how to fix a dripping tap

How to Fix a Dripping Tap

A dripping tap is not a disaster in your bathroom but it can quickly become an annoyance, particularly when it echoes around a room late at night.

So, what can you do about it? Fixing a dripping tap doesn’t mean ripping it out and buying a new one or getting an entirely new basin and tap combination. It is a simple and straightforward fix that is one of the basic bathroom DIY jobs that’s handy to know.

Plumbworld is here to explain everything about how to fix a dripping bathroom tap, including the process to do so, as well as why a tap starts dripping. We cover the tools you will need to complete the job and guide you through the fix, step-by-step.

Read on to find out how to fix a dripping tap in your bathroom…

Why do taps start dripping?

why do taps start dripping?

There are two types of taps in your bathroom, traditional and monobloc, each one has its own reason for starting to drip.

Traditional taps drip because an internal rubber seal, sometimes called a washer, has broken and needs replacing. Monobloc lever taps have ceramic cartridges that will occasionally need to be replaced. The more expensive the tap, the more expensive it may be to replace the cartridge - it could also be more difficult to access.

Read more: Bathroom Taps Buying Guide

To know which type of bathroom tap you have, all you have to do is turn them on. Traditional taps turn on by turning the handle multiple times. However, a monobloc lever tap - which can be often a single handle - only rotates or lifts a quarter or half turn. Worn O-rings are another cause of leaks in traditional taps, so it’s best checking when replacing a washer.

Tip: If you replace the washer and your tap is still dripping, it is likely that the O-ring is at fault.

What you will need to fix a dripping tap

The equipment you will need to fix your faulty tap is as simple as the job you are about to do, we’ve listed it below:

  • An adjustable spanner
  • A cross-headed screwdriver
  • Replacement cartridge, washer or O-ring
  • Lubricant, such as WD40

Fixing a dripping tap - the process

Fix a dripping tap

Before you do anything, you need to prepare for the job of fixing a bathroom tap. You should try and identify where the leak is coming from and what the cause may be. 

If water is dripping from the spout, then you will probably need to replace the washer. However, if the leak is from below the handle, then the O-Ring may need replacing in a traditional tap.

Remember, monobloc taps use ceramic discs rather than rubber washers. Rubber and ceramic washers come in different sizes, so you need to make sure you replace them like-for-like. It may be worth checking the manufacturer’s instructions for specific requirements.

Important: Before starting any plumbing work, turn off your water supply. Then, run the taps to release pressure in the pipes.

Tip: Put the plug into the sink so you don’t accidentally lose any parts down the plughole.

Step One: Remove the decorative cover or caps of the tap to access the screw that holds the tap together. You'll need to loosen the screw to get inside and make repairs. You can usually unscrew these caps by hand, or gently pop them off with a slot-head screwdriver.

Step Two: Now you need to take your tap apart by starting with the tap's head - the bit you turn. There may be a metal cover around the neck protecting the valve, so take this off too. Lay all your parts out on the side of the sink. Crucially, do it in order of when you took them off so that it's easy to put your tap back together again.

Step Three: Replacing a rubber washer. When you remove the metal cover on a traditional tap, you will see a hexagonal nut. Undo it with an adjustable spanner to take the tap stem out and expose the washer. Remove the rubber washer and put a new one on. Put your tap back together. Make sure your tap is clean before reassembling.

Tip: If you are struggling to remove the hexagonal nut, spray some WD40 on it.

Step Four: Replacing a ceramic disc. For monobloc taps, once you’ve removed the tap or handle and metal casing, you will see a hexagonal nut that holds the cartridge. Use your spanner to loosen and remove it. identify the hot and cold cartridges, then simply remove the cartridge and replace it. Put your tap back together.

Step Five: If the washer or cartridge is not the problem, you will need to replace the O-ring. Unscrew the spout and replace the O-ring before putting everything back together. Use a flat-head screwdriver to loosen the O-ring and slide it off, or use a pair of scissors to cut it off if you're struggling. Roll the replacement O-ring on. Then put your tap back together.

Tip: When tightening the tap after putting it back on, never do it too tight as this could damage the washer, meaning you will have to replace again.

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Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more bathroom advice…

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