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How To Change A Tap Washer To Fix A Dripping Tap

Learn how to fix a leaking tap yourself and skip the plumber bill.

Sunday 10th October 2021

Leaking bathroom taps aren’t just annoying, they also waste water and result in higher bills with your money literally going down the drain. Fortunately, fixing them can be a straightforward DIY job and this guide will give you the answers to your question of how to fix a dripping tap.

What type of tap are you repairing? 

A dripping tap is usually a sign that internal parts need replacing, so the first task is working out what type of tap you haves and buying the new parts. Older, traditional taps are usually made with rubber washers, which begin to leak when they perish. These are relatively cheap and available from most DIY stores in packs of different sizes. In this case, you’ll need to replace the complete ceramic valve or cartridge and, depending on the design of the tap, the valve/cartridge may need to be specially ordered. All taps sold by Mira Showers come with a 5-year guarantee and are supported by a full range of spare parts


A good guide to figuring out what type of tap you have is to turn the lever or handle. If it only rotates a quarter turn or a half, it’s probably made with ceramic disc or cartridge. If it turns more, it’s likely to rely on rubber washers. 

A tap washer is a small disk fitted to the inside of a tap, the function of a washer is to create a valve seal when the tap is turned off, in order to prevent leaking. There are two different types of tap washers, the more traditional and cheaper version is a rubber washer and the second, more modern and effective option, is a ceramic washer. Ceramic washers are generally more effective in preventing leaks and also mean taps only need a 90-degree rotation to turn them on or off.  

What you’ll need to fix a dripping tap  

  • Crosshead screwdriver 
  • Pair of pliers 
  • Allen key (depending on tap design) 
  • Adjustable spanner 
  • Ceramic valve or replacement cartridge 

A step-by-step guide for changing a ceramic valve or cartridge

  1. Locate your stop tap or isolation valve and turn off the water supply.  
  2. Turn the tap on to drain out any water left in it and the pipe. Put the plug in the basin – this makes sure any small parts won’t be lost down the plughole.   
  3. Remove the tap handle – you may need to pop off the decorative top of the tap (or the hot/cold symbol) using the screwdriver to expose a screw that fixes the handle to the body of the tap. There may also be another cover/shroud to take off or a part that requires an Allen key in order to remove it. This should reveal the ceramic disc valve or cartridge. As you take parts off, keep them in the same order – this will help when reassembling your tap.
  4. Use your spanner to loosen the valve or head nut until you can remove it. Once it’s out, give the thread inside the tap a clean as this is where dirt can gather. (Check the new valve or cartridge you are fitting is the correct one for the hot or cold, if it’s a monobloc tap make sure the new cartridge matches the one removed.) 

5. Replace the new valve or cartridge, then reassemble your tap.

6. Turn on the water supply and check for leaks around the area where parts were replaced (including under the basin) as you may have disturbed the pipework. All areas need to be completely watertight. Check that the tap works properly and ensure there is a good flow of hot and cold water. 

Fixing a tap with a rubber washer 

To replace a rubber tap washer, the process is practically the same. Once you have removed the tap stem, you will find a small packing nut, unscrew this and you will see the rubber washer.  

Remove the rubber washer, with your fingers or a pair of pliers. Replace the rubber tap washer with one of the same size, screw the packing nut back on and reassemble the tap. Don’t forget to tighten everything up well.  

Maintain your basin tap 

Ceramic valves and cartridges need little maintenance but it’s always worth carrying out an annual check to make sure the cartridges don’t seize in the body of the tap (they can be lightly greased with silicone grease). In hard water areas it’s also worth regularly cleaning the outlet flow aerator or straightener as these can get clogged, delivering a poor flow. 

What to do if your tap is still dripping after changing the washer 

If your tap is still leaking after the DIY efforts, it’s likely to be a fault with the valve, which means that the tap seat and washer cannot function properly. You can try checking the valve yourself or get in touch with one of our professionals to give you a hand in fixing or replacing your dripping tap.  


Time for a change? Explore our new range of bathroom taps for some inspiration. 


Get £30 cashback whenever you buy one of our dual electrics showers either directly or through one of our stockists.