Tap Washers or Ceramic Discs?

Tap Washers or Ceramic Discs?

These days, most people opt for mixer taps in their bathrooms and kitchens. But there is still a desire for pillar or singular hot and cold taps with a separate spout. If you have these styles of taps in your home, one question that is considered when purchasing said taps is whether to install tap washers or ceramic disc spindles. I’m going to share the pros and cons for both while sharing an experience I had on the weekend.

tap washers or ceramic discs

On Sunday morning, Jacob and I had just gotten out of the shower (we have a double shower so no need to assume romantic interludes…) and Jacob noticed his shower rose wouldn’t stop leaking. It was a constant run of water. So I grabbed a bucket to catch the drips, but the continual dripping sound and the intensity in which it flowed annoyed me. The irony wasn’t lost on me that I had just spoken on TV last week about saving water. In my plumber’s mind, I knew it would be the tap washers. But then I realised, Jacob’s shower has ceramic disc spindles, and I’ve got monster tap washers as I had forgotten I’d installed these over 3 years ago for a trial and review.

If the spindles in Jacob’s shower suited tap washers, I could have changed them myself. But they were ceramic disc spindles, and I didn’t have any spares to replace them with. So the next best thing was to remove the shower rose and cap it off until new ceramic disc spindles could be purchased.

Little did I know that while I was capping the shower, Jacob was taking pictures of me and admiring my work. These aren’t the most flattering pictures as I just got out of the shower and chucked my dress on.

taking off shower rose
Couldn’t find my shifting spanner so had to resort to using my multigrips


adding brass cap to shower
Taking off the tape with a pocket knife and reapplying to put on the brass cap


capping the shower rose

Capping the shower stopped the dripping and it also meant we wouldn’t be paying for water we weren’t using. (but you know I would use it… I was scared the bucket would overflow though)

Once the new ceramic disc spindles were purchased and installed, the shower rose could be installed too.

Tap Washers or Ceramic Discs?

ceramic disc from ram taps
Diagram of a ceramic disc spindle from Ram Taps, purchased from Reece Plumbing

The reason many opt for ceramic disc spindles is because:

• They are more durable and longer wearing, saving the inconvenience and expense at having to replace washers.

• They make turning a tap easier, as a quarter turn of the handle will arrange the discs so a full flow of water will come through the spout instantaneously. (Are a great option for those with arthritis – personally I’d opt for a mixer if renovating/building new)

• Less wear and tear on the tap as there is no constant turning to get a good flow of water.

The disadvantages are: (and usually there is a solution to these)

• Ceramic Disc spindles are more expensive than tap washers.

• Spares aren’t kept on site, compared to tap washers, so you can potentially waste more water until new ceramic discs are purchased. (So keep a set spare. Most plumbers will have spare ceramic disc and tap washer spindles in stock)

• The intensity of the water flow can be unexpected and splash water everywhere. To solve this issue, opt for a ½ or ¾ turn ceramic disc so the flow of water isn’t as intense and is more gradual.

• Are said to last longer than washers… but there are some cases where ceramic discs have needed to be replaced more often. Usually this is common in places with hard water or where sediment has gotten into the water line if the council has cut into the water main.

Tap washers are cheaper to install and can be stored easily at home, but they may need to be replaced more often than ceramic discs. How often that is, anyone can say. But using good quality washers and reseating will promote longevity.

tap washer spindles
These are standard nylon/plastic washers and tap spindles

For us, it wasn’t a big inconvenience to get the new spindles because it meant Jacob had to use my side of the shower while his side was temporarily capped off.

taps with new ceramic disc spindles
Taps with new ceramic disc spindles

The only inconvenient part of the issue was I couldn’t fix the problem immediately because I only had washers, not spare ceramic discs.

tap washers or ceramic disc spindles

To make it easy to change washers or ceramic discs for a basin, get your plumber to install a stop valve or Whisper Flood Stop Isolating valve so the water can be isolated easily for the changeover.

What kind of taps do you have in your house? Mixers? Separate Pillar Taps? Do you prefer ceramic disc or tap washer spindles?