I thought that the solution for a dripping tap was to change the washer. It turns out that the mixer tap in the kitchen, which had been slowly dripping for a while, instead uses a ‘ceramic gland’. There are washers but the main control of water flow is controlled by a couple of shaped ceramic plates in a cartridge assembly.
In theory, that should take less maintenance but it turns out to be widely accepted that they are almost as problematic as the older, washer solution. I took a closer look the other day, checked the silicon washers and put the cartridges back. Result: worse than ever… more research needed.
Research suggested that you can buy replacements but it isn’t straightforward. They have to fit and there are a lot of factors to consider, even down for the number of splines for the tap connector to fit on. However, it was suggested that applying some silicone grease between the ceramic plates could sort things out. Result, after order a small tin of said grease: still not better than when I started.
Today, I did some more research. Try cleaning with a vinegar solution to remove tiny particles of limescale. I did this, used a bit of silicone grease in the increasingly familiar reassembly job and, at first, it seemed I was merely back where I started. However, the drips quickly settled and it looks like I just might have managed to fix the issue.
I’ll give it a few days before I get too confident but, if this is all that needs to be done, why is the solution so often just to fit a new cartridge? I suspect some of that comes from people who make money by selling them and some because of the time it takes to do the cleaning. By the time you’ve taken the tap apart, extracted and disassembled the cartridges, soaked them, brushed them off and given them a good rinse and finally put it all back together, a fair amount of time has passed.
For a professional, it is probably safer – and less expensive for the client – to drop in new parts and move onto the next job. Doing the job yourself changes the equation. Hopefully I won’t have to do it again for a few years although that means my 25g tin of silicone grease will probably be enough to last a few centuries!