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Fix leaking taps

Before you get started

If you are in any doubt about the technique for repairing a tap, it is best to seek professional help.

To fix a leaking tap, first, you must safely turn off the water supply to that tap. This is easiest when isolation valves are situated close to the tap, on its supply pipes. With the valve design shown in this guide, if the slot of the screw is aligned with the pipe, thenthe valve is on. A quarter turn of the screw, so that the slot is running across the pipe, will turn the valve off.

You can normally identify whether a tap uses rubber washers or ceramic discs by turning the tap handle. If it can only rotate a quarter or half a turn, it will normally be a ceramic disc type tap. If it rotates more than this, it will generally be a rubber washer type.

Some single-lever operated mixer taps have a ceramic cartridge that is often very specific to a particular manufacturer.

Replacements may need to be specially ordered.

With ceramic disc taps, you replace the whole valve. With rubber washer taps, you only need to replace the small washer.

Worn O-rings are a common cause of leakage on kitchen taps, but you may also find O-rings on the valve body in some taps. If you fix a washer and the tap is still leaking, check for other O-rings and seals on the valve body to see if they are worn.

Protect rubber washers by taking care when turning taps off and on. Most become worn and need replacing because the tap has been overtightened when turning it off. A tap with a compression valve and rubber washers will always drip once or twice when you turn it off – it is not necessary to tighten and tighten again to avoid this. Allow these residual drips without feeling the need to tighten the tap more.

Gain access to the tap body


Before working on a tap, turn off the water supply – easiest when isolation valves are located close to the tap. Run tap to remove water from the pipes.


To get the tap head off, you need to access the handle screw. This will often be hidden under a cap on the handle, which will be simple to unscrew.


Alternatively, the top cap of the tap may be flipped off using a slot-head screwdriver. Carefully push under the cap edge and ease off.


Another possibility may be to simply lift off the cap with your fingers. Tap designs vary, as do these access points. Some may even require an Allen key.


For single-lever taps, it is often necessary to flip off the hot and cold indicator tab with a slot-head screwdriver to reveal a tiny retaining screw. Be careful not to scratch the chrome finish of the tap.


Any parts that you take off, lay out in order for easy reassembly. This ceramic cartridge can be replaced with an adjustable spanner in a similar way to the ceramic disc valve replacement shown opposite.

Replace a ceramic disc valve


Remove the cap in the way indicated by the tap style and undo the handle screw to release the tap handle.


After you have removed the screw, the tap handle will lift off easily to reveal the top of the valve.


Remove shroud (valve cover) if there is one, and remove ceramic valve by gripping and turning the valve with an adjustable spanner.


When unscrewed, remove ceramic valve and replace with a new one, before reassembling the tap, ensuring you replace all parts in order.

Replace a rubber washer


Remove the handle cap if there is one, to expose the handle screw, and unscrew it to remove the handle.


Set aside the tap handle, along with the shroud if there is one, to reveal the tap valve underneath.


Use an adjustable spanner to unscrew the tap valve so that you can remove the valve from the tap seat.


Unscrew or flip off the washer and replace with another. Reverse the process to reassemble the tap.

Replace a spout O-ring


To replace an O-ring at the base of a tap spout, remove the grub screw behind the spout and twist to release.


When you have lifted the spout away, you will be able to access the O-ring at the base of the spout.

How to fit a kitchen tap

This video shows you how to fit a new kitchen tap. For the purposes of this demonstration, a mixer tap is used but there’s also advice on how to fit separate hot and cold taps. All aspects of the process are covered - from turning off the water supply and removing the old tap to reconnecting the water pipes and ensuring your new tap is water-tight. To make things as clear as possible, different elements of the tap unit are named and explained. You’ll find out what tools to use and when alternatives might be necessary.

Preparation & Planning

When deciding which taps to buy, take into consideration your sink unit. To accommodate mixer taps, your sink unit only needs one tap hole. For separate hot and cold taps, it needs to have two holes. Also make sure you know how to turn the sink’s hot and cold water supply off and on again.


After fitting your new tap, make sure you keep the manufacturer's instructions. This will mean that if you do experience problems or leaks in the future, you will be able to locate and solve the problem much quicker.

Hints & tips

It would be good to have someone help you install the tap as small parts can be fiddily, plus you need to be aware of the spout on top of the sink and the workings below.


If replacing an old tap, make sure you turn off the water to the area before attempting to remove the old tap. Also, avoid lying directly underneath the sink whilst removing the old sink, as small parts may fall down during the process.

Related how to videos


It may be necessary to cut out the worn O-ring, or to prise it off carefully with a slot-head screwdriver.


Roll on a replacement O-ring to renew the seal. Reposition the spout and retighten the grub screw.

What you'll need

Making the job go smoothly

Always put the plug in when dismantling taps as it is easy to drop small parts that may then go down the plughole.

Be careful when undoing tap parts as spanners and gripping tools can easily scratch a chrome finish. Use a cloth as a buffer between the spanner jaws and the tap surface.

Don't overtighten when reassembling after replacing a washer or valve. You may damage or cause excess stress on the joint.

Getting inside a tap can be tricky. Some common ways of accessing a tap valve are shown in this leaflet. There are other options that become evident with a close inspection of the tap.

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