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How to change a washer

Drip. Drip. Drip…

Leaking taps can be very annoying, wasting water and money while slowly driving you up the wall.

Fixing a leaking tap is usually a pretty straightforward DIY plumbing job. To fix most leaking taps, you can simply replace or even reseat the washer.

Replacing a washer

A washer is a small disc of rubber inside the tap that ensures a proper seal is held when the mechanism is tightened to the off position.

A loose or slipped washer can let water out, causing the drip from the tap. You may need to replace the washers in both hot and cold taps to eliminate the drip.

Here are five easy steps to replace a washer:

1. Turn off the mains water supply then turn on the leaking tap to let any liquid remaining in the pipes out (when this is done, insert a plug to the sink to prevent any parts from falling in during the procedure)
2. Unscrew the tap from its housing – you may need to remove screws from the top of the tap with a screwdriver
3. Remove the lower housing and you will see the washer, O-ring and jumper valve assembly – remove this and replace the washer with a fresh one
4. Give the whole assembly a spray with some waterproof lubricant
5. Put it all back together and screw the tap back into place
6. Restore water flow and test for any drips

Reseating a washer

The assembly that holds the washer in place inside the tap – the seat – can sometimes get worn or out of alignment, causing a drip.

If you have replaced the washer and still have a drip, you may need to get a hold of a reseating tool or kit, which grinds down and smoothes out the interior of the tap seal assembly allowing a tighter seal.

Good practices for washers

The main factor that causes washers to wear out and allow dripping taps is water pressure. Most healthy plumbing systems will be in alignment, with the right level of pressure working through the system.

But blockages caused by foreign objects or damage to the plumbing system can cause an imbalance of pressure, placing greater force on the washers.

To prevent this, it pays to practise good habits for your plumbing, such as not flushing wet wipes down the toilet, which can block pipes and send feedback through the water system.

Dripping taps are often an indication of deeper problems. So if replacing or reseating the washers doesn’t solve the drip, you may have to call in an expert.