely, If you used spackle to try and fill seams in drywall, your seams fill could crack and not be nearly as strong as is needed for typical, daily use.

Final Thoughts

So, Is drywall mud the same as joint compound? Yes. But drywall mud and spackle are different and two very effective ways to cover seams, fill in holes and cracks, and cover up screw divots. 

Each has specific purposes that make them very effective when used as intended. Both also struggle when used outside of that specific purpose and can even make more problems than they were supposed to fix.

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.