How to Fix a Dripping Tap

How to Fix a Dripping Tap
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We’ve all heard that annoying drip, drip, drip from the bathroom or kitchen tap. It’s not just a nuisance; it’s also a waste of water. Want to learn how to fix that leak? You’re in the right place! Whether it’s a traditional tap, a mixer tap, or a ceramic disc tap, we’ve got you covered. This comprehensive guide is worth reading if you want to save money on your water bill and master the art of tap repair. Let’s dive in!

Why do I need to fix a leaking tap?

Fixing a leaking tap is important for a variety of reasons:

  1. Water Conservation: A dripping tap might seem minor, but over time, it can waste a significant amount of water. Even a small leak can lead to the loss of many gallons of water over the course of a week or month, which is not only wasteful but can also increase your water bill.
  2. Financial Implications: As mentioned, a leaking tap can lead to increased water bills. If left unattended for long periods, the financial cost can add up significantly.
  3. Potential Damage: Continuous dripping can cause wear and tear on your sink or tub, potentially causing stains or even erosion over time. Moreover, if the leak is around the base of the tap or its connections, it can cause water damage to your countertops, cabinets, and floors.
  4. Preventing Bigger Issues: A small leak might be indicative of a bigger underlying problem with your plumbing. Addressing it early can prevent more extensive and expensive repairs in the future.
  5. Environmental Concerns: Freshwater is a precious resource. By fixing leaks promptly, you contribute to water conservation efforts, ensuring that this resource is available for various needs and future generations.
  6. Noise: A continuously dripping tap can be annoying, especially if it’s in a quiet area of your home like a bathroom adjacent to a bedroom.
  7. Increase Lifespan of Plumbing: Regular maintenance, including fixing leaks, can increase the lifespan of your plumbing fixtures and systems.
  8. Mold and Mildew: In some cases, continuous moisture from a leaking tap can promote the growth of mold and mildew, which can lead to health issues for some individuals.
  9. Preserving Water Quality: Stagnant water caused by leaks can sometimes become a breeding ground for bacteria. Fixing the leak ensures that water flows as intended, reducing the risk of contamination.

In conclusion, while a leaking tap might seem like a small issue, it’s essential to address it promptly due to the many potential financial, environmental, and structural implications.

What causes a tap to drip?

A dripping tap can be caused by a variety of reasons, depending on the type of tap and its specific components. Here are some common causes for a tap to drip:

  1. Worn Out Washer: One of the most common reasons for a traditional compression tap to drip is a worn-out rubber washer. Over time, the rubber deteriorates and no longer forms a watertight seal, allowing water to seep through.
  2. Faulty O-Ring: The O-ring is a small rubber ring located around the valve stem. If it becomes worn out or damaged, it can cause a leak near the handle of the tap.
  3. Corroded Valve Seat: The valve seat is the connection between the tap and the spout in compression taps. Over time, water sediments can cause corrosion on the valve seat, leading to leaks around the spout.
  4. Ceramic Disc Damage: For taps using ceramic disc valves, the discs can become damaged, misaligned, or develop build-up of minerals and sediment, causing them not to seal properly and resulting in a drip.
  5. Worn Out Cartridge: In cartridge taps, if the cartridge becomes damaged or worn out, it might not regulate the flow of water effectively, leading to drips.
  6. High Water Pressure: Occasionally, if water pressure is too high, it can lead to intermittent dripping from the tap as excess water is forced out.
  7. Improper Installation: If a tap or its components are not installed correctly, it can result in dripping. This might include components that are not adequately tightened or are misaligned.
  8. Build-up of Sediments or Mineral Deposits: Over time, small mineral deposits or sediments from hard water can build up on the internal components of a tap, preventing them from sealing properly.
  9. Temperature Changes: In some cases, hot water can cause expansion in the tap, leading to temporary dripping.
  10. Worn Out Seals: In some types of taps, especially ball-type taps, there are internal seals that can wear out over time, leading to drips.
  11. Broken Plumbing: Less commonly, a drip could indicate a more significant issue deeper within your plumbing system, such as a broken pipe or a faulty pressure regulator.

If you identify a dripping tap, it’s essential to determine the cause of the leak. While many of these issues can be fixed with basic DIY skills and a trip to a local hardware store, more complicated problems might require the expertise of a professional plumber.

Identifying the Type of Tap

Before you can fix a dripping tap, it’s essential to identify its type. Each has a unique construction and requires specific steps for repair.

Traditional Tap

This is the most common tap you’ll find in older homes. It uses a washer that can wear out over time, leading to that annoying drip.

Mixer Tap

Found mostly in modern kitchens, a mixer tap blends hot and cold water, providing a single spout. If you have this type and it starts dripping, the ceramic cartridge might be the culprit.

Ceramic Disc Tap

Instead of a traditional washer, these taps use ceramic discs. Fixing them might sound daunting, but with the right tools, it’s a breeze.

