What is the Definition of a Tap Washer?
Also known as sealing washers or packing washers (in certain tap types), tap washers are simple disc-shaped devices with a central hole or opening. They function as a type of gasket that helps to seal off mains water flow behind a tap when the tap head is turned to the ‘off’ position.
What Can Tap Washers Be Used for?
Tap washers are commonly found in plumbing kits and tool boxes. The vast majority of tap washer uses are in performing quick replacement jobs. In most cases, they’re the go-to solution wherever a tap is dripping, leaking, or becoming difficult to open or close. Some examples of tap washer uses might include:
- Basin mixer tap washers
- Bath tap washer replacement
- Hot water tap washer
- Kitchen tap washers
- Lever tap washer replacement
- Mixer tap washers
- Outside tap washers
- Pillar tap washers
- Swan neck tap washers
What Does a Tap Washer Do?
Tap washers are designed to be used in nearly all types of taps, where their key role is to help control the flow of water. They can also work to prevent leaking and contamination while a tap is shut off. Regardless of the washer type and material, their basic function is to press down against the seat or flow valve on the inside of a tap assembly, creating a closed-off seal that stops water from flowing to the spout when the tap head is turned to the ‘off’ position.
How Do Tap Washers Work?
They achieve their purpose by creating an impenetrable physical barrier between the tap seat and the spout. The material construction of most tap washers also means that they’re able to fill and even out any irregularly-shaped voids between different parts of a tap fitting (generally the valve and the tap seat), effectively sealing off the tap spout from the valve.
When a tap head is turned on or off, a rotating screw forces the tap washer to move up or down (respectively) within the body of the tap assembly. This lifts it away from the seat and opens up the flow valve. In doing so, it allows pressurised mains water held in the plumbing system to pass through the tap spout at varying volumes and speeds. Key to this function is the fact that tap washers are typically made from materials that can be squeezed or compressed to form a watertight seal (although exceptions do exist for certain tap types). This enables them to seal off the valve opening more effectively, even in cases where general usage-related wear and tear has caused small surface irregularities over time.
However, there is a finite amount of wear that a washer, seat or valve opening can sustain before the sealing properties no longer work effectively. At some point, the washer or various other moving parts of a tap will need to be replaced. Most often, this is due to damage from water erosion, or physical stress and degradation caused by repeated mechanical or compression forces in normal use.