Replacing Moen Cartridges

The Basics

Moen has a simple cartridge system used for a wide variety of single-handle valve bodies. Kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, tubs and showers. The lineup is nice because a wide variety of products use about 3 cartridges -- 1200, 1222, 1225 that all have a similar form factor.

This system is pretty nice. The valves are easy to move against pressure, and maintain their position easily. You can even leave them set to the same temperature setting and control the volume from off to full on.

The system has expensive cartridges, they cost about $30 (2014) to replace, but they last a long time -- 20 to 30 years. It's not a bad deal, and unlike modern ceramic faucets, Moen still makes the same part to put into valve bodies made 40 years ago!

It's Easy to Replace!

To replace a cartridge, it's straight-forward and simple, taking all of about 15 minutes.

If you want to get the Moen Extractor Tool, it is a little pricey at $30, but it makes even a normal replacement a breeze!

If you get stuck at step #7 or #8 -- don't worry. Checkout the sections on the Moen Extractor Tool and Removing a stuck Cartridge for help with that.

  1. Turn off the water.
  2. Remove the faucet handle cover. A slim pry bar or flat-bladed screw driver works well.
  3. Unscrew he faucet handle screw -- usually flat blade.
  4. Remove the faucet handle.
  5. You may have to slide out a spacer sleeve (usually in shower / tube valves) which hides the... (ps, clean the old caulk from the sleeve)
  6. Pull out and save the retaining clip. YOU MUST DO THIS, if you don't you might destroy your valve by accident.
  7. Use a Moen extractor tool, or the white tool that comes with the new cartridge to twist the cartridge left/right loose. The "ears" on the tool sit between the "ears" of the cartridge inside the valve body to let you rotate it.
  8. Use the extractor tool or a pair of pliers on the stem to pull out the valve cartridge.
  9. Examine the valve body and use vinegar (and a toothbrush) to clean out any lime and mineral deposits. It works nicely.
  10. Wet the replacement valve body, but don't wash the lubricant from it.
  11. Slide the cartridge into the valve body until it clears the retaining clip slot. The ears on the cartridge should be aligned with the slots, not opposite to them.
  12. Slide the retaining clip in. Seat it so it is flush with the outer valve body, with just the tab exposed. You can use the extractor tool or the white tool to rotate the insert to align the two. YOU MUST INSTALL THE CLIP, otherwise the force of water will push the cartridge out of the valve and water will fly everywhere!
  13. If there was a spacer sleeve, re-install it by sliding it back into place.
  14. Slide the faucet handle back on.
  15. Turn on the water
  16. make sure hot/cold are in the correct directions. If not use the faucet handle to rotate the valve stem 180 degrees to make hot/cold properly oriented.
  17. Screw the faucet screw back in.
  18. Press the handle cover back in.
  19. If you had to pull the spacer sleeve, you'll need to clean up the old caulk re-caulk it the escutcheon.

What Moen Says

You can read about the normal directions on Moen's web site:


While Moen does a nice job of telling you what to do, their icon-only description leaves out a few important details...

What's The Problem?

If this cartridge wasn't such a great design, there would not be a problem. You'd have to spend $30 on each faucet every couple of years to replace the cartridge as described above. People would bitch & moan about the cost, or move to a different brand that had cheaper cartridges.

The problem is that this system is designed really well, and the cartridges can last 30-40 years before something goes wrong with them. Great! you say -- what an incredibly cheap system.

The problem isn't the system, its in the lack of maintenance that happens with a cartridge sitting in a valve body for 30 years. What is there to maintain?

O Rings

What should happen is that every couple of years you pull the valve cartridge, re-lube the O rings with the special grease to make everything slide well.

Hard water and Deposits

Junk in the water and scale and etc can build up in the valve body and the cartridge. If you pull the cartridge every couple of years to re-lube it, you'll also use some vinegar and toothbrush to clean up the scale and it will look a good as new.

It will also make it easy to do maintenance; you are removing junk which will keep the valve cartridge from being removed.

Why Maintain It?

If all that is done regularly, whenever the cartridge fails it will be a textbook replacement procedure; in and out in 15 minutes.

If you don't, all the deposits and scale and time will build up between the cartridge and the valve body. It will essentially seize the two together, making it darn near impossible to replace the insert.

In other words the cartridge is stuck in the valve body, and it is impossible to remove. That's why you need to read the following section!

Removing Stuck Moen Cartridges

If your Moen cartridge is stuck because it hasn't been replaced in a long while, you will need to use some force to remove it. It is worth doing it right because you won't damage anything and you won't need to install a new valve ... which costs a lot of $$.

