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Dealing with Dripping Faucets: Causes and Fixes

Dripping faucet

A dripping faucet is more than just an annoying sound; it’s a constant reminder that you’re losing water and potentially wasting money. While the temptation might be to ignore it or crank the handle tighter, this isn’t a sustainable solution. 

Dripping faucets not only costs you water bills but can also lead to more significant plumbing problems down the line if left untreated. In this guide, we’ll explore the causes of dripping faucets and provide easy fixes to help you silence that persistent drip.

1. Common Causes of Dripping Faucets

Understanding why your faucet drips is the first step in resolving the issue. The following are the most common causes:

  1. Worn-Out Washers: The most frequent cause of a dripping faucet is a worn-out washer. Washers create a watertight seal when you turn off the tap. Over time, the constant friction can wear them down, leading to leaks.
  2. O-Ring Problems: In some faucets, an O-ring creates a seal. If this O-ring becomes loose or damaged, water can seep through.
  3. Corroded Valve Seat: The valve seat is the connection point between the faucet and the spout. When it erodes, it can cause dripping. This typically happens in areas with hard water, as mineral deposits can accumulate.
  4. High Water Pressure: Excessive water pressure can damage the internal components of your faucet, leading to leaks. Reducing water pressure through a pressure regulator can help prevent this issue.
  5. Worn-Out Cartridge or Ceramic Disk: Modern faucets often use cartridges or ceramic disks to control water flow. These components can wear out or crack over time, causing leaks.

2. Tools You Might Need

Before you start fixing your dripping faucet, gather the necessary tools:

  • Screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Plumber’s tape
  • Replacement parts (washers, O-rings, cartridges, or ceramic disks)
  • Towels or rags to catch water and protect your sink area

3. Fixing a Dripping Faucet

A. Compression Faucets

Compression faucets are the classic two-handled faucets commonly found in older homes. To repair a dripping compression faucet:

  • Turn off the water: Locate the shutoff valves under the sink and turn them clockwise to cut off the water supply.
  • Remove the faucet handle: Use a screwdriver or an Allen wrench to remove the handle’s screw. Then, gently lift off the handle to access the stem assembly.
  • Replace the washer: Inside the stem assembly, you’ll find a washer at the bottom. Remove it and replace it with a new one of the same size. Apply the plumber’s tape and make sure it has a snug fit.
  • Check the seat: While you have the faucet apart, inspect the valve seat for any signs of corrosion. If you notice any damage, it might need to be replaced. A professional plumber can help with this step if necessary.
  • Reassemble the faucet: Put it back together in the reverse order of how you took it apart. Make sure all components are snug and secure.
  • Turn on the water: Slowly turn the shutoff valves back on and check for leaks. If everything is dry, you’ve successfully fixed your dripping compression faucet.

B. Cartridge Faucets

Cartridge faucets are standard in modern homes and are often single-handed. To repair a dripping cartridge faucet:

  • Turn off the water: As with compression faucets, find the shutoff valves and turn off the water supply.
  • Remove the faucet handle: Typically, you’ll need to remove a decorative cap to access the screw. Once the screw is removed, pull off the handle gently.
  • Remove the cartridge: Use pliers or an adjustable wrench to remove the retaining nut holding the cartridge. Pull out the cartridge carefully.
  • Replace the cartridge: Take the old cartridge to a plumbing supply store to ensure you get an exact match. Install the new cartridge and secure it with the retaining nut.
  • Turn on the water: Slowly turn the shutoff valves back on and check for leaks. If the faucet is dry, your dripping problem is solved.

C. Ceramic Disk Faucets

Ceramic disk faucets are also standard in modern homes and are single-handled. To repair a dripping ceramic disk faucet:

  • Turn off the water: Locate the shutoff valves and turn them off to cut the water supply.
  • Remove the faucet handle: Depending on the model, you may need to remove a decorative cap and screw to access the handle. Once the screw is out, gently pull off the handle.
  • Access the ceramic disk: Inside the faucet, you’ll find the ceramic disk. Remove it and check for any visible damage or cracks. If it’s damaged, replace it with an identical disk.
  • Reassemble the faucet: Put the faucet back together in reverse order, ensuring all components are snug and secure.
  • Turn on the water: Slowly turn the shutoff valves back on, and check for leaks. You’ve successfully fixed your dripping ceramic disk faucet if everything is dry.

4. When to Call a Professional

While many dripping faucet issues can be resolved with some DIY effort, there are situations when professional help is necessary:

  • Limited plumbing knowledge: If you need more clarification about your plumbing skills, it’s safer to call a professional to prevent potential damage or more extensive issues.
  • Complex faucet types: Some faucets, such as wall-mounted or hands-free models, can only be able to repair with specialized knowledge.
  • Hidden problems: If you can’t identify the cause of the drip or if you suspect a more significant plumbing issue, it’s best to consult a professional plumber.
  • Non-standard parts: If your faucet uses unique or rare replacement parts, a plumber can help locate the necessary components.


Dealing with a dripping faucet might seem minor, but it’s a problem that deserves prompt attention. Not only will fixing a dripping faucet save you money on water bills, but it can also prevent more extensive plumbing issues from developing. 

By understanding the type of faucet you have and following the appropriate repair steps, you can silence that nagging drip and enjoy a quieter, leak-free home.

Louw Bros Plumbing: Your Trusted Partner for Comprehensive Plumbing Solutions

With branches in Cape Town, Plettenberg Bay, and Knysna, Louw Bros Plumbing offers a wide range of expert services, from leak detection and geyser installation to drainage maintenance and emergency repairs, ensuring the highest quality and customer satisfaction across South Africa.