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Faucet Leaking Water: How to Fix a Dripping Faucet

Tired of hearing that drip echoing from the sink? That’s the annoying sound of a leaky faucet. 

Leaky faucets waste water and your money with every single drip down the drain. In the United States alone, we waste nearly 1 trillion gallons of water every year. In one house alone, a leaky sink faucet or can end up wasting up to 10,000 gallons of water in a year. 

While it seems like just a minor inconvenience, a dripping faucet has significant negative impacts when left unresolved for too long. From higher water bills to large quantities of wasted water, avoid these consequences by learning the causes of as well as how to fix dripping faucets throughout the home. 

Here at Thomas & Galbraith, our experienced Cincinnati plumbers have compiled the most helpful information on the subject of dripping faucets. Learn about the most common issues that lead to dripping faucets, how to fix a leaky faucet, and when to call a professional plumber. 

Let’s dive in. 

Common Leaky Faucet Causes

For most dripping faucets, the causes are relatively simple to diagnose and solve. One of the most common household plumbing issues, most homeowners experience a dripping faucet at least once over their many years of homeownership. 

There are four different kinds of faucets: cartridge faucet, compression faucets, ceramic disk faucet, and ball faucet. What are the differences between each one? 

  • A compression faucet relies on a rubber washer to seal the valve seat, which can wear out and need to be replaced. 

  • A cartridge, ceramic disk, and ball-type faucets rely on either the O-ring or neoprene seal for the valve seat that can ware down, causing the leak needs to be replaced. We’ll go over each of these fixes in more detail below. 

There are other common causes that can lead to a leaky faucet: 

Water Pressure

The most extreme cause of a dripping faucet is a water pressure issue. Pay attention to the dripping when you turn on other water fixtures – does the dripping start or increase when another fixture is turned on? If so, water pressure is the likely cause of the drip. In this circumstance, a plumber is needed. 

Cartridge Faucet

In a cartridge-style faucet, the cartridge keeps the amount of water going through the faucet regulated. When an old cartridge wears down or loosens, water leaks through the fixture. Replace the entire cartridge with a new cartridge for a quick fix. 

Broken Seals

Seals are important on a faucet because they keep water from leaking through the fixture. When the seals—both the inlet and outlet seals—wear down, water leaks out. Water sediment collects on these seals, which speeds up the seals’ deterioration. 

Valve Seat

Valve seats often cause a dripping faucet because water sediment typically collects in this location. The valve seat connects the faucet to the spout, which means drips stemming from the valve seat usually occur near the spout. 

Bad O-Ring

O-rings help the faucet handles stay put, but they loosen and wear down over a fixture’s years of use. A dripping faucet with leaks near the handle likely needs a new O-ring to stop the leak. 

Loose or Broken Parts

This goes without saying, but when parts of the faucet are broken or too loose, drips are more likely to happen. If any part on the faucet breaks, replace it as soon as possible to both prevent a drip from starting and to stop an existing drip. 


Lastly, bad washers are another common cause of a dripping faucet. Incorrectly installed washers allow water to leak through the faucet. Washers rest against the valve seat, which causes the washer to deteriorate quicker than other parts of the faucet. 

Problems Caused by a Dripping Faucet

A dripping faucet leads to big issues for the homeowner. Dripping faucets seem like a minor inconvenience, but they have large consequences when not quickly remedied. These are the problems associated with a prolonged faucet leak: 

Water Damage

Damage from a dripping faucet is possible whenever water leaks and collects where it shouldn’t. Sometimes, faucet leaks are due to pipe leaks, which cause water damage under the faucet, within your walls, under the house, or elsewhere depending on the pipe leak’s location in the home. 

Wasted Water

When a faucet drips, about 3,000 gallons of water are wasted per year. A dripping faucet negatively affects the environment due to how much water it wastes. It also causes local water supplies to deplete, which forces local governments to put restrictions on water usage to conserve the supply. 

Higher Water Bills

Plus, dripping faucets cost money every month on your water bill. Every gallon of water used in the home is tallied and added into the water bill. When a drip falls out of your faucet spout, you are charged for the water usage even though you aren’t using the water for a specific purpose, such as bathing or washing laundry. 

Mold and Mildew Growth

Finally, mold and mildew grow when water drips from the faucet for extended periods of time. Mold and mildew thrive where water collects, which means a leaking faucet allows mold and mildew to easily grow. This growth contaminates a faucet as well as leads to damage and health hazards throughout the home. 

