How do I Fix a Leaky Faucet?

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  • Written By: Maria Overstreet
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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A leaky faucet is often a simple and quick fix. It usually requires the removal and replacement of a washer or seal. With the right tools and a little knowledge, most homeowners can perform this bathroom or kitchen repair.

Before you begin any leaky faucet repairs, be sure to turn off the water source and gather the necessary tools. Plug the sink drain to prevent the loss of screws or washers down the pipes. Set aside a small towel as a designated area for removed parts, and make sure to have a pile of rags or towels handy. A scrubbing pad and distilled vinegar are useful for removing lime buildup.

Determining the type of faucet is essential in making the proper repairs to a leaky faucet. The four types of bathroom and kitchen faucets are compression, ball-type, ceramic and cartridge. Compression faucets use rubber washers to form a seal. Ball-type, ceramic and cartridge faucets might require the replacement of a seal or the entire faucet unit.

To fix a leaky compression faucet, first take off the handle. Unscrew the packing nut with a crescent wrench, and remove the stem. Unscrew the brass screw holding the washer in place, and remove the faulty washer. Use a non-toxic plumber’s grease on the replacement washer.


If the compression faucet leaks from the handle rather than the spigot, replace the O-ring inside the stem. As you repair the leaky faucet, take note of any excessive wear. In some cases, a new faucet system might be required.

Finding the leak source in a ball-type faucet can be difficult because this type contains so many parts. Replacement kits with new parts are available at hardware stores. They include special tools for this kind of repair.

To fix a leaky ball-type faucet, take off the handle, cap and collar. Adjustable pliers are useful for this task. Loosen the faucet cam with the tool that comes with the kit, and remove the cam washer and rotating ball. Remove the seals and springs with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Remove the O-rings as well.

Coat the new O-rings with plumber’s grease, and put them into place. Install the new valve seats, springs and cam washers during reassembly. Test the faucet for leaks.

On a ceramic disk faucet, push the handle back to expose the screw. After removing the screw, take off the handle and cap. Unscrew the mounting screws holding the disk in place, and pull out the cylinder. Remove the neoprene seals from the cylinder. Clean the openings with vinegar, then rinse them.

Replace the seals, and reassemble the faucet. Be careful the first time you turn on the faucet. Too much water force too fast can break the ceramic disk.

To fix a leaky cartridge faucet, remove the handle. Needle-nose pliers are handy for removing the clip holding the cartridge in place. Take off the spout, and cut the old O-rings. Use new O-rings coated with plumber’s grease, and reassemble the faucet.


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