Tap cartridge replacement

Tap Cartridge Replacement Guide: Step-by-Step

Last updated on October 1st, 2023

A tap cartridge replacement is very common and is often needed to fix a dripping tap.

It’s a simple job to do most of the time but sometimes it can be a nightmare trying to remove the cartridge.

I have been plumbing full-time for over a decade and I have replaced many tap cartridges and taps.

Here I’ll teach you how to replace tap cartridges based on my on-the-job experiences.

Replacing full turn tap cartridge

Tap Cartridge Types

There are three main types of tap cartridges:

  • Full-turn tap cartridges
  • Quarter-turn tap cartridges
  • Single lever tap cartridges

Full-turn Tap Cartridges

Full-turn tap cartridges use a rubber washer on the bottom to control the water flow and usually have a crosshead handle or a knob to open and close the tap.

Full turn tap cartridges
Full turn tap cartridges

The handles are covered by a cap in the centre that needs to be unscrewed or pulled off to remove.

You can only change a washer on a tap with full-turn cartridges.

Quarter-turn Tap Cartridges

Quarter-turn tap cartridges use ceramic discs to control the flow of water. These tap valves have a lever handle and are kept on with a small grub screw on the side.

These screws are sometimes covered with a little cap and the grub screw typically needs a 2.5mm hex (Allen) key or a small screwdriver.

Quarter turn tap cartridges
Quarter turn tap cartridges

Mixer Tap Cartridges

Single-lever mixer tap cartridges also use ceramic discs but are a lot different to quarter-turn tap valves.

Single lever mixer tap cartridge
Single lever mixer tap cartridge

Mixer tap cartridges have two water pipe connections and they mix the water in a single cartridge instead of two separate cartridges like the others.

The handles are levers and are kept on with a small grub screw and are typically used on kitchen taps and bathroom basin taps.

Single lever mixer tap
Single lever mixer tap

Replacing a Tap Cartridge

Replacing a cartridge on a single tap with two handles or two separate taps is pretty much the same. Whether they are full-turn or quarter-turn cartridges, the process for replacing them is the same.

How to replace a tap cartridge:

  1. Turn off the water and open the tap to let the water out
  2. Remove the screw holding the handle onto the tap cartridge
  3. Remove the handle by pulling it off
  4. Unscrew the shroud around the tap cartridge
  5. Remove the tap cartridge with an adjustable spanner
  6. Fit the new tap cartridge and tighten it with an adjustable spanner
  7. Refit the shroud and handle
  8. Turn the water on and test the tap
Removing mixer tap cartridge
Removing a quarter turn tap cartridge

Replacing a Mixer Tap Cartridge

How to replace a single lever mixer tap cartridge:

  1. Turn off the water and open the tap to let the water out
  2. Remove the grub screw that is keeping the lever handle attached to the tap
  3. Remove the handle by pulling it off
  4. Remove the metal or plastic shroud by unscrewing it
  5. Remove the single lever tap cartridge by lifting it out
  6. Fit the new cartridge
  7. Refit the shroud
  8. Refit the lever handle and grub screw
  9. Turn the water back on and test the tap
Mixer tap cartridge replacement YouTube video

Tap Handle Replacement

To replace a tap handle you need to remove the screw that is keeping the handle attached to the tap.

Tap handle replacement

This will be in the centre of the handle on a crosshead or knob-type handle and hidden under a cover that needs to come off.

On lever handles, there is a grub screw keeping the handle on which will be on the side and sometimes hidden under a small cap.

Once you have located the screw you need to remove it with a hex key or screwdriver and the handle will pull off and you can fit the new tap handle.

How to Change Taps

When you can’t fix your dripping tap or broken tap by replacing the tap cartridge you might need to change the tap.

Changing basin mixer tap

Here are some of my how-to guides for replacing taps in your home:


Replacing a tap cartridge is easy most of the time but can be a real struggle to remove the old cartridge sometimes, especially on old taps.

Ceramic disc cartridges for dual lever taps are the most common cartridges around.

They always come in pairs and most taps use standard cartridges so it’s quite rare in my experience to have to order specific ones for that tap.

Feel free to ask me any questions in the comment section below and I’ll try my best to help.

Please share this post if you found it helpful.

Tap Cartridge Replacement FAQs

How do you remove a stuck tap cartridge?

To remove a stuck tap cartridge you need to use a very large pipe wrench (Stilsons) and a very large pair of water pump pliers. This can be very difficult but if you use as large of tools as possible, it will come out.

Why do tap cartridges fail?

Tap cartridges fail by leaking. Tap cartridges use ceramic discs to control the water flow and these can sometimes get full of limescale and dirt which can cause them to leak. The teeth on the spline which sits in the tap head or handle can also wear down, stopping it from turning.

Are tap cartridges a standard size?

Tap cartridges are not all a standard size but a lot of them are. The best thing to do is remove the mixer tap cartridge and take it to a plumbing merchant to try to match it with a replacement.


  • Steven Reid

    I am a full-time plumber and Gas Safe registered engineer. I incorporated Housewarm Ltd. in 2011 to provide heating and plumbing services to homes in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. I now blog about what I've learned over the years to help DIYers and plumbers.

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