Leaky Faucet

Leaky Faucet

Andrew Gilbert and 1 contributor
Last updated on

Everyone hates a leaky faucet. Not only can the constant dripping drive you crazy, but it wastes a crazy amount of water—a single leaky faucet can waste over 4,000 gallons of water per year!

Whether you’ve got a leak in a bathtub faucet, bathroom sink faucet, or kitchen faucet, the problem is likely to be a worn, cracked, or corroded cartridge or rubber seal. You will probably be able to fix the leak by replacing the damaged part.

First, identify where the leak is happening: At a handle? At the tap? Under the sink?

If the leak is under the sink, check if water splashed on the sink is leaking under the faucet handle and down under the sink. If it is, you might need to replace the seal between the faucet and the sink. This is probably called a deck gasket. Kitchen sinks sometimes have caulk sealing the faucet to the sink.

If the leak seems to be coming from under the sink (rather than leaking from above), you’ll need to replace any gaskets or washers at the site of the leak and apply pipe compound to the joints.

If the leak is at the tap or a handle, then figure out what kind of faucet you have:

Cartridge, compression, ceramic disc, or ball. Two-handled faucets are usually cartridge or compression type. Cartridge and compression handles look the same, but cartridge handles turn on and off smoothly, whereas compression handles require you to tighten down the washer to stop the flow. One-handled faucets are usually disc or ball type. A disc faucet will have a cylinder beneath the handle, whereas a ball faucet will have a round joint in the same place.

  • Cartridge Faucet: Leaks in cartridge faucets are often due to a deteriorated rubber washer on the valve seat or a failed cartridge.
  • Compression Faucet: While not as common anymore, compression faucets may still be found in older homes. Leaks in these faucets, as well as in ceramic disc and ball-type faucets, are usually caused by faulty O-rings or neoprene seals.
  • Ceramic Disc Faucet: For ceramic disc faucets, leaks might originate from a damaged disc, necessitating the replacement of the disc cartridge.
  • Ball-Type Faucet: Ball-type faucets are prone to leaks in multiple areas because they contain more components than other faucet types.

Once you know what kind of faucet you have, turn off the water under the sink. Before you start taking the faucet apart, plug the drain or put a towel in the sink to avoid any dropped parts falling down the drain. Then replace a part that might be worn out.



Rubber washers inside a faucet cartridge becoming worn or damaged is the most common cause of a leaky faucet. Unfortunately, most faucet cartridges cannot be easily repaired at a component level and should be replaced as a full assembly.

In a single-handle faucet, the cartridge will be between the handle and the faucet spout.

Follow this guide to replace a single-handle faucet cartridge: How To Fix A Leaky Faucet 

In a double-handle faucet, the cartridge will be in the faucet handle.


Most faucets have O-rings, washers, or neoprene seals somewhere, and a cracked or damaged seal is another very common source of faucet drips. In cartridge faucets, the O-rings and neoprene seals are generally inside the cartridge and will require replacing the whole cartridge. In other faucet types, there are several rubber rings in the faucet stem or handle stem. To replace them, disassemble the handle or faucet near where you’re seeing the leak and inspect all the rubber rings.

To buy a replacement rubber ring, bring the damaged part with you to the hardware store to make sure that you’re getting the right size and form—there are many different shapes of O-rings, washers, and neoprene seals.

Follow this guide to replace the O-ring in the neck of a double-handle faucet: Fixing a Faucet that Leaks From its Neck 

Follow this guide to replace the O-ring in a leaky shower handle: Shower Handle O-ring Replacement 


The cartridge may have failed internally. Disassembling and cleaning the cartridge may help, but is not necessarily feasible for all cartridges. Replacing it should fix the problem.

Follow this guide to replace a single-handle faucet cartridge: How To Fix A Leaky Faucet 


Most leaks in faucet handles aren’t a result of rusted or cracked faucet handles—even handles in pretty bad shape can usually do the job. The rubber seals and plastic cartridges inside handles themselves are much more likely to leak. But if you’ve replaced all the rubber parts and the inside of the faucet handle is very rusted or cracked, you might try replacing the entire handle. Here’s a guide for replacing a stainless MOEN kitchen faucet handle. Check your faucet manufacturer’s website for parts and instructions.


If the handles stop the water flowing, but you’re getting leaking or spraying from around the aerator at the end of the faucet, check if it’s cross-threaded or there’s a missing o-ring above it. If it’s cross-threaded, unscrewing and reattaching it may fix the problem. If there’s a missing o-ring, you can replace it with a new one.

If you need a guide to disassemble your faucet, check for an installation guide from manufacturer on sites like Home Depot.

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