Most of the taps in my new house are fitted with so-called "anti-vandal" screws in the tap heads, as shown in the image. These screw into the tap head to tighten them onto the stem.

enter image description here

I can't remove most of them because they are stuck. I suspect they've been overtightened and haven't been removed for years. I'm looking for suggestions as to how I can remove them so I can replace the tap washers. And yes, I know which way they need to be turned to tighten or loosen them ;-)

I've already tried:

  • Using an anti-vandal tap head spanner (shown below), but the prongs bend/break, as the screws are quite stuck.
  • Using a hair-dryer to heat up the ring before using the spanner.
  • Adjusting the rings to tighten, then to loosen. I simply get no movement at all.
  • Applying WD-40 to the rings. This hasn't worked either, perhaps because of their orientation; I can't immerse them.

I also have a pair of needle-nose pliers, but they're just a bit too big for the notches in the rings to get a good grip.

Any other suggestions?


  1. UNECS's suggestion (below) was certainly a good one, but unfortunately it didn't work out.
  2. I now have my hands on a small pair of 90° circlip pliers which I'll try later. Hopefully I don't break them (or anything else) in the process!

The anti-vandal tap head spanner:

anti-vandal tap head spanner

Circlip pliers:

circlip pliers

This finally worked:

  • Clear any crud out of the threads using vinegar over a few nights (see Wayfaring Stranger's answer, below)
  • Give the rings a good blast of Loctite Freeze & Release for a few seconds, and let the stuff do it's magic for a few minutes
  • I used the circlip pliers again, and the rings broke free, although not without a bit of force. I felt like I might still have bent the prongs of a tap head spanner like the one pictured above.

n.b. I'm told that any "freeze spray" like CO2 would also have done the trick instead, which works to contract the ring away from the thread of the tap head. Because the Loctite was expensive, it might be worth trying this instead as a first shot. I believe the same kind of principle is behind heating the parts up, which, when cooled rapidly, also causes the contraction which separates them, but I wasn't prepared to bust out the blowtorch for this one...

Finally, if you're going to do this, be careful you don't spray yourself if you're spraying upwards onto the ring, sheesh! enter image description here

  • Just wondering if you solved this one. I have almost the same problem. In my case, the brass ring starts to turn, and then jams in the inner thread of the handle. I have tried liberal doses of WD40, and I have the correct tool, but I end up just bending the prongs of the tool, and I am wearing down the edges of the recesses in the brass ring so I have not much grip.
    – user13308
    Jun 3, 2013 at 5:03
  • Unfortunately no, I haven't solved it yet (wow, nearly a year later, how embarassing!). I'm considering having the taps chopped off entirely, but it's seriously a last resort...
    – Bruce
    Jun 3, 2013 at 6:26
  • I have the exact same problem - broke the 'special' spanner, cannot get the circlip pliers in at the locking nut. The recesses appear to be worn now, and it looks like the end of the road. Did you ever find a solution? I am very reluctant to take a hacksaw to the tap, as it is on a twin sink in a bathroom - requiring the purchase of four new taps to achieve an acceptable result (because, naturally, I cannot find a matching tap anywhere...). Cheers.
    – user20691
    Mar 27, 2014 at 5:32
  • I am going to try Loctite Freeze & Release and if that doesn't work, some other chemical-based penetrating oil like Liquid Wrench. I don't know if these will help you if you've already worn the recesses of the rings, though. Please let me know how you get on.
    – Bruce
    Mar 27, 2014 at 22:32

3 Answers 3


if you just need to replace the washers can you

  1. turn off the water
  2. open the tap fully
  3. unscrew the cover flange at the bottom of the tap
  4. fit a pair of mutigrips under the flange and undo the spindle from the breach

hence replacing the washers? Once you have the spindle out you will find it easier to get at the anti-vandle screw and undo it

  • 1
    Thank you, this is a good suggestion. I'll definitely try it and see. Unfortunately, I suspect I won't be able to get the flange high enough to accommodate a spanner/multigrips to reach the spindle, but I've got my fingers crossed. Cheers.
    – Bruce
    Aug 27, 2012 at 5:37
  • Yeah depends on the taps it's worked a couple of times for me but still pretty difficult
    – UNECS
    Aug 27, 2012 at 9:10
  • 1
    I had a go at this last night, but the flange doesn't reach high enough to let me get a spanner (even my thinnest one) in to reach the spindle. Damn it!
    – Bruce
    Aug 27, 2012 at 23:11

Stuck screws around plumbing often result when water, and its dissolved minerals, wicks up into the threads and dries out, leaving rock-like deposits. On a faucet as you picture, wet hands will be used to turn off the valve, so you have a ready source of water above the thread even if the valve stem doesn't leak. Try stuffing a vinegar soaked cotton ball up next to the threads overnight, and see if that'll dissolve out some crud for you.


Wasn't having much luck with ours so I ended up cutting the tap handle off using an angle grinder. We were then able take the bonnet off and replace the tap with a standard one to avoid this issue in future!

A plumber quoted us hundreds of dollars to replace the taps (assuming he could get the tap handles off).

If you already have a hacksaw/grinder this might be the way to go.

enter image description here

  • Ah, the "scorched earth" approach, well done! Your post succeeded in making my eye twitch again... these rings have no place in domestic households!
    – Bruce
    May 7, 2022 at 6:34

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