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How to Fix a Dripping Tap & Leaking Bathtub

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

Blog
Monday 30th May 2022

There’s nothing worse than a leaking tap, from the persistent dripping noise to costly water bills. Thankfully, bathtub taps are relatively easy to fix yourself. Our guide to finding and repairing a bathtub leak will help you get your taps running efficiently again.

What type of bathtub do you have? 

Whether you have a freestanding bathtub, corner bathtub or two-in-one shower bath, the steps for repairing a leaking tap will be the same. Every bath has different types of taps, from modern mixer taps to traditional pillar taps, but the way they function matters when it comes to repairs. 

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. 

What type of bath taps do you have? 

If your tap is dripping, you’ll likely need to replace one of the internal parts, such as the washers, ceramic valve, cartridge or O-ring. First, you’ll need to determine the type of taps your bathtub has to get the right parts.  

Turn the handle and switch the water on to find out what kind of tap you have. If your tap handle only turns halfway, it probably has a ceramic disc or cartridge. If you have to turn the tap a full 360˚ rotation before the water starts running, it’s likely to have rubber washers. Most older designs have rubber washers, which are renowned for leaking.  

If you’re still unsure what type of taps you have, you might need to take the faucet apart to see which components it has. 

Choosing the correct replacement parts 

Tap washers are small disks fitted inside a tap. They create a water-tight seal to prevent leaks when the tap is turned off. Tap washers can be made from rubber, which tends to be cheaper and less efficient long-term, or ceramic, which is more hard-wearing. You can find spare parts for any Mira Showers taps, should you need to replace them. All our taps come with a 5-year warranty. 

Common sources of bathtub leaks 

Does your tub leak when the shower or bath is in use? Cracks inside the tub or eroded grout and sealant at the edges are common causes of bathtub leaks. 

To locate the leak, check around your bathtub for any visible signs of damage. If you can’t see anything, try filling the tub up slowly with water, and you should be able to spot the area where water is leaking from. You can place some newspaper or an old bedsheet on the floor to help you find the leak. 

Your bathtub pipework or overflow may also be causing the issue. This type of leak would require a plumber to investigate, as it can cause severe damage to your home. If your bathroom is flooding, shut off the mains water supply immediately. 

Common sources of tap leaks  

The most common cause of tap leaks is broken or worn washers. When turning your taps on, friction occurs between the water flow and the tap washer. Over time, this friction will wear down the washer.  

Another common problem is that tap stems or internal parts may become loose over time, so it’s essential to ensure all nuts, washers and screws are tightened sufficiently. 

If you have a two-in-one shower bath unit and have noticed water pooling in your bathtub, it may be that your shower head is leaking, not the taps. Discover how to fix a dripping shower head here. 

How to fix a leaking tap 

To repair a dripping tap, you’ll need to remove the tap head to get to the internal parts. If you’re changing the entire tap body for a different style, find out how to remove and change a bath tap in our dedicated guide. 

What you’ll need 

  • Screwdriver  
  • Pliers  
  • Allen key (depending on your tap’s design)  
  • Adjustable spanner  
  • Replacement ceramic valve, washers or cartridge  

Replacing the ceramic valve or cartridge 

  1. Before starting any repairs, find the stop tap or isolation valve and switch off the water supply.   
  2. Turn the tap on to drain any water left in the pipes.  
  3. Put the bathtub’s plug in to ensure any screws, washers, or other small parts don’t get lost down the plughole. 
  4. Remove the tap handle by taking off the decorative cover (usually where the hot and cold symbols are). Use the screwdriver to remove the screw that fixes the handle to the tap body.  
  5. Some designs have an additional cover that you’ll need an Allen key to remove. Underneath, you’ll find the ceramic valve or cartridge. Keep each part to one side, in the same order you removed them. This will make it easier to reassemble your tap. 
  6. Loosen the valve or head nut using a spanner, then remove it. Clean the thread inside the tap thoroughly, as dirt and grime can build up here.  
  7. Ensure the new valve or cartridge you’re fitting is the correct one, as they differ for hot and cold taps. If you have a monobloc tap, make sure the new cartridge matches the one you’ve just removed. 
  8. Once you’ve replaced the new valve or cartridge, you can reassemble your tap. 
  9. Turn the water back on to test the tap, checking for any signs of leaking, particularly in the areas where parts have been replaced.  
  10. The tap should now be working fully, with a sufficient hot and cold water flow. It shouldn’t drip or leak once switched off.  

How to change a tap washer 

If your tap has rubber washers, the repair process is essentially the same as replacing cartridges or ceramic valves. However, there are a few additional steps: 

  • After removing the tap’s stem, unscrew the packing nut to reveal the rubber washer. This can be removed with your fingers or use a pair of pliers.  
  • Replace the rubber washer with a new one, ensuring it’s the same size. Screw the packing nut back into place, then reassemble the tap.  

 Maintaining your bathtub taps  

Most taps require little maintenance, as cartridges and ceramic valves are hard-wearing and long-lasting. We recommend carrying out an annual check to prevent them from seizing in the tap body, using silicone grease to lubricate these parts.  

If you live in an area with hard water, clean the outlet flow aerator regularly to prevent limescale build-up and improve water flow. Discover the best ways to de-scale your bathroom taps in our step-by-step guide. 

When to call the professionals 

Is your tap still leaking after replacing the faulty parts? There might be a problem with the valve, which you can check yourself or get professional assistance for. You can speak with one of our professionals through our repair service, who will guide you through the process or schedule a home visit. 

Planning a complete bathroom makeover or want to upgrade your old bathtub to a modern design? Explore our bath buying guide for more inspiration.