Fixing Leaky Faucets: A Step-by-Step Guide

Leaky faucets are a common household nuisance that can be easily fixed with a little know-how. Not only do they waste water and inflate your utility bill, but they can also cause damage to your bathroom fixtures if left unchecked.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a professional plumber to fix a leaky faucet.

In this blog post, we’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to fix your own leaky faucets and save yourself some money in the process.

Understand the Overall Process

Before we dive into the steps, let’s first understand the overall process.

Fixing a leaky faucet typically involves four stages.

  1. First, you’ll need to prepare your tools and turn off the water supply to the faucet.
  2. Second, you’ll dismantle the faucet to diagnose the source of the leak. This usually involves removing the handle and the packing nut to reach the stem, which is usually where the problem lies.
  3. The third stage involves repairing or replacing the faulty component, such as the washer or the O-ring.
  4. Finally, you’ll reassemble the faucet and test it to ensure the leak has been fixed.

This task may seem daunting, but with a bit of patience and the right guidance, it is entirely doable for most homeowners. Now, let’s delve into the specific steps.

Necessary Tools

Having the right tools at your disposal can make the task of fixing a leaky faucet more manageable. Here is a list of tools that you will typically need:

  1. Adjustable Wrench: This tool is crucial for loosening and tightening nuts and bolts.
  2. Phillips and Flathead Screwdrivers: You’ll need these to remove the faucet handle.
  3. Plumber’s Tape: Also known as Teflon tape, this is used for sealing pipe threads to prevent leaks.
  4. Replacement Parts: Depending on the source of the leak, you might need new washers, O-rings, or a new stem.
  5. Plunger or Drain Snake: These can help clear out any debris that might be causing the leak.
  6. Bucket and Towels: These will help keep your work area dry as you fix the faucet.

Remember, the specific tools and parts required might vary depending on your faucet’s make and model. Always check your faucet manual or consult with a plumbing professional if you’re unsure.

Also Read: Kohler Touchless Faucet Not Working | Advice to Fix

Step 1: Turn off the Water Supply

Before you start fixing your leaky faucet, make sure to turn off the water supply to avoid any accidents. Locate the shut-off valve under the sink and turn it clockwise until the water supply is cut off. If you can’t find the shut-off valve, turn off the main water supply to your house.

This process can seem daunting for novice homeowners but don’t worry, just follow these detailed steps:

  1. Locate the Shut-off Valve: Look under the sink for a small silver-colored valve. This is the shut-off valve.
  2. Turn Off the Water Supply: Once you’ve found it, turn the valve clockwise (right) until you can’t turn it anymore. This shuts off the water to your faucet. Remember, “righty-tighty” to help recall which direction to turn it.
  3. Double-Check: After turning off the valve, double-check your work by turning on the faucet. If the water stops running, you’ve successfully turned off the water supply.

Tip: If you’re struggling to find the shut-off valve under the sink, you may need to turn off the main water supply for your house. The main valve is often located in the basement or outside along the exterior of the house. It might be larger and colored red or blue.

  1. Confirm the Water is Off: Before moving to the next step, make sure no water is coming out when you turn the faucet. This ensures you’ve correctly turned off the water supply.

By taking these steps, you are protecting your work area (and yourself) from unnecessary water spills.

Turn off the Water Supply

Step 2: Remove the Faucet Handle

Removing the faucet handle might seem like a challenge, but it’s actually quite simple when you break it down. Here are the detailed steps:

  1. Identify the Type of Handle: First, determine what type of handle your faucet has. It may be a single lever handle, a knob, or a cross handle, for example. The procedure to remove the handle may differ slightly based on its type.
  2. Locate the Screw: Look for the screw securing the handle. It might be hidden under a decorative cap or “hot/cold” indicator on the top or front of the handle. If so, remove the cap gently with a flathead screwdriver to expose the screw.
  3. Unscrew the Handle: Depending on the type of screw, use a flathead screwdriver or an Allen wrench to loosen it. Remember, turn the screw counterclockwise (left) to loosen it. Take care not to apply too much force to avoid damaging the handle or the tool. Keep the screw in a safe place as you’ll need it to reassemble the handle later on.
  4. Remove the Handle: Once the screw is completely loosened, lift the handle straight up. It should come off fairly easily. If it’s stuck, avoid using excessive force or a hammer as this can damage the faucet. Instead, try wiggling it gently side to side until it loosens up.

