Last updated on October 3rd, 2023
Changing a tap washer can only be done on full-turn taps as quarter-turn and single-lever taps do not have rubber washers in them.
A tap washer replacement can fix a dripping tap but sometimes you’ll need to replace the tap cartridge.
I have been a full-time plumber for over a decade and have changed many taps and tap washers over the years.
In this post, I’ll show you how to change a tap washer based on my on-the-job plumbing experiences.
How to Change a Tap Washer
If you have a full-turn tap, where you have to turn the tap handle many times for the water to come out at full rate, then your tap has a rubber washer.
This washer can be changed, but you have to have the exact same size washer.
Different taps have different tap washer types and sizes, but sometimes you can’t find the right type. If you buy a tap washer kit, you’ll have washers for most taps.
Full-turn tap cartridges can be found on a monobloc mixer tap with two handles, or separate hot and cold taps.
This can include bath taps, basin taps and kitchen taps as long as they are not single-lever taps.
Tap Washer Replacement Steps
Here’s how to change a washer on a mixer tap with two handles:
- Turn off the water supply
- Open the tap to let the water out and leave it open
- Put the plug into the plug hole to stop screws from falling down there
- Remove the screw cover from the centre of the tap head (it should either screw of or pop off)
- Remove the screw in the centre of the head
- Pull off the head
- Unscrew the shroud around the tap cartridge (if you have one)
- Remove the tap cartridge using water pump pliers or an adjustable spanner
- Remove the old rubber washer (you have to remove a screw first)
- Fit the new washer
- Refit the tap cartridge and tighten it
- Refit the shroud and head
- Turn on the water and test the tap
Tap Washer Replacement Video
How to Change an Outside Tap Washer
Changing a washer on an outside tap is easier than other taps.
How to replace the washer:
- Turn the water supply off to the outside tap
- Open the outside tap to release the water
- Use an adjustable spanner to turn the tap body anti-clockwise
- Remove the old washer and replace it with a new washer
- Refit the tap body and tighten it with an adjustable spanner
- Close the outside tap
- Turn the water supply back on
- Test the outside tap
Tap Cartridge Replacement
A tap cartridge replacement is needed to fix ceramic disc taps with lever handles. You might also need to replace the full-turn tap cartridge instead of the washer.
How to replace:
- Turn off the water and open the tap to let the water out
- Remove the screw holding the handle onto the tap cartridge
- Remove the handle by pulling it off
- Unscrew the shroud around the tap cartridge
- Remove the tap cartridge with an adjustable spanner
- Fit the new tap cartridge and tighten it with an adjustable spanner
- Refit the shroud and handle
- Turn the water on and test the tap
How to Change Taps
When you can’t fix your dripping tap or broken tap by replacing the tap washer or cartridge, you might need to change the tap.
Here are some of my how-to guides for replacing taps in your home:
Changing a tap washer can only be done on full-turn taps, whether that’s a mixer tap, separate taps, bathroom taps or kitchen taps.
If it’s the tap has lever handles, these have ceramic discs and you will need to replace the cartridge to fix the dripping tap.
Feel free to ask me any questions in the comment section below and I’ll try my best to help.
How to Change a Tap Washer FAQs
Can you change a tap washer without turning off the water?
No, you can not change a tap washer without turning off the water unless you want to flood the place. You have to remove the tap cartridge to change the washer so the water supply to the tap must be turned off.
You can isolate the water to the tap at an isolation valve under the sink, this means you will not have to turn the mains water stopcock off, but the water to the tap will need to be turned off.
Are tap washers a standard size?
No, tap washers are not a standard size. There are lots of different shapes and sizes of taps which means lots of different-sized tap washers. A tap washer kit has lots of different sizes and will cover all the sizes for most taps.
How do you know when a tap washer needs replacing?
A tap washer needs replacing when it starts dripping when the tap is fully closed and turned off.
Another sign that a tap washer needs replacing is when no water comes out of the tap when it is fully open. The washer can sometimes get stuffed into the tap or rushed from over-tightening it.