How to Correct Hard-to-Turn Faucet Handles

If your faucet or shower handles are hard to turn, this may be a result of buildup on the cartridge. Follow these steps to clean your cartridges and loosen your handles:

  1. Turn off the water supply to your faucet.
  2. Open the valve handles to release any water pressure.
  3. Turn the handles back to the closed position.
  4. If your handles are secured with a set screw, use an Allen wrench to remove them. If they are attached with a screw, use a screwdriver.
  5. Take off any decorative escutcheon exposing the cartridge.
  6. Using a wrench, unscrew the cartridge out of the valve body.
  7. Remove the cartridge and soak in a 50/50 warm water and vinegar solution overnight.
  8. Turn the stem of the cartridge in the solution multiple times to loosen any remaining debris.
  9. Remove the aerator from the tip of your faucet and turn your water back on at half-pressure to flush the water lines and remove any debris or buildup in the faucet body.
  10. Turn the water supply back off.
  11. Reinstall the cartridge, making sure not to overtighten the cartridge in the valve body.
  12. Replace any escutcheon and the handle(s).
  13. Turn your water back on and test the faucet flow.

For a visual on how to clean a faucet cartridge, check out our video here.

If you are still experiencing issues after applying the above steps, a replacement cartridge may be needed. Please live chat us at or email us at

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