A quick guide to replacing tap washers

Your household taps allow for flowing water with a simple turn of the wrist. But a damaged washer can slow the flow. Here's a quick guide to how to replace one.

A quick guide to replacing tap washers

What you will need

  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench
  • New tap washer
  • Pipe wrench (if required)

1. Turn off the water

  • Turn off your main water supply and turn on your tap to empty the pipes.
  • Turn off your tap, and plug the sink to stop tap components falling down the drain.
  • Unscrew or lever off the top plate or, if your tap has a cross tap or capstan handle, remove the indicator disc and the retaining screw underneath.

2. Expose the headgear

  • Pull off the now loosened handle.
  • If your tap has a spacer washer, remove this also.
  • If your tap has a cross tap or capstan handle, there will be a spindle above the headgear, covered by a metal shroud.
  • Remove the shroud.

3. Remove the headgear

  • Loosen the headgear nut with your wrench, then unscrew the headgear from the body of your tap.
  • Don't use force if the headgear is stiff.
  • Brace your tap body by hand or with a pipe wrench wrapped in cloth, to prevent your tap from turning and fracturing pipework while you're unscrewing the headgear.

4. Replace the washer

  • Unscrew or lever off the washer that's under the headgear.
  • Inspect the valve seat for wear or damage and restore if necessary.
  • Replace the old washer with your new one and reassemble your tap by following these steps in reverse.
  • Turn on your main water supply and then your tap to check if your new washer is working.

Other practical tips to consider

  • Replacing washers is worth the effort — a single dripping tap can waste thousands of litres (hundreds of gallons) of water in a year.
  • To keep repair bills to a minimum, look beyond the styling of your tap and consider the materials used to make it and the mechanism inside. Most top-quality taps are made from cast brass, which is often plated — chromium plating is the most durable.
  • Hard-wearing ceramic discs have now largely replaced rubber washers, which perish over time.
  • Hold a heat gun over a stuck tap shroud. The warm air should make the metal expand and break the grip of the threads. If this doesn't work, squirt a little silicone lubricating fluid into the thread. You may need to repeat the process once or twice before the thread is freed. Don't try this on taps fitted to an acrylic basin or bath, as the heat could damage the acrylic.
  • Wrap wrench jaws with thick duct tape or utility tape to prevent scratching a brass or plated tap. Or use the cut-off fingertips of an old pair of leather gloves.
  • Some tap handles can be pulled off, but most have a small screw. On a traditional cross tap or capstan handle, the screw is on the side. On taps with shroud-head handles, it is usually underneath the hot/cold indicator disc, and includes a small washer.

Following this quick guide and keeping these practical tips in mind will help you replace old washers and might just shave a little bit off of your water bill, too.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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