When you need to change a valve in a faucet assembly, you will need to remove each handle first. However, removing a stuck faucet handle can be a frustrating task for anyone. Faucet handles usually stick because of the age of the handles, the buildup of mineral deposits from water flow and corrosion of the faucet handles themselves. Fortunately, these obstacles can be eliminated with a few tricks. This guide will walk you through how to remove stuck faucet handles in order to complete valve replacement.
Table of Contents
How to Remove Stuck Faucet Handle
- Flat-head screwdriver
- Penetrating oil
- Dry rag
- Small, stiff-bristle brush
- Vinegar or scale dissolver
Before you begin working to loosen a stuck sink faucet handle with any of these methods, make sure to shut off the water to your sink.
Method One: Remove any Lime or Scale Deposits
If your faucet handles are old, you will likely have scale, lime or other mineral deposits that have built up within them over the years. Likewise, if you have exceptionally hard water without a filter, these deposits can accumulate rather quickly and result in your faucet handles sticking.
This buildup can even happen to handles made from materials like stainless steel that resist corrosion. Scale has a light brown color and lime deposits have a bright green color. Salt can also leave a crusty reside. Buildup of any of these minerals is a common occurrence that can be easily resolved.
Pry off the cap of the faucet handle with a flat-head screwdriver. Doing so will give you better access to the valve area within the handle.
Take white vinegar and pour it over the handle. The vinegar should not be diluted with water. Don't worry if the vinegar drips or gets on other areas since it is fairly safe for most surfaces, but if in doubt place a dry towel in your sink first. If you want a less messy option, fill a small spray bottle with pure white vinegar and spray down the open faucet cap and around the base of the handle.
Allow vinegar to sit for about a half hour to one hour. The acid in the vinegar will break down and loosen the mineral deposits enough so that the handle will be able to turn. If this does not work, wait a few hours and repeat this method. If the faucet handle is still stuck after two or three tries, move on to another method.
Note: If you know for certain that you have lime buildup, you can use store-bought chemicals that are meant to target lime instead of or in addition to the vinegar.
Method Two: Remove any Corrosion
If your stuck faucet handles are made from a metal that can corrode over time, rust may be the problem. This issue is common with aluminum or low-grade stainless steel faucet parts. When a water softener is used and you know mineral buildup is unlikely, consider corrosion to be the culprit.
Take off the faucet cap with a flat-head screwdriver. If possible, unscrew the screw underneath the cap so you can get a better look at the valve inside.
If the valve inside is brownish-red, you likely have rust. Take the small, stiff-bristle brush and clean out the area as best you can. Get down inside the hole as far as you can with a digging and brushing motion. Wipe off the brush with your rag periodically as you work. The idea is to clear out as many rust particles as possible, as this can cause your faucet to stick.
Try moving the handle again. If it feels looser but needs some extra coaxing, use a dry rag to grip the handle and turn. If the handle is still stuck, try the last method.
Method Three: Oil and Force
Sometimes a handle will stick due to corrosion even after the rust debris has been cleared. There are interior parts of a faucet handle that many brushes cannot reach. If the first two methods did not work, you may well be asking yourself, "How do I loosen a corroded faucet handle? Is it even possible?" It's possible, but now it's time for some elbow grease.
Pry off the faucet cap if you have not already. Remove any corrosion you can see and unscrew the top screw.
Place your penetrating oil inside the valve and around the base of your faucet handle. Spray oil with a thin nozzle can give you a more exact application. Allow the oil to sit for a couple minutes.
When ready, take a dry rag and attempt to turn the faucet handle. If it's still not budging, tap the handle lightly with a hammer in the direction you would turn it to loosen it, which is usually toward the left or counterclockwise. Be sure to keep these taps light and your aim sure. Avoid contact with the faucet stem or any other parts of your sink.
When a hammer tap does not loosen your stuck faucet handles, it's time to get serious. Take your wrench and tighten it to the faucet handle. With a gentle but firm pressure, turn the wrench in the direction that would open the water. With this applied force and the penetrating oil treatment, the faucet handle should finally turn.
As soon as it moves, take away your wrench and see if you can loosen it the rest of the way with your hand. Too much mechanical force might damage your faucet handle and only requires a little encouragement.
Things to Consider
- Always apply firm but gentle pressure when using a wrench
- Be generous with vinegar or penetrating oil
- Tap or twist handle in the direction you would to turn on the water
Things to Avoid
- Applying excessive force with either the hammer or wrench
- Risking injury by attempting to open stuck faucet handles by hand
Replacing sink valves can be frustrating if you don't know how to remove a stuck faucet handle. However, most handles stick due to rust, mineral buildup or age. If you have soft water, your handles may have corroded over time and need extra force. Always be gentle but firm in all of your movements when attempting to loosen a stuck faucet handle. It's also important to have all the needed tools on hand so you can complete the task efficiently and easily. No matter why your faucet handles are sticking, the methods detailed above can save you a lot of trouble and further damage to your faucet assembly.