Remove Bathtub Handles

Whether you want to change the handles for your bathtub or simply need to remove them to change the stem or seat, sometimes the task becomes a little difficult. The bathtub handles stay on in a couple of ways, and to remove bathtub handles you need to find out which method to use. To do this, you need to do a close inspection of the handles. Sometimes it requires special tools.

1 Look at the handles themselves. You may have the type of handle with a hidden screw under a cap in the center that holds the handle to the stem. Other handles have a screw to the side that clings to the stem. You often need a special Allen wrench to remove the screw. These are normally replacement handles where one size fits all stems and weren't part of the original.

2 Pop out the center if you have that type of handle attachment. You can fit a flat screwdriver under the edge of the cap that's in the middle. Often, you'll see a small opening slit to put the screwdriver in that's along the edge of the center insert. Pry upward and it should pop out.

3 Find a Phillips head screwdriver to remove the screw in the center. Remember, "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey." This means you turn the screw counter-clockwise, to the left, to loosen it. Lay the screw to the side.

4 Use an Allen wrench to remove the other type of screw. If you have the type of faucet handle held on with a small screw at the side, you'll need an Allen wrench, since the screw is actually an Allen bolt. These are six-sided, narrow, L-shaped pieces of metal that insert into the center of the head of the bolt. It won't come out but just loosen.

5 Pull the handle straight out. Most bathtub handles come off at this point if you do this. You might have to wiggle it sideways a bit, if it seems hard to get off. Sometimes corrosion builds between the threads of the handle and the threads of the stem to bind them together.

6 Purchase a bathtub handle puller if they seem stuck. Most of the time the handles stick on the faucets when corrosion or lime builds and cements the handle in place. There are products on the market that also break up the gunk, such as WD-40 and PB Blaster. Spray some of either into the area and allow it to sit for at least an hour. Tap on the top of the handle gently with a hammer. This helps break the build-up that holds the handle on the stem.

7 Heat the handle as a last ditch method. Most people don't have a torch at home, but if you do and all else fails, heat the handle slowly. You need it to get hot enough so that it loosens the build-up. Focus on the screw area of the handle. This is not a recommended method but works when all else fails.