Steps to Fix a Leaking Traditional Tap

For the old-fashioned taps in your home, follow these steps to stop that drip.

Switching off the Water Supply

Before you unscrew anything, always turn off the water supply to avoid an unexpected fountain in your kitchen or bathroom.

Removing the Tap Handle

After ensuring the water is off, use a screwdriver to remove the tap handle. Underneath, you’ll find a nut that holds the tap together. Loosen this with an adjustable spanner.

Replacing the Tap Washer

Here’s where the magic happens! Once you’ve taken the tap apart, you’ll find a worn-out washer. Replace this, and you’re halfway to a drip-free life.

Repairing a Leaking Mixer Tap

If you have a modern mixer tap that’s leaking, here’s your guide on how to fix it.

Understanding the Mixer Tap Components

Remember, a mixer tap blends hot and cold water. If water is leaking from beneath the handle, you might need to replace the ceramic cartridge.

Unscrewing and Checking the O-ring

Loosen the grub screw to remove the tap handle. From there, unscrew the tap valve and inspect the o-ring. If it looks worn, it’s time for a replacement.

Fixing the Ceramic Disc

Unlike traditional taps, mixer taps use ceramic discs instead of washers. If your tap is still dripping after replacing the o-ring, it might be time to change the ceramic discs.

How to fix a ceramic disc valve tap

Fixing a ceramic disc valve tap typically involves either cleaning or replacing the ceramic discs. Ceramic disc valves are used in modern taps because of their durability and effectiveness in preventing drips. However, over time, they can get worn out, clogged with debris, or become damaged.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to fixing a ceramic disc valve tap:

  1. Turn Off the Water Supply: Before you start, turn off the water supply to the tap. This can usually be done via the isolation valves located beneath the tap or close to it.
  2. Remove the Tap Handle:
    • Modern taps often have decorative caps or buttons on top of the handle. Gently pry this off to expose the screw.
    • Using a suitable screwdriver, remove the screw holding the handle in place.
    • Once the screw is removed, lift off the tap handle.
  3. Remove the Valve:
    • Below the handle, you will see the ceramic disc valve, typically held in place by a retaining nut.
    • Use an adjustable wrench to turn the retaining nut counterclockwise to remove it.
    • Carefully lift out the ceramic disc valve.
  4. Inspect the Ceramic Discs:
    • Check the ceramic discs for signs of wear, cracks, or damage. If they look worn out or damaged, it’s best to replace the entire valve.
    • Also, inspect for debris. Sometimes small particles can get trapped and prevent the valve from sealing properly.
  5. Cleaning or Replacing:
    • For Cleaning: Soak the ceramic disc valve in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water for several hours. This will help dissolve any limescale or debris. After soaking, use an old toothbrush to gently scrub the discs and rinse thoroughly with water.
    • For Replacing: If the discs are damaged or too worn out, it’s best to replace the entire ceramic disc valve. You can purchase a replacement from a hardware or plumbing supply store. Ensure it’s the correct size and type for your tap.
  6. Reassemble the Tap:
    • Insert the cleaned or new ceramic disc valve back into its position.
    • Screw on the retaining nut using the adjustable wrench. Be careful not to over-tighten.
    • Place the tap handle back on top, secure it with the screw, and then replace the decorative cap or button.
  7. Turn On the Water Supply: Slowly turn on the water supply and check the tap for any leaks. Ensure that the tap is functioning correctly without any drips.

If you’ve followed all these steps and the tap is still leaking, it might be a more complex issue or something unrelated to the ceramic discs. In that case, consulting with a plumber might be your best option.

What if the leak is coming from the bottom of the spout?

If the leak is coming from the bottom of the spout, especially in mixer taps or those with a single handle, the problem often lies with the O-ring or the cartridge. Here’s how you can address it:

  1. Turn Off the Water: Before you begin, always shut off the water supply to your tap to prevent any accidents.
  2. Disassemble the Tap:
    • For Mixer Taps:
      • Remove the tap handle, which often involves locating a hidden screw under a decorative cap.
      • Once the handle is removed, you’ll see the top of the cartridge housing. Unscrew this using an adjustable spanner.
      • This will expose the cartridge itself, which can be taken out. At the base of the cartridge is where you’ll usually find the O-ring.
    • For Traditional Taps: The process is similar, but instead of a cartridge, you’ll be dealing with a tap washer and possibly a jumper valve. After removing the tap handle and cover, you’ll access these parts.
  3. Inspect the O-Ring or Cartridge:
    • If the O-ring looks damaged, brittle, or flattened, it’s likely the cause of the leak. Replace it with a new one of the same size.
    • If the cartridge appears damaged or worn out, it may need replacement. Take the old cartridge to a hardware store to ensure you purchase the correct replacement.
  4. Reassemble the Tap: Once you’ve replaced the necessary parts, reassemble the tap. It’s essential to make sure everything is snug but be cautious about over-tightening, which can cause damage or make future disassembly difficult.
  5. Test the Tap: Turn the water supply back on and check for leaks. Run both hot and cold water through the tap, ensuring no leaks occur during operation.

