How to fix a leaky tap

Rachel Greene-Taylor
Written by: Rachel Greene-Taylor
Posted on: 8 September 2015

Dripping taps leak a surprising amount of water – and that is, literally, money down the drain. Fixing the problem can be straightforward, but it does depend on the tap’s age, design and your water hardness.

There are two types of tap: if you turn it on by twisting the handle round and round, you have a traditional tap; if you can’t do more than a quarter-turn, you have a ceramic disc tap. Some taps have two handles, some only one.

Before you start

  1. If you have hard water, descale the tap and spray on a little WD40 before you start.
  2. Turn the water off using the hot and cold valves under the sink. If you can’t find the valves, shut off the main cold (and hot, if you have a water tank) supplies instead.
  3. Turn the tap on until the water stops.
  4. Put the plug in the sink.

Fixing traditional taps

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

  1. Unscrew/prise off the decorative cap at the top of the tap (which often has a symbol for hot or cold). Under it will be a screw. Use a screwdriver to undo it. Lift off the tap handle. Depending on the design of the tap, you may need to unscrew a metal shroud.
  2. You will now see a hexagonal nut. Holding the tap spout firmly in one hand, undo the nut using an adjustable spanner. Lift out the tap stem and replace the washer that sits at the bottom of it.
  3. Make sure the main body of the tap is clean before placing the stem back in and reassembling the tap.

Man fixing leaky tap with a spanner

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 get a match.

  1. Remove the levers/handles (you will probably need to undo a small screw with an Allen key or screwdriver first – it’s often hidden under the H/C indicator) and unscrew the metal shroud (if applicable).
  2. Use an adjustable spanner to undo the hollow hexagonal nut that holds the cartridge in place.
  3. Take the whole cartridge out and replace it.
  4. Check the body of the tap for debris, then reassemble.

Fixing leaky spouts

Mixer taps with moveable spouts may start to leak at the bottom of the spout. In this case, shut the water off and undo the small screw at the back of the main body of the tap with a screwdriver/Allen key. Then, replace the washer at the base of the spout, and don’t forget to give everything a clean before reassembling.

If you follow our steps, your taps should stop dripping in no time!

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