How to fix your leaking tap

Let’s start this feature with a brief honesty hour: we’ve probably all left a dripping tap to its own devices for too long. Sure, it’s annoying, but nowhere near enough for us to immediately fix it.

But a leaking tap is more than just that constant buzzing (or, well, dripping) in your ear. Over time, every single drop adds up and you waste a lot of water. In fact, according to the European Environment Agency, it can waste up to 1 litre of water per hour.

For reference, that’s enough to make three, four cups of tea or boil some pasta. Add it up over the day and you’ve got 24 litres, which is enough to flush the toilet around five times, if you have a modern cistern.

What I’m getting at: a leaky tap is not only a nuisance, it’s also pretty wasteful.

So, what to do? Luckily, fixing it is easy. Yes, really.

Don’t believe me? Here are all the details!

What kind of tap do you have?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself, because a leaking tap often has different causes. In a monobloc design, it’s often caused by a damaged ceramic cartridge, for example, while a damaged washer is usually the culprit in a traditional fixture.

Alright, but how do I fix a leaking tap?

After establishing what kind of tap you have, it’s go time! There are a few things you need, so make sure you have them to hand before you start – it’s easier and will save you a mid-job panic of ‘oh no, where did I put this?’.

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So, here’s what you need

  • An adjustable spanner
  • A screwdriver (ideally a flat-headed and a crosshead one, if you’re unsure about which you need)
  • A replacement disk / washer / cartridge
leaking tap spanner
Having an adjustable spanner to hand will make this task a lot easier. Image via iStock.com / BigshotD3

And we’re ready to go.

First, before anything else, cut off the water supply or you might be in for an unfortunate surprise – and by that I mean a load of water in the room. Don’t forget to run off any excess water in the pipes, either.

It’s also a good idea to plug your sink after you’ve done this, so you don’t lose any small parts that fall into the sink.

Then, remove the handle caps if your tap has them – be careful, as you don’t want to damage them. A flat-headed screwdriver is ideal for the job, working like a small lever.

Unscrew the handle, if there’s a screw inside, and then use the spanner to loosen the valve and carefully remove it. Hold on to the spanner and use it to hold the valve, as that’ll make it easier to get in there with your screwdriver.

Carefully remove the screw that holds the washer. Once you’ve loosened it, remove and replace with a new one.

Tighten the screw again – remember to not tighten screws, washers, and valves too much, because the resulting tension can cause more damage.

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And you’re basically done! Screw the valve back in, out the valve cover in place, and finish it off by adding the handle caps back on. Done!

But what if I have my leaking tap has a ceramic disk?

The steps are basically the same, up until you remove the valve. From then on, you need to progress slightly differently.

Instead of loosening another screw, check the disk at the bottom of the valve to see if it’s damaged or simply needs a bit of a clean.

Once you’ve done what needs doing – be it a replacement or getting rid of some grime – you pop the valve back on, reassemble your tap, and you’re good to go.

However, for some taps of this style, you might need an Allen key, so it’s good to have one to hand. It’s also good to note that the ceramic disks are usually colour coded – red for hot water, blue for cold.

So, what are you waiting for? Don’t put off repairing your leaking tap any longer – your nerves and water usage will thank you. (And you get to feel proud after, too.)

Featured image: via iStock.com / nicolas_

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