Easy fixes for a dripping faucet

Not only is a dripping tap annoying, it can discolour your sink and waste buckets of water every day. Silence your faucet with the below tips.

Easy fixes for a dripping faucet

Change the washer or cartridge

The procedure to change a washer or cartridge depends on the type of faucet design. In traditional designs, turning the head of the faucet turns a spindle, which presses a rubber washer against the bottom, or seat, of the tap to control water flow. More modern faucets switch the water from off to on with just a quarter-turn. They use ceramic plates mounted in a cartridge to control the flow.

Time needed: 10 minutes (plus time to go out and buy a replacement washer or cartidge).

Tools needed: cross-head and flat-head screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, cloth, and a replacement washer or ceramic cartridge.

  1. Turn off the faucet's water supply by shutting its service valve. If there isn't one, drain the system. Open the tap to drain any remaining water. Plug the sink to catch any small parts that fall from the tap during the repair.
  2. Pry off the top decorative cover of the faucet with a small flat-head screwdriver. Remove the screw that holds the handle onto the spindle. Rising spindle taps have a metal shroud over the headgear; unscrew this using an adjustable wrench. Wrap a cloth around the metal shroud to prevent scratching its surface.
  3. You'll now see an exposed nut. In quarter-turn faucets, this secures the cartridge that holds the ceramic disks. In conventional washer taps, this is the headgear nut. Holding the spout of the faucet firmly in one hand, use an adjustable wrench to loosen the nut. It turns counterclockwise.
  4. Remove the headgear/cartridge. If you have a quarter-turn tap, take the whole unit to your local plumber's merchant and buy a replacement. Make sure you specify whether it is for your hot or cold tap — the cartridges are left- and right-handed. If you have a faucet with a rubber washer, you'll see the washer at the end of the spindle; it usually just pushes on, but is sometimes secured by a small nut. Undo the nut or simply pry off the washer, then fit a new one (take the old one to a plumber's merchant or hardware store if you're unsure of the size to buy). If you don't have a spare handy and the washer looks intact with no cracks, turn it over for an immediate fix.
  5. Reassemble the tap and turn on the water supply. Don't worry if you hear a spluttering as trapped air makes its way through the pipe — it's normal.

Grind the seat to stop drips

If your faucet still drips from the spout after you've changed the washer, it's likely that the valve seat — the part that the washer pushes against — may be worn. You can buy an inexpensive tool that grinds away a little of the metal to form a new, flat seat or use a nylon liner to provide a new valve seat. Both are available from your local plumbing supplier.

Drips are keeping me awake

You may be staying with friends or at a hotel where you can't silence the dripping faucet with a wrench.

Wrap a piece of string (or cotton or dental floss) around the tap so that it trails into the sink or bathtub. Position it so the drips run silently down the string and drain away.

Turn off the service valve beneath the basin, if you can get to it.

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