Fix Your Leaky Tap

Planning & preparation

  • Try and identify where the leak is coming from and what the cause may be. If water is leaking from the spout, then you probably need to replace the washer, but if the leak is from beneath the handle, then the valve O-Ring may need replacing. If the leak is beneath the spout then it’s likely that the spout O-Ring will need replacing
  • There are generally two types of valve devices that you might come across: compression valve or ceramic disc valve. The type of valve you have will determine what type of washers you need
  • Ceramic disc valve taps, that reach full power after half a turn or less, will almost certainly use ceramic washers
  • Compression valve taps, that need a full turn or more to reach maximum power, will use rubber washers
  • If old washers are the cause of the problem, then you will need to access the valve. Compression valves are mechanical devices inside the tap that control the water flow. In this style of tap, a rubber washer at the base of the valve forms a seal to stop water flow. If this washer wears away, then drips can occur
  • A ceramic valve uses ceramic discs rather than rubber washers. Both rubber and ceramic washers come in different sizes so you need to make sure you replace like for like
  • Hot valves will have a red bottom seal, whereas cold valves will have a blue bottom seal. The difference between the two is the direction in which the valve turns
  • Before you start any plumbing work, turn off your water supply. Once the water is off, run the taps to release the pressure in the pipes
  • Always check the manufacturer’s instructions in case your particular tap has specific instructions

Do it right

  • Before you start to dismantle your tap, put the plug into the sink so you don’t accidentally lose any small parts down the plughole
  • Spanners and screwdrivers can easily scratch chrome taps, so where possible use a soft cloth to protect the finish
  • It’s important not to over-tighten a washer or valve when reassembling, as this may damage or cause excess stress on the joint

Staying safe

  • Wear safety goggles throughout the process, as a precautionary measure
  • Be mindful that some edges may be sharp


  • Rubber washers used in compression valve taps can show signs of premature wear if they are over-tightened. Taps of this type often continue to drip for a short space of time, even when fully closed, so resist the temptation to tighten them further than necessary
Fix Your Leaky Tap
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