Note: If the handle is still not coming off, it may be stuck due to mineral deposits from the water. In this case, you can use a handle puller – a tool specifically designed to remove stuck faucet handles. If this tool is not readily available, try applying a small amount of white vinegar with a cloth around the base of the handle and wait a few minutes. The vinegar can help dissolve the mineral deposits and make it easier to remove the handle.

  1. Keep Track of the Parts: As you remove the handle and any associated parts, keep them in an orderly manner or take a picture before disassembly. This will make it easier when the time comes to put everything back together.

By following these detailed steps, you should be able to successfully remove the handle of your leaky faucet. Remember, patience and gentle handling are key to avoid causing any damage.

Step 3: Identify and Replace the Cartridge or Washer

Depending on the design of your faucet, it could be a cartridge or a washer that’s causing the leak. These components are located in the faucet stem or body.

Replacing a Cartridge

If your faucet uses a cartridge, you’ll need to replace it. Here’s how:

  1. Remove the Cartridge: Gently pull the cartridge straight up and out from the faucet body. It should come out without a struggle. If it doesn’t, avoid using excessive force as this can damage other parts of the faucet. Instead, gently wiggle the cartridge side to side until it loosens up.
  2. Buy a New Cartridge: Take the old cartridge to the local hardware store and find an identical replacement. The store staff should be able to help you find a match. If not, try to look up the make and model of your faucet online for specific cartridge information.
  3. Install the New Cartridge: Once you have the new cartridge, install it into the faucet body where the old one was. Make sure it fits snugly and securely.

Note: Be sure to align the new cartridge in the same orientation as the old one to ensure proper function.

See Our Buying Guide: 7 Best Touchless Kitchen Faucets Review + Advice

Replacing a Washer

If your faucet uses a washer, here’s how to replace it:

  1. Remove the Faucet Stem: The washer is located in the faucet stem. Remove the stem by unscrewing it from the valve seat.
  2. Remove the Old Washer: Now, you should be able to see the old washer. Use a screwdriver or something similar to gently remove it.
  3. Buy a New Washer: Take the old washer to the hardware store and find an identical replacement.
  4. Install the New Washer: Place the new washer where the old one was in the valve seat. Make sure it fits securely and doesn’t move around.
  5. Reassemble the Faucet: Screw the stem back into the valve seat and reassemble the rest of the faucet.

Note: When buying a new washer or cartridge, it can be helpful to take a picture of your faucet and its model number. This can help the store staff find the exact parts you need.

By following these steps carefully and patiently, you should be able to successfully replace the cartridge or washer and fix your leaky faucet. Remember, if the leak persists after your repair attempt, don’t hesitate to consult with a plumbing professional.

Step 4: Reassemble the Faucet

After the faulty cartridge or washer has been replaced, it’s time to put the faucet back together. Care must be taken to ensure every component is returned to its correct position. If done properly, your faucet should work as good as new. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this:

  1. Replace the Faucet Stem or Cartridge: If you replaced a washer, start by screwing the valve stem back into the valve seat. Make sure it is tightened securely but avoid using excessive force, which could cause damage. If you replaced a cartridge, ensure that it fits snugly into the faucet body, aligning it as the old one was.

Tip: Some cartridges are directional. Make sure you’ve installed it following the correct orientation.

  1. Put Back the Handle: Now, put the handle back on. It should fit onto the stem or cartridge without force. If it’s a tight fit, try gently wiggling it until it slides on.
  2. Attach the Screw: Retrieve the screw you kept safe during disassembly. Use your screwdriver or Allen wrench to reattach the handle to the stem or cartridge. Turn it clockwise (right) to tighten it.

Tip: Do not overtighten the screw as this could strip the threads or cause the handle to become stuck.

  1. Replace Any Decorative Parts: If your handle had a cap or a “hot/cold” indicator, don’t forget to replace these. They usually snap or screw back into place easily.

