Kitchen Faucet Handle Hard To Turn (Here’s The Fix)

We know it’s frustrating when your faucet handle suddenly becomes hard and you are not able to turn it properly.

Because the faucet is one of the most important fixtures in the kitchen and we use it on a daily basis for cleaning dishes and washing hands that’s why we need our faucet to work properly.

Luckily, fixing a hard-to-turn faucet handle is not a difficult task and you can easily do it yourself without the help of a plumber.

If your kitchen faucet handle is hard to turn, there could be several reasons such as mineral buildup, worn-out O-rings, or a damaged cartridge.

In this article, we will guide you through the step-by-step process to fix a hard-to-turn kitchen faucet handle.

Why Is My Kitchen Faucet Handle So Hard To Turn?

Mineral buildup

Hard water contains a lot of minerals such as calcium and magnesium and these minerals accumulate inside the cartridge or valve of the faucet. As a result, the faucet handle becomes stiff and it does not turn easily.

Worn out O-rings

O-rings help to seal the cartridge but with time they get worn out due to regular use, exposure to air, and exposure to heat from hot water flowing through the faucet.

As the faucet seals wear out, it becomes hard to turn the handle, since the hardened O-rings increase the amount of friction inside the faucet.

If the O-rings are left inside the faucet for long, it will become more difficult to turn the faucet handle and leaks can also occur inside the faucet.

Damage cartridge

The other reason for a stiff faucet handle is a damaged cartridge.

The cartridge is a component in the faucet that controls the flow of water. Over time it can get damaged, due to which faucet handles can become hard to turn.

How Do You Fix A Hard To Turn Kitchen Faucet Handle?

Step 1: Gather The Necessary Tools

Before starting the process make sure to collect all the necessary tools.

  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Towel
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Specialized Cleaner or Vinegar
  • Silicone-based lubricant or Faucet Grease

Step 2:  Turn Off The Water Supply

Now, turn off the water supply valve so that flooding does not occur in the kitchen.

Under the kitchen sink, two shut-off valves are located –for hot water and cold water. Turn both the valves in the clockwise direction to stop the water supply.

If you don’t have shut-off valves under your kitchen sink, turn off the main water supply valve of the house.

Then, turn on the faucet so that the remaining water inside the pipe gets flushed out.

Now, cover the sink with a stopper or towel so that you don’t lose any parts of the faucet in the drain.

Step 3: Remove The Faucet Handle

To remove the faucet handle, First, you have to remove the cap on the faucet handle. The cap is usually located on the top or side of the faucet handle.

So, if your faucet has an index button on the top of the handle, remove it with the help of a flathead screwdriver (or a knife).

Now, you can see a screw; remove it with the help of a screwdriver.

 If the cap is located at the side of the handle then there will be a decorative cap instead of an index button.

Once you remove the decorative cap, you will see a set screw behind it. Remove the set screw with the help of an Allen wrench. After that, remove the faucet handle.

Once the faucet handle is removed, the cartridge will be visible. Also, you may see a small metal clip that holds the cartridge in place; remove the clip with the help of pliers.

After that, pull out the cartridge with your hand and if it’s tight then use pliers to remove it.

 Step 4: Examine The Cartridge

Once you take out the cartridge from the faucet, inspect the condition of the O-rings. They are small rings that help to seal the cartridge and prevent leaks.

If the O-rings are worn out or damaged, then replace them with a new one.

Now, examine the cartridge to check if it’s the cause of stiffness. Observe carefully and look for signs of damage and wear.

See if there’s any crack, chips, or bend on the cartridge. If the cartridge is damaged then replace it with a new one.

If your faucet has two handles, then you will see a stem in place of a cartridge. Simply, replace the old stem with the new one.

However, if there are no signs of wear and damage then cleaning the cartridge may solve the problem.

 Step 5: Clean The Cartridge

First, scrub the cartridge with a soft-bristled toothbrush so that debris and mineral buildup get removed.

Now, take a small container and pour vinegar in it. Then, add some water and mix the solution properly. Then, leave the cartridge in the vinegar solution for 10-15 minutes.

If the debris on the cartridge still remains hard after soaking in the solution, then leave the cartridge in the solution for 2-3 hours.

Now, take the cartridge out of the solution and again scrub it with the toothbrush, so that the remaining debris and mineral buildup get removed. But make sure to scrub gently or else the cartridge will get damaged.

At last, rinse the cartridge. Turn on the faucet and make sure the flow of water remains fast, then hold the cartridge under the faucet and let the water flush out the remaining waste present on it.

 Step 6: Lubricate The Cartridge

After cleaning the cartridge, it’s important to lubricate it so that the faucet handle operates smoothly.

For lubrication, use Silicone-based lubricant or specialized faucet grease. Avoid using any petroleum-based lubricant because they can damage the cartridge over a long period.

Apply the lubricant on the surface of the cartridge. You can use a soft-bristled toothbrush to spread the lubricant across the surface of the cartridge.

Make sure to not apply too much lubricant or else the faucet handle will become slippery and won’t function properly.

 Step 7: Reinstall The Faucet Handle

Now, the cartridge is cleaned and lubricated. So, everything can now be put back where it belongs to.

First, put the cartridge back into the faucet, and make sure to insert the small metal clip on it. Then, reinstall the faucet handle.

 Step 8: Check The Faucet

Now, turn on the shutoff valve located beneath the kitchen sink. After that, turn on the faucet and let the water run for a few minutes so that the air trapped inside the pipe gets removed.

Now check the faucet handle. Make sure to turn it back & forth continually and see if it’s turning smoothly or not.

If your faucet handle is still hard to turn then replace the cartridge with a new one. You can buy it online from Home Depot or you can get the replacement from any hardware store near you.

If you are going to buy from a hardware store then take the cartridge with you to get the exact model.

What Can You Use To Lubricate Your Kitchen Faucet?

The Danco Waterproof Silicone Sealant Grease is an ideal product for lubricating cartridges, faucet stems, and valves, while repairing a leaky faucet.

 The silicone sealant grease helps to reduce friction and provides a long-lasting lubricant. And, it helps to smooth hard-turning faucets. 

The product is water resilient and water resistant, so it can be used on ceramic disks. It also works great as an installation aid for inserting parts, which will make a seal and will not move again.

The grease retains its consistency in temperature from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. So, it can be formulated for different kinds of plumbing applications.

This silicone sealant grease contains high raw silicone content which makes it better for long-term lubricant hold.

It can be applied safely on nitrite/rubber O-rings because the grease is designed to be used as a waterproof lubricant.

The product is odorless and colorless due to which it’s easy to use during the application. You won’t be bothered by any smell while applying the grease or have to worry about cleaning after the use, because it has no pigment.

This 0.5 oz container-size silicone sealant can be used to lubricate O-rings, door hinges, threads on shower heads, and bolts toilet gaskets.

Lastly, it does not contain petroleum which makes it safe to use on your fixtures.