How to Fix a Dripping Tap

When it comes to dripping taps, besides it being annoying and wasting water, it’s important to fix the problem as soon as possible so that it’s easier to repair and causes minimal damage.

What you need to fix your tap will depend on where the drip is occurring. If there’s a dribble from the top of the tap, replacing the O-ring should solve the problem whereas if the drip is elsewhere, we suggest changing the washers. As ever, if you attempt to repair your leaking tap and the problem persists, we recommend that you call a professional as there may be a more serious problem.

Tap Types

How to approach mending a dripping tap depends on what type of taps and washers you have, whether you’re dealing with traditional taps or modern monobloc taps. In standard pillar taps, the head can be twisted a whole turn or more which suggests that they use rubber washers while the head of a monobloc tap can only twist a quarter or half turn before it stops, suggesting that they use ceramic washers.

If you have traditional taps with rubber washers, then follow our step-by-step guide to stop that annoying drip. However, if you have modern taps with ceramic washers then we highly recommend that you call a plumber as working with these taps can be much more complicated and you can do more damage by attempting to repair them. Ceramic washers are usually specific to the make and model of your tap and will, therefore, need to be sourced from the manufacturer.

Before you begin: Turn off water supply

The first step, whether you’re changing a rubber washer or replacing an O-ring, is to turn off your water supply, to avoid any potential flooding. There are several ways to turn off your water supply so follow the instructions below to find your preferred or required method.

NB: We recommend you wear protective eyewear and rubber gloves for all methods listed below

Option One: Isolation Valve

Using the isolation valve will only turn off the water supply to a particular set of taps. Most taps have an isolation valve directly beneath them (in the cupboard under the sink) but if you can’t locate this valve then try one of our other methods.

What you will need:

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • WD40 spray

Step-by-step

  1. Find the isolation valve underneath the taps. It should look like a slot-headed screw and the slot should be parallel with an arrow on the valve.
  2. Take your flathead screwdriver and use it to turn the slot 90° so that it’s no longer in line with the arrow.
  3. If it’s stiff, spray some WD40 on the valve and try again.
  4. Test if the supply has been cut by turning the tap on and waiting for the supply to run out. If water continues to run, then try again or opt for another method.

Option Two: Stopcock

This method, and the next, will turn off the water supply to the whole house. Locating the stopcock in your home can be difficult, but it’s a good idea to know where it is so that you can prevent damage if there is ever a serious leak in the house. The stopcock can usually be found under the kitchen sink and may be behind a kickboard. However, it may also be behind a kickboard in a hallway cupboard or somewhere similar. Once you’ve located your stopcock, follow our guide to turn the supply off.

What you will need:

  • WD40

Step-by-step

  1. The stopcock should look very much like a tap. Try to turn the head clockwise to turn off the water supply.
  2. If the head is stiff and will not turn, spray it generously with WD40 to loosen it as they can seize up, and try step one again.
  3. Return to the dripping tap and turn it on. If water stops running, then the water supply has been successfully turned off.

Option Three: Turning off the mains

If you don’t have an isolation valve or need to turn off the water supply to the whole property but cannot find the stopcock, you can turn off the mains water supply to your house. The mains will be outside, usually at the bottom of your driveway and covered by a square metal cover.

What you will need:

  • Screwdriver
  • WD40

Step-by-step

  1. After locating the mains cover, carefully prise the lid off using a screwdriver.
  2. Once inside, you should see a handle. Turn it clockwise until it’s completely closed to turn off the water supply to the house.
  3. If the handle is stiff, spray with WD40 to loosen and try again.
  4. Test if the water supply has been switched off and, if not, try again while ensuring that you have turned the handle as far as it will go in a clockwise direction.

NB: Remember to turn your water supply, stopcock or isolation valve back on to return to normal water use.

Now, let’s move on to mending that leaking tap. Follow this step-by-step guide to replace rubber washers and O-rings. Remember that if the problem persists or you have ceramic washers, call a plumber.

Replacing rubber washers

If there’s a leak coming from the body or spout of your tap, it’s likely that you need to replace your washers. If you have traditional taps that can twist the whole way around, then this is the correct method for you.

What you will need:

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Spanner or adjustable wrench
  • WD40
  • Rubber washer

Step-by-step

  1. Turn off the water supply, as above.
  2. Put the plug in the plughole or cover it to stop anything falling down the drain.
  3. Next, you’ll need to remove the top of the tap. To do this, use your flathead screwdriver to prise the top caps off (usually the hot or cold cover) which will reveal a screw.
  4. Undo the screw and then lift the top of the tap off.
  5. The valve fitting will now be exposed. Locate the nut at the bottom of the valve and, using your spanner, loosen and unscrew it. Use WD40 if the valve has seized up.
  6. Remove the valve fitting and locate the rubber washer at the bottom of the fitting.
  7. Slide the rubber washer off, using your screwdriver to carefully prise it out if it’s stuck.
  8. Ensure you have a washer that fits, whether you take the washer you have just removed to a DIY shop or you’ve bought an assorted bag of washers to find the right one. It’s crucial to get the right size.
  9. Take the new, correctly sized washer and slide it onto the bottom of the valve fitting where the old one was.
  10. Reassemble your tap: screwing the valve fitting back into place and tightening the nut; putting the top of the tap back on; reinserting the screw and putting the tap cover back on.
  11. Turn the water supply back on and wait to see if the tap continues to drip. If it does, there could be a bigger problem and we recommend you call a professional to avoid further damage.

Replacing an O-ring

If there is a leak coming from the top or spout of your tap, it’s likely that you need a new O-ring. Whether you have traditional or modern monobloc taps, you can use this method to fix a top drip.

What you will need:

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Scissors

Step-by-step

  1. Turn off the water supply, as above.
  2. Place the plug in the plughole to avoid anything falling in.
  3. Locate the grub screw behind the spout, twist to release it and then remove the grub screw.
  4. Gently lift the spout away, revealing the O-ring at the base.
  5. Try to remove O-ring. If you cannot do so with your fingers, take your flathead screwdriver and carefully attempt to prise O-ring off. Alternatively, you can cut it off using a pair of scissors.
  6. Ensure you have the correct sized new O-ring, matching it to the one you have just removed, and roll it onto the spout.
  7. Once you’re sure the O-ring is securely fastened and in place, reposition the spout and put the grub screw back in place before tightening it.
  8. Turn the water supply back on and wait to see if the drip has been stopped. If there is still a drip, we recommend that you call a professional as there may be something more serious going on and you should avoid any further damage.

Leaky taps will happen over time due to wear and tear and as the washers and O-rings get older. If your tap is leaking heavily or you’re worried that there may be a severe plumbing issue then call a professional plumber before the problem gets worse. We hope that you find this guide helpful and that you’ve learned a few simple ways to fix a leaking tap.