A faucet handle that is stiff or stuck can be a pain in day-to-day use and an extra challenge if you need to repair the faucet valve. You can try a few DIY tricks at home before having to go to the hardware store for a faucet handle puller.
If your faucet handle is old, scale or lime deposits are common. Deposits build up over the years; this will happen faster if you have hard water.
As the mineral deposits accumulate, the faucet handles begin to stick.
Scale aggregation is typically light brown, lime is bright green, and mineral salts tend to leave a coarse and crusty residue.
These are all common deposits that can happen in any part of your house, including kitchen sinks, bathroom faucets, and shower faucets. Mineral deposits can occur even on corrosion-resistant metal alloys.
Fortunately, the removal of mineral deposits is an easy fix.
Use a flat-head screwdriver to leverage beneath the cap of the faucet handle. Carefully pry off the cap, giving you easy access to the valve area.
Pour undiluted white vinegar over the handle. Vinegar is safe for most surfaces, so don’t be too concerned if it drips over the handle onto your sink. If you are worried about your sink’s finish, place a dry towel over the sink before you start to catch any drips.
You can also use the white vinegar in a spray bottle to precise target the open faucet cap and the handle base.
If you can’t reach behind the handle, attach a 1/4-inch rubber tubing to the sprayer to get between the handle and valve stem.
Let the vinegar sit for about an hour. The acid in the vinegar will eat through the mineral deposits, freeing up the handle. If the faucet is still stuck after an hour, apply vinegar again.
If you know you have lime deposits, you might want to stop by a home improvement store and pick up a commercial scale dissolver. You can safely use this in addition to the vinegar.
If you have done a few vinegar applications but your faucet remains stuck, move on to the following technique.
Remove Any Corrosion
Corrosion on a metal unit can restrict movement. If your faucet is low-grade stainless steel or aluminum, you may be dealing with rust.
If you have a water treatment system, the mineral buildup is less likely. A stuck faucet handle is likely a result of corrosion.
Fortunately, in 3 simple DIY steps, you can remove corrosion at home.
Remove the faucet cap using a flat-head screwdriver. Ideally, unscrew the screw underneath the cap to give you a clear look at the valve.
If the valve is brownish-red, you are likely dealing with rust. Use a small wire brush to clean away the accumulation of rust. Wipe the brush with a clean rag as you work, allowing you to collect more rust particles.
Try turning the handle. If it is getting looser, use a dry rag to grip the handle and turn, releasing the last of the rust accumulation. If the handle is still stuck, move on to the third technique.
Oil And Force
You’ve tried both of the simple cleaning methods, and your handle is still stuck. It’s time to get serious and get that handle moving!
Chances are the rust and corrosion extend further than you can see, and you’re now dealing with a corroded faucet handle. It is still possible to tackle this with a DIY, but it will take some elbow grease.
Like the previous methods, you need to start by removing the faucet cap. If you haven’t already, use the wire brush to remove the rust you can see inside the valve, then remove the top screw.
Generously apply penetrating oil inside the valve and all around the faucet handle. Pick up a sprayer with a narrow nozzle from the hardware store to help you precisely apply the oil. Let the oil sit for a few minutes.
Use a dry rag to grip the handle to give you leverage to turn it. If it remains stuck, use your hammer to carefully tap the handle in the direction you want to turn it (usually counterclockwise or to the left).
Aim carefully and use minimal force. Avoid contact with the valve stem, faucet stem, or any other part of the sink.
If you are still unable to turn the handle, get your wrench out for your last effort. Tighten the wrench around the faucet handle and use steady, gentle pressure to turn the wrench in the right direction.
The wrench’s force and the lubrication of the penetrating oil treatment should coax the stuck handle to turn. As soon as you gain movement, remove the wrench and use your hands to continue to loosen the handle.
Using too much force with the wrench can damage the faucet handle.
If none of these steps work, make a trip to Home Depot and buy a faucet puller tool.
Open the puller, insert the central shaft into the screw hole in the middle of the handle and hook the puller’s arms under the base. When you turn the handgrip clockwise, the puller will lift the handle off the faucet stem.
Things To Remember When Removing A Faucet Handle
When using force, be firm but gentle to avoid damage
Always tap or twist the handle in the correct direction to turn on the water
If using vinegar or penetrating oil, be generous with amounts
Before you start any repair, use the shutoff valve to turn off the water supply
Things To Avoid
Avoid excessive force with either the wrench or the hammer
Whenever possible, loosen stuck faucet handles by hand
Replacing sink valves can be frustrating if the faucet handle is stuck. However, in the majority of cases, the root of the problem is rust or mineral buildup.
Diyers can solve these issues without bringing in a plumber.