Tip: Make sure to align any text or design correctly on the cap or indicator before attaching it.

  1. Turn the Water Supply Back On: Once everything is securely in place, turn the water supply back on. This is usually done by turning the knob under the sink clockwise.
  2. Test the Faucet: Finally, test the faucet by turning it on. Let it run for a few moments and check for any leaks.

Tip: It’s normal for the water to sputter a bit when you first turn it on. This is just air being expelled from the lines.

By following these steps, you can successfully reassemble your faucet after a repair. Always remember to handle the parts gently and to keep track of every component during disassembly and reassembly. If you notice that the faucet is still leaking after the repair, consider seeking help from a professional plumber.

Step 5: Thorough Cleaning and Maintenance of the Faucet Aerator

Should your faucet persist in leaking after replacing either the cartridge or the washer, the issue could very well lie with the aerator. The aerator is a small but crucial component that is situated at the end of the faucet. Its main purpose is to blend air into the water flow to significantly reduce any potential splashing.

How to Clean and Maintain the Aerator

  1. Remove the Aerator: Unscrew the aerator from the end of the faucet. You should be able to do this by hand, but if it’s too tight, you may need a wrench. Remember to use a cloth between the aerator and the wrench to avoid damaging the aerator’s finish.

Tip: To prevent the aerator parts from accidentally going down the drain, close the sink drain or cover it with a towel while you work.

  1. Disassemble the Aerator: Carefully take apart the aerator components. This usually includes the outer housing, a mesh screen, a flow restrictor, and several rubber washers. Be sure to remember the order in which you removed the parts for easy reassembly.
  2. Clean the Parts: Hold the parts under running water to rinse away any loose debris. For more stubborn mineral buildup, use a toothbrush to gently scrub the parts. If the buildup persists, soak the aerator parts in a mixture of water and vinegar for a few hours, then scrub again.

Tip: If your aerator has several small parts, consider cleaning them in a bowl to avoid losing any down the sink.

  1. Reassemble and Reinstall the Aerator: After thoroughly cleaning and drying the parts, reassemble the aerator in the same order in which you disassembled it. Screw it back onto the faucet, ensuring a secure but not overly tight fit.
  2. Test the Faucet: Turn the water supply back on and run the faucet to check if the leak has been fixed.

Tip: If the aerator leaks or the faucet flow is uneven, try unscrewing the aerator, adjusting the internal parts, and screwing it back on.

By regularly cleaning your faucet aerator, you ensure a smooth, splash-free water flow, potentially extend the life of your faucet, and avoid issues like leaks.

Pro Tips for Maintaining Your Faucet

In addition to the steps outlined above, there are a few more professional tips that can help you maintain your faucet and prevent further leaks:

  1. Regularly Inspect Your Faucet: Make a habit of inspecting your faucet for leaks or drips. Catching a leak early can save you from more significant repairs down the line.
  2. Be Gentle with Your Faucet: While it may seem sturdy, your faucet can be damaged by excessive force. Whether turning it on and off or performing repairs, always handle your faucet with care to prevent unnecessary wear and tear.
  3. Use Plumber’s Tape: When reassembling your faucet, consider using plumber’s tape on the threads of the valve stem or cartridge. This can help prevent leaks and ensure a tighter seal.
  4. Consider Upgrading Your Faucet: If your faucet is older or frequently in need of repair, it may be more cost-effective to replace it with a newer model. Today’s faucets are more efficient and often come with features like touchless operation and water-saving technologies.

By following these pro tips, you can extend the lifespan of your faucet, improve its performance, and prevent inconvenient leaks.


Fixing a leaky faucet is a DIY task that any homeowner can handle. The steps involved are simple and don’t require any special tools or knowledge. By following our step-by-step guide, you can fix your leaky faucet and save yourself some money on plumbing expenses. Remember to always turn off the water supply and take safety precautions when working with faucets.

J.S. Diyhouseskills

I’m J.S., I created and am the content manager at I do the research and write the articles that appear on this website. I’ve learned many household skills during my life and think it’s important to at least know the basics so that you can save yourself time and money… READ FULL BIO >