Fix a dripping tap (Faucet) by replacing the washer

  Replacing a tap washer


Changing a washer to fix a dripping tap is a fairly easy skill to acquire and could save you time and money.  Plumbers are not cheap and it is surprising how much water is lost from a steadily dripping tap.  Below is a step by step illustrated method for changing a tap-washer.

  • Locate and turn off the mains water valve

The main water supply valve to the property is usually located on the road frontage and is connected to the water metre.  It may be exposed and quite obvious or be contained in a box with or without a lid (see image). Always inspect for spiders, snakes or other pests before you stick your hand into the box.  To shut the valve turn it clockwise until it is off and cannot be turned any more.  Be aware that certain appliances may be using water in the house so pick an opportune moment for this task.


water meter and water mains shut off valve

Water meter and mains shut off valve

  • Removing the top of the tap

Grip the body of the tap with a pipe wrench (red) in order to support it while turning the nut of the top of the tap with an adjustable wrench (black) in an anti-clockwise direction (see image).  Be sure that no strain is placed on the connection between the tap and the feeder pipe leading into the tap. Any stress to this connection could lead to a serious leak which may not be easily repairable.  Once the top of the tap is lose it can be screwed off by hand.


Holding tap body with pipe wrench and remove tap top with adjustable wrench


  • Locating and replacing the tap washer

Once the top of the tap is removed the plastic or brass housing for the washer will be visible. (see image)  Remove the washer and housing from the tap and inspect the seat of the washer inside the body of the tap.  The seat should be a smooth, polished, circular ledge.  If there is any damage or corrosion of this seat replacing the tap-washer may not stop the drip and in rare cases a whole new tap may be necessary.   Remove the washer from the housing by either clipping it off the plastic housing or by removing the nut securing it to the brass housing (see image).  Taps and their washers usually come in one of two sizes, half and three quarter inch (see Image).  Tap-washers can be purchased from most hardware stores.  Alternatively in the case of the more modern taps with the plastic washer housing the washer and housing can be purchased as a single unit.  The new washers can be clipped on in the case of the plastic housing or screwed on in the case of the brass housing.


Top of tap removed exposing tap washer

Tap top removed tap washer visable

Tap washers old style separate to housing

Older type tap washers

  • Clip on new tap washer to plastic housing

    Fit new tap washer

  • Re-assembling the tap

Replace the new tap-washer and housing in the tap with the washer facing downwards (see image).  Then re-assemble the tap remembering to support the body of the tap with the pipe wrench before tightening the top of the tap with an adjustable wrench in a clockwise direction.  This joint does not have to be very tight, just enough to prevent leakage.


  • Turn on the mains valve again and check the  tap for leaks.
  • Job done.

For a video demonstration click on the You Tube link below:




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