Leaks at the bottom of the spout are often relatively straightforward to address. Still, if you’re uncomfortable with DIY repairs or if the problem persists after your attempts to fix it, it might be time to call a professional plumber. They can ensure that the issue is resolved efficiently and prevent potential complications.

How to replace a tap valve O-ring

Replacing the O-ring in a tap valve can solve many leakage issues, especially those around the tap handle. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you replace a tap valve O-ring:

Materials and Tools Needed:

  • Replacement O-ring(s) (Make sure you have the correct size and type for your tap.)
  • Adjustable wrench or spanner
  • Screwdriver (often Phillips or flat-head, depending on your tap)
  • Lubricant or plumber’s grease (optional but can help in reassembly and prolong the life of the new O-ring)
  • Cloth or rag


  1. Turn Off Water Supply:
    • Always start by shutting off the water supply to the tap you’re working on. This can be done using the isolation valves located beneath or near the tap.
  2. Remove the Tap Handle:
    • Most taps have a decorative cap or button on the top or back of the handle. Gently pry this cap off to expose the screw.
    • Using the appropriate screwdriver, unscrew and remove the screw holding the handle in place.
    • Once the screw is out, lift or pull off the tap handle. It might be tight, so wiggle it gently if necessary.
  3. Expose the Valve:
    • With the handle removed, you’ll be able to see the valve’s top, which is usually held in place with a retaining nut.
    • Use the adjustable wrench to turn this nut counterclockwise and remove it. Be careful and use a cloth to protect the finish if necessary.
  4. Locate the O-ring:
    • The O-ring is typically situated around the valve stem, just below the threads or the base of the stem itself.
  5. Remove the Old O-ring:
    • Using a small flat-head screwdriver or a similar tool, gently pry the old O-ring off the valve stem. Be careful not to scratch or damage the stem.
  6. Install the New O-ring:
    • If you have plumber’s grease, lightly lubricate the new O-ring. This can help it slide into place easier and can prolong its life.
    • Carefully slide the new O-ring onto the valve stem and into the groove or area where the old O-ring was situated.
  7. Reassemble the Tap:
    • Replace the retaining nut and tighten it with the adjustable wrench.
    • Place the handle back onto the stem and secure it with its screw.
    • Pop the decorative cap or button back onto the handle.
  8. Turn On Water Supply:
    • Slowly turn the water supply back on.
    • Test the tap to ensure there are no leaks and that it operates smoothly.
  9. Clean Up:
    • Wipe down the tap and the surrounding area to clean off any water or lubricant residue.

If, after replacing the O-ring, your tap still leaks or has other issues, there may be additional components that need attention or replacement. In such cases, consulting with a plumber or seeking additional guidance might be helpful.

Is a dripping tap serious?

A dripping tap may seem insignificant but it can lead to serious issues over time. Besides the annoyance of the constant drip sound, it can lead to water waste, higher utility bills and potential damage due to prolonged water exposure. Thus, taking immediate action to fix a dripping tap is crucial to prevent these complications.

What happens if you don’t fix a dripping tap?

If you don’t fix a dripping tap, it can lead to a significant increase in your water bill due to wasted water. Additionally, the constant dripping can cause damage to fixtures, possibly leading to expensive repairs. It’s also environmentally unfriendly, as fresh water is a limited resource that should be conserved.

Do you need a plumber to fix a dripping tap?

While it is possible for individuals to fix a dripping tap using basic DIY know-how, sometimes the problem can be more complex. In such cases, it is advisable to hire a professional plumber. They have the necessary training and tools to efficiently resolve such issues without causing any potential water damage.

Why does my tap keep dripping when off?

A tap might keep dripping even when turned off due to a few reasons. The most common cause is a worn-out washer. Over time, the rubber washer found in most taps can deteriorate and cause a leak. It could also be due to a damaged valve, high water pressure, or issues with the plumbing system.

Preventing Future Leaks

A dripping tap can quickly become a bigger problem if not addressed. Regular maintenance is essential.

Regular Maintenance

Once every few months, turn off the water supply and take your tap apart to check for any wear and tear. Addressing issues early can prevent bigger problems down the line.

When to Call a Professional

If you’ve followed all these steps and your tap is still dripping, it might be time to call in the experts.


Fixing a leaking tap isn’t rocket science. With a little patience and the right tools, you can get your tap back to its drip-free state in no time. Remember, regular maintenance is the key to a long-lasting tap. And if all else fails, don’t be shy about calling in a professional sink repair service london. After all, who likes that constant drip, drip, drip?

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Dany is a seasoned plumbing expert with 5+ years of experience. As a licensed plumber and certified professional, Dany has handled a wide range of projects, from minor repairs to large-scale installations. With a passion for eco-friendly solutions, Dany is dedicated to providing efficient and sustainable plumbing services.

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