Direct Line magazine

How to fix a leaky tap

Updated on: 12 March 2020

A tap drips

A dripping tap wastes a surprising amount of water, which can add up to a hefty increase to your water bill. Fixing it can be straightforward, but that depends on the tap’s age, design and the water hardness where you live.

There are two types of tap:

  • Traditional tap - turns on by twisting the handle round and round.

  • Ceramic disc tap - you can’t do more than a quarter or half-turn.

Before you start

  1. If you have hard water, descale the tap and spray on a little WD40.

  2. Turn the water off by closing the hot and cold valves under the sink. If you can’t find the valves, shut off the main water supply instead. If you have indirect water supplies, such as a hot water tank, you’ll need to make sure their valves are also closed.

  3. Turn on the tap to release any remaining water.

  4. Put the plug in the sink.

Fixing traditional taps

Traditional taps work by compressing a small rubber washer, which can get damaged over time.

  1. Remove the decorative cap at the top of the tap (which often has a symbol for hot or cold) to reveal a screw beneath it. Use a screwdriver to undo it. Lift off the tap handle. Depending on the tap design, you may need to unscrew a metal shroud.

  2. You’ll now see a hexagonal nut. Holding the spout firmly, undo the nut using an adjustable spanner. Lift out the tap stem and replace the washer that sits at the bottom.

  3. Make sure the main body of the tap is clean before reassembling the tap.

Man fixing leaky tap with a spanner

Fixing ceramic disc taps

Modern taps have a cartridge instead of a washer and come in many different sizes, so you’ll need to visit a plumbers’ merchant with your existing cartridge to find a match.

  1. Remove the levers/handles (you’ll probably need to undo a small screw with an Allen key or screwdriver first – usually hidden under the hot and cold indicator) and unscrew the metal shroud if it’s there.

  2. Use an adjustable spanner to undo the hollow hexagonal nut that holds the cartridge in place.

  3. Replace the cartridge.

  4. Give the body of the tap a clean, then reassemble.

Fixing leaky spouts

Mixer taps with moveable spouts may leak at the bottom of the spout. You’ll need to shut the water off and undo the small screw at the back of the main body of the tap with a screwdriver or Allen key. Replace the washer at the base of the spout, and don’t forget to give everything a clean before reassembling.

If you follow our guides, your taps should stop dripping in no time.

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