Stuck Retaining Clip

Deposits may make it difficult to pull out the retaining clip. If so, use vinegar and brush to dissolve the deposits. Make sure to get vinegar onto the the clip side, the opposite side, and the inside where the clip rests to get rid of all the deposits that make it difficult to remove.

The clip has a hole in it that you can use a corner of a flat-blade screw driver or a sharp punch or awl to let you pry the clip loose slightly.

If there isn't enough room, the clip slots extend through the valve body; a small flat-blade screw driver can be put into the open end of the clip tracks to allow you to push the clip up from the bottom.

If the clip moves a little and then stops, use some more vinegar to clean up more deposits.

Don't use a vice grips to try and pull this thing out. You just need to get rid of the deposits, unseat it, and it will slide out nicely. If you break off the little tab on the clip you may find it impossible to remove in the future, or you might break the clip and leave it jammed in the valve body.

Use the Moen Extractor Tool

Moen sells an extractor tool that is used to loosen the cartridge and get a grip on it to pull it out. It is metal, unlike the white tool which comes with every replacement cartridge.

The directions for using it are included on the packaging. It costs about $30 ... and will last for a lifetime of fixing you and your friend's Moen faucets. If you have a bunch, this is the tool to get even for normal replacements. It pretty much makes the normal replacement easy and effortless.

  1. Back off the inner hex bolt until it is loose.
  2. Back off the outer hex nut until it's all the way back.
  3. Insert the tool inside the valve body, with the ears of the tool between the ears of the cartridge.
  4. Loosely tighten the inner hex bolt into the cartridge stem until it stops.
  5. Loosely tighten the outer hex nut until it contacts the valve body. Don't ignore this step -- This nut stabilizes the tool so you don't break parts of the tool or the faucet by accident!
  6. Twist the cartridge left and right with the T-Handle.
  7. Pull out the cartridge with the T-Handle with easy force.

If the cartridge is stubborn and doesn't want to pull out, the tool still does it for you; The outer hex nut on the tool is really a cartridge puller:

  1. Snug the outer hex nut down until it contacts the body of the valve (you should have done this above).
  2. Tighten the outer hex nut 2-1/2 turns to extract the cartridge from the valve body. If you can't turn it out by hand, a A 12" adjustable wrench is large enough to fit this nut.

Once the cartridge is out, loosen up the outer hex nut, and then unscrew the inner hex bolt, and voila your cartridge is removed. Once out, definitely check that the valve body is clear of deposits (clean with vinegar) and then go back to the Easy Replacement procedure.

If the cartridge you pull out is a bit thinner than you thought it should be -- something about the width of your pinky, instead something about the width of your thumb ... That means that the stem pulled out of the rest of the cartridge. Don't Panic! If it was stuck that bad, you need to pull the stem out anyway to get the rest of the cartridge out!

Extracting the Cartridge Barrel

OK, the cartridge was stuck so bad that the stem pulled out of the cartridge when you tried to pull the cartridge from the valve body. This leaves the outer barrel of the cartridge still in the valve body. You need to pull it out.

DO NOT TRY to pull the stuck barrel out by it's ears -- you may need those parts later!

Moen even designed their system to work if this happened. (Or, they thought really hard about how to fix it when it started happening) It's rare enough, though, that you'll need to make A tool to do the work.

You'll need

What you are going to do is to make a extractor to pull the barrel from the valve body. The secret here is that the barrel is open-ended; the far end of the barrel isn't closed -- that's the valve body you see at the far end if you shine a light down the hole.

  1. Put the length of dowel into the hole. This is important -- it protects the valve body from metal-on-metal contact which would destroy it.
  2. Lube the tap lightly on the "threads' with the oil.
  3. Screw the tap into the barrel, creating threads, and moving the tap deeper into the barrel.
  4. Once the tap contacts the dowel, additional turns of the tap will start pushing the barrel out of the valve. Sweet!
  5. Once it is pushed out enough, you can use a large vice grips or pliers to pull it out the remainder. If it is still stuck hard .. just turn the tap in more; it is slow but easy to do.

If the barrel spins so that you can't thread it ... it's an easy fix. Use the needle-nose vice grips on the valve body to create a stop that the ears of the barrel will rest against, preventing it from turning. You will need to reset the vice grips as the barrel starts extracting, otherwise they will be grated along the valve body by the force of the extractor.

If the barrel is outside the valve body and it still won't pull out easily ... you can no longer block the ears from turning. In this case, use the large vice grips to keep the barrel form turning so you can push it out more with the tap until it is loose.


OK, you just used a threading tool that creates metal shavings in your faucet. Those shavings aren't good for your complexion, your shower-head's spray nozzles or adjustable mechanisms. Most important those metal shavings will destroy the O-Rings on your replacement cartridge.

Use a rag and the toothbrush to remove the big chunks of stuff that are easy to see and get rid of.

