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How To Replace A Tap Washer

How To Replace A Tap Washer

Dripping taps waste 90 litres of water a week. Luckily, it's a simple fix that doesn't need a plumber. If you've got one of those old fashioned "Stem" taps, all you need to do is change the washer.

Step 1: You will need

  • 1 adjustable spanner,
  • 1 flat head screwdriver,
  • 1 pliers
  • various sizes of rubber washers
  • wire wool

Step 2: Preparation

First things first - turn the water supply off, or you'll end up looking like a drowned rat. This can usually be done by turning the valve under the sink. If you can't find a valve you'll have to turn the water off for the whole building. Remember the old mantra 'lefty loosey, righty tighty', even the experts still use this one. When you have done this, turn the tap on to drain out the remaining water in the system.

Step 3: Remove the headgear

There are loads of different types of stem tap, but they work in the same way in that there'll be a decorative cap covering the gubbins. Use a flat head screwdriver to prise that off then undo the screw underneath. Next, lift off the headgear with your fingers. Don't use a wrench or spanner as you'll damage it.

If your tap doesn't have a cap, you should find a small screw on the side. Unscrew this to lift off the headgear.

Step 4: The packing nut

Use the adjustable spanner to release the hexagonal packing nut. It can be pretty stiff, so grab the spout of the tap with your other hand for leverage. Once the nut is loose lift out the entire tap stem.

Step 5: Replace the washer

At the bottom of the stem you'll find the washer, there may also be a small nut holding it in place. Use the pliers or your fingers to remove the nut. Then prise out the washer. This can be pretty tricky, but take your time and you'll get there. It's most likely that you'll be able to see the damage to your washer. Pick a washer nearest in size to the damaged one, slide it onto the stem and replace the nut.

Give the stem a quick rub down with wire wool to remove any built up lime scale and dirt.

Step 6: Check the seat

Have a feel for wear into the bits still fixed to the sink, and give them a good scrub the wire wool to get rid of any debris or limescale.

Step 7: Reassemble

Put the tap back together and don't forget to tighten everything up well. Then turn the water back on a check your handy work. Not a drip in sight. Another job well done.