How to replace a washer in a leaking tap

Things You’ll Need

  • Crescent wrench
  • Screwdriver set
  • Washers/ceramic canister
  • needle nose pliers


  • Many canister taps have lifetime warranties (e.g. Mohen), if you bring the old canister in you can get a new one free of charge.


  1. Turn off the water to the tap. Look in the cabinet under the sink for knobs to stop the water, if not there go look at the water meter. Turn the water off and then open the tap to relieve the water pressure.
  2. Identify if you have a ceramic or a washer tap. If it’s a traditional tap with a hot water tap and a cold water tap that turn clockwise or counter clockwise you likely have a washer tap. If your tap has a lever that you pull up and swivel for hot or cold you have a ceramic tap.
  3. Remove the tap cover. There will likely be a plastic cover on the top of a tap which can be pried loose with a flat head screwdriver. Underneath you’ll find screws, carefully remove them and remember which order you took them out from.
  4. Washer tap will require a crescent wrench to remove, keep removing visible screws and nuts until you end up locating black rubber washers. The washers may appear flat secured with a centre screw, or like a doughnut around a copper cylinder. Washers are very inexpensive, so save your self some trouble, and take all of the washers and any large parts that you remove to a hardware store and ask for assistance finding the correct replacement washers, by matching your old washers to the new. Then replace the worn washers with the new ones. To remove the old ones it may be necessary/easier to simply cut away the old rubber. Carefully reassemble the tap and turn on the water to the tap and then try the tap out. It should move easily and be leak free.

Ceramic taps (the ones with levers) can be more challenging to disassemble. Examine the tap closely, see if you can identify any brand names and or model numbers, mark them down. You will first need to remove the cover, look for screw holes first, but be prepared to pry off plastic covers that snap into place. Each tap mechanize may be slightly different, but what needs replacing is the entire canister mechanism, when you pull out something between the size and width of a lipstick tube you’ve found the right piece. Look out for cotter pins which are often used to hold pieces in place and can be removed with needle nose pliers. Ceramic canisters often require special tools to remove, which often come with the new replacement canisters so if you have the make and model head to the hardware store and get the new part and the tool to install it/remove the old one. Install the new canister in the same way you removed the old one, replace any cotter pins and screws. Test the tap before snapping on any plastic covers.