3 Ways To Fix A Faucet Leaking From Its Stem.

A dribble around the stem of a faucet when the water is running can often be stopped simply by tightening the packing nut.

If the stem leak persists, the packing should be renewed. This is also referred to as repacking a stem seal. The two types of packing which create a watertight seal are graphite washers (called O-rings) or self-forming packing (a sting-like twine that has graphite in it).

I’m going to show you 3 ways to keep your faucet leaking from its stem.

How To Fix a Faucet Leaking from Stem

Before you start, we recommend turning off the water at the shutoff valve located under the sink. Make sure no more water is coming out of the faucet before you begin.

You’ll want to have these tools and materials on hand:

  • Pair of pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Replacement packing (take your old packing to a hardware store or plumbing supply center to find a replacement)
Here’s a diagram of a compression-type faucet that uses an O-ring. Other types might use packing (special string) instead of the O-ring.

1. Replace the Packing Washer

  • Remove the handle and packing nut.
  • Clean out the old packing and slip on the new.
  • For an old faucet that used self-forming packing, you may find a ready-made packing washer that fits (this will save you time).
  • Push the packing washer onto the stem as fat as it will go.
  • Screw the nut over it, turning it clockwise.
  • Reassemble the handle.
faucet leaking from stem - 1 replace packing washer

2. How to Use Self-Forming Packing (Twine)

  • Untwist the strands making up the spooled twine and use one at a time.
  • Wrap it in layers around the faucet stem, using half as much material as you would need to fill the packing nut.
  • Reassemble the faucet.
  • The packing compresses into solid form when the nut is screwed down over it. Self-forming packing can be used instead of a packing washer if you cannot find one to fit.
faucet leaking from stem - 2 use self-forming packing string

3. How to Replace the Washer (O-rings)

Keep in mind, that some modern faucets use O-rings (washers) or cork gaskets for packing.

  • Pinch the O-ring with your fingers to make a loop
  • Grasp the loop and pull the ring off. There may be more than one on a valve-stem assembly (one outside the lock nut, and the other uncovered when the lock nut is unscrewed). If so, replace both of them using the same technique.
faucet leaking from stem - 3 replace o-rings

Final Thoughts: Faucet Leaking From Stem

A steady, slow drip from the spout of a stem faucet signals the need for a new washer (O-ring) or packing. But with modest to intermediate plumbing skills (of the do-it-yourself variety!), this is a leak that you can fix yourself.

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