How to Fix a Dripping Faucet

What You'll Need
Used, clean toothbrush
Replacement hardware (cartridge, gasket, nut, cap, spring or o-ring depending on type of faucet)OR faucet repair kit good for all sorts of faucet repairs
Crescent wrench

A dripping faucet can cost a lot of money because of the wasted water. There's also the annoyance factor to consider since the noise of constant dripping is unpleasant. Even the person with just basic do-it-yourselfer skills can fix a dripping faucet. Follow these steps to fix and replace a leaking tap without replacing the entire faucet.

    Step 1 - Determine What Type of Faucet You Have

    Before starting to fix a dripping faucet, it's important to know what type of faucet you have. The type of faucet will determine the replacement hardware you need as well as the steps involved to get rid of the leak. Be aware that compression faucets tend to leak more often so there is a high chance that if your faucet is leaking, it's a compression one. This is because of the wear and tear of the nuts, washers and o-rings as they're repeatedly torqued down against the metal parts of the valve seats.

    Other faucets that leak are disc, ball and cartridge faucets. Disc faucet leaks are caused when inlet and outlet seals dry out or wear out. Sometimes they leak because of sediment build-up. Ball faucets leak when inlet seals, the ball or o-ring wear out and break. Cartridge faucets leak when the special o-ring cushioning wears out.

    Step 2 - Turn Off Water Supply

    Turn off the water supply to prevent a fountain of water spraying all over the place. Look under the sink for the water supply knob. It could also be located on a pipe between the toilet and the sink.

    Step 3 - Fix a Compression Faucet

    Leaks will likely be caused from the handle. Use the crescent wrench to tighten the packing nut. If this doesn't fix the problem, replace the packing underneath the faucet handle and on the compression stem. It could be a washer, o-ring or even twin. Drips from the spout will require replacing the washer or a corroded valve seat. These require faucet disassembly. If you have the faucet disassembled, be sure to lubricate the stem threads with plumber's silicone grease.

    Step 4 - Fix a Disc Faucet

    Use the crescent wrench to loosen the faucet and examine the inner hardware. Look for any dirt buildup in the faucet inlets. Clean the dirt build-up by flushing the inlets with water or with an old toothbrush. Take a look at the inlet and outlet seals. Replace if they're cracked, look dry or are obviously broken.

    Step 5 - Fix a Ball Faucet

    Lift the handle off the assembly after loosening it with the crescent wrench. Tighten the adjusting ring. If this doesn't fix the dripping faucet handle, replace the cap. Spout drips mean that you'll need to take apart the faucet and replace the inlet seals and springs or possibly the ball.

    Step 6 - Fix a Cartridge Faucet

    Take off the faucet handle with the crescent wrench so you can see the o-ring cushioning the cartridge stem. Replace it. If this doesn't fix the problem, you may need to remove and replace the entire cartridge. The cartridge may need to be special ordered so decide if it's financially worth it to replace it.

    Step 7 - Test

    After each fix attempt, turn the water supply back on and then turn on the faucet. Allow it to run for 30 seconds, wipe the tap and watch for drips and leaks.