A dripping faucet doesn’t take much to fix. Neglecting the issue and leaving the drip for too long causes possible long-term damage. Homeowners need to address their leaky faucets in a timely manner to remove the threat of the problems mentioned above. Fortunately, homeowners of all skill-level are able to carry out DIY fixes to remedy a dripping faucet. 

Fix a Leaky Faucet the DIY Way

Many homeowners try to fix problems around the house on their own whenever the option is available. For a dripping faucet, the solutions are fast, easy, and reliable. The only prep work necessary is to go to the local hardware store to purchase replacement parts. Luckily, the parts are common and almost all hardware stores carry replacement faucet components. Bring along the old parts to make sure you purchase the right size. 

Some tools you may need: 

  • Needle Nose Pliers 
  • Plumber’s Grease 
  • Adjustable Pliers 
  • Allen Wrench 
  • Flathead Screwdriver 
  • Utility Knife 

Step 1: Turn off the Water 

Your dripping faucets must be addressed, but only after you turn off the water supply. With the water on, you aren’t able to implement any fixes because water just shoots out if you try. As soon as you remove the first part, you get a jet of water in your face and all over the place. The water supply valves should be located under the sink. Turn the shutoff valves counterclockwise to turn off. 

Step 2: Cover up Your Drain

Next, cover drains with a drain cover. If you don’t have one, a towel, old T-shirt, or something similar will work. Small faucet parts are hard to keep a hold of, which makes them prone to falling down the drain. Keep something over the drain to avoid old or new parts from becoming lost in the pipes.

Step 3: Remove Handles, Packing Nut, and Stem

The faucet handle, the packing nut, and stem need to be removed first before you access the parts causing the leak. Though rare, these initial three parts have the potential to cause a dripping faucet. To eliminate them as the cause, check for damage and clean them.

Step 4: Remove O-Ring, Washer, and Valve Seat

O-rings, washers, and valve seats are the most common causes of a faucet dripping, so check them carefully as you remove each. Keep an eye out for corrosion, wear and tear, and any other damage. Check for sediment deposits, as water sediment buildup is noticeable on these parts.

Step 5: Clean with White Vinegar

After all the parts are removed, clean them with white vinegar. White vinegar cleans off any water sediments on the parts. Water sediments corrode pieces of the faucet, which leads to dripping. 

Step 6: Replace Parts

The last step is to replace the worn or corroded parts with new ones. Make sure the new parts are an exact match to the old component to prevent leaks caused by incorrectly sized parts. The order of replacements goes washer, O-ring, stem, packing nut, screw, handle. When you finish reassembling, turn the water supply back on to see if the faucet drip has been eliminated. 

Get Professional Help for a Dripping Faucet

Despite the homeowner’s best efforts, at-home fixes sometimes fail. However, a professional plumber is able to pick up where the homeowner left off. When a dripping faucet refuses to stop leaking after the method mentioned above, it’s time to call an experienced plumber for assistance. 

Here are some instances where the DIY homeowner may feel over the head and need the service of a professional: 

Valve Seat Corrosion

A seat wrench is used to remove the valve seat on your dripping faucet. However, most homeowners don’t own this piece of equipment. Professionals carry seat wrenches with them to practically every job, so they are able to remove the valve seat, clean it, and replace it quickly and with ease. 

Broken Plumbing Pipes

Broken plumbing pipes aren’t the most common cause of a dripping faucet, but still, they are a serious concern. Fix dripping faucets caused by this problem with assistance from the professionals. Plumbers are trained to handle all kinds of plumbing problems, which means they tackle difficult issues with ease. If you suspect broken plumbing pipes, call a professional immediately before further damage occurs. 

Loose Parts

Occasionally, the faucet’s loose parts are farther down than the homeowner is able to reach. A plumber is able to look deeper than homeowners, which means he or she is able to tighten parts far down in the system. After the parts are tightened, faucets stop dripping and are less likely to leak in the future. 

Worn Seals

Over time, seals wear away, but unfortunately, most homeowners don’t know how to properly replace them. Incorrect installation runs the risk of future drips. Because of this, a plumber needs to be contacted to install new inlet and outlet seals. The process doesn’t take long and the drip gets fixed instantly. 

Call Thomas & Galbraith to Fix Your Cincinnati Leaking Faucet

A dripping faucet wastes water and raises water bills, but homeowners have the ability to fix this issue on their own. See quick results with the method mentioned above. If the DIY method fails, call in one of Thomas & Galbraith’s plumbers. In Cincinnati, Ohio, our plumbers are your best resource to solve dripping faucets. 

For more information on our plumbing services or to book a maintenance visit, schedule service online today. We look forward to hearing from you! 

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