Carefully turn on the water on a low flow to flush remaining metal shavings from the valve body. Be careful -- there is no valve and the water will jet right out the valve stem straight into the air. Have something to deflect or catch it so it doesn't make a mess -- you don't have metal shavings all over the place!

After flushing out the metal shavings, take the vinegar and the toothbrush and take the time to dissolve any deposits from the valve body.

After that, it's smooth sailing, go back to the Easy Replacement procedure.

Tools You Might Need

In approximate order of use. I'm just listing all the tools -- you will only need them all if it goes wrong!

Ordinary Replacement

Extra-Ordinary Replacement

If the stem is pulled out of the cartridge, you'll need this stuff to extract the remainder of the cartridge. Yes, the vinegar is listed again, because you will definitely need to clean out deposits!

Moen 12xx Cartridges

There are 3 Moen Cartridges in the 12xx series. They all use the same tools and techniques to replace them, but the cartridges and valve bodies are different.

When I was replacing my Cartridge in my bath, I had to guess which one I had... because I couldn't easily find the information in the plumbing stores or online. I couldn't bring the cartridge to match it because it was stuck in the valve body!

Moen 1200

This is the basic Moen cartridge used for single-handle operation. Lift/pull for on/off and volume. Rotate left/right for hot/cold.

This cartridge lets you set a temperature, but it does not control temperature or flow based on pressure. In other words, if someone flushes a toilet and the water gets warmer while the tank refills ... you probably have this cartridge!

This is an all-brass cartridge with 2-3 cirular O Rings around it, and one elliptical O-Ring.

The real Moen ones come in a sealed plastic box so that the lubricating grease doesn't evaporate or harden. If you get an after-market one, look for some grease to go with it so you can lube the exterior O-rings so that it will install without damage. If you get the Moen one, you might want to buy some grease anyway for future valve maintenance!

Typical price for this cartridge is around $30-$40.

Moen 1222

The 1222 cartridge is a Moen posi-temp cartridge. If I got this right ... It's a single lever that rotates from off to hot through intermediate temperatures. You can push/pull the level to control water volume. It doesn't let you keep the same temperature setting every time, like the 1200 does. It does keep you from turning on blistering hot water all at once ... which may be a great thing if there are young kids in the house ... or your visitor comes from someplace (like Chicago) where hot and cold is reversed (normal is hot left, cold right, Chicago is the opposite).

This cartridge tries to maintain a set temperature by using a pressure differential between hot and cold sources. If you flush the toilet, the valve will "see" the reduced cold water pressure, and reduce the flow of hot water to the same pressure to try and maintain a constant temperature.

You can recognize this cartridge by the black oval pressure diaphgram on the end away from the stem. This cartridge may also be available with a plastic body ... which may be easier to remove in the future.

This cartridge is more expensive -- $60-$70 than the simple 1200 cartridge.

Moen 1225

I can't tell you what the 1225 is used for, but I can tell you what it looks like!.

Instead of the sets of O-rings on the 1200, or the elliptical diaphragm on the 1222, it has a black rubber cylinder at the end away from the stem.

This is a lower priced cartridge, around $20-$25.

Handy References

This forum has a nice set of articles and experiences on people having and solving problems with Moen cartridges. It provided the basis of the information i needed to figure out how to get my cartridge out.

After the fact, I found this site that has some different advice on the overall process. It does explain the bolt reference I found in the above blog.

The big thing they suggest is threading the interior with the same 1/2" tap I used, then stacking washers against the external valve body, and threading in a bolt to use as a proper puller type gizmo. The difficulty I see with their advice is two-fold:

  1. It is good for getting the cartridge started moving.... and it will only pull it out about 1/4" at the most. The tap-against-dowel method has a longer range of motion, and will let you easily extract more of the cartridge from the valve body.
  2. If the cartridge body is spinning, you will need to hold it from spinning for 3x as long -- tap in, tap out, and then bolt in!


While I do a lot of plumbing work, and am decent at it... I dislike doing plumbing work in the furnished areas of my house, or above things I don't want to ruin. A water leak -- especially one when you are not at home -- can cause devastating results.

I do work I'm comfortable with, but I still call a plumber (or a plumber friend) if I'm going to do some large-scale plumbing work. They have the experience to do certain things (such as sweating large diameter pipe) reliably ... that I do not.

While many people say this is the procedure to follow for stuck Moen Cartridges -- and it worked for me too -- there is always the danger of damaging the valve body, or creating a water leak in the future.

Sometimes paying a plumber for a non-emergency visit can give you peace of mind that you won't have otherwise. Peace of mind can be comforting!

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Last Modified: Wed Jan 8 12:02:44 CST 2014
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