Ah, the luxury of modern hot shower plumbing; with it’s soothing water spaying onto your back like tiny little masseuse hands.
But wait…the water is not actually getting hot…and the more you turn it to the “H”, the colder it’s getting!
Oh, there’s the hot water—but it’s coming out when you turn the handle to the opposite side, where the “C” is!
Something is definitely wrong. But for now, you can get your hot water from the cold side and your cold water from the hot side and try and relax as you get clean.
How to Fix Your Hot and Cold Reversed Faucet
Switching the hot and cold sides on your faucet whether in your kitchen or bathroom is actually pretty simple.
The one assumption here is that your temperature reversed faucet has just one handle or knob, and not a dual-handle type where the hot and cold water have separate knobs.
We’ll also assume your single-handle tub, shower or sink faucet is what’s called a cartridge type.
These are ever popular and durable styles that are characterized by having a single metal or plastic cylinder in the middle of the faucet body.
A movable stem with holes going through it sits inside this cartridge.
When the stem gets moved (controlled by the handle or knob), its holes align with holes in the cartridge.
As they align, water is let through; usually a mix of hot and cold water.
Now that you know how your reversed hot and cold faucet is put together let’s take it a part and fix it.
1. Turn Off the Water Supply
Before doing anything, you’ll want to turn off your main water supply. This will be close to your water meter, most likely outside your house.
2. Remove the All-Important Screw
Next, you want to unscrew a center screw that holds on your reversed hot and cold faucet handle.
You may have to pry off what’s called an index cap that sits on top of the handle first.
Use a flat-head screwdriver or an old bread knife to get this done.
3. Take Off That Handle
When the handle screw is out, you can remove the handle itself.
Do this by lifting up and tilting back (kitchen handles) or sliding out from the wall (baths/showers).
Don’t worry about using a little muscle here, as minerals from the water may have helped stiffen the bond between the handle and faucet body.
Some shower faucets will have a second handle that controls the hot and cold positioning.
This may require you to remove a second screw before being able to access the cartridge.
4. Remove the Valve Cartridge Sleeve
Use a smooth pliers (like a crescent wrench or a Knipex pliers) to remove the cylindrical sleeve that holds the cartridge in place.
This may take some force depending on how long it’s been since the valve was installed.
I’ve used some CLR or Lime-Away to “pre-soak” and loosen any mineral buildup that might be holding the sleeve in extra tight.
A pipe-wrench or vice-grips pliers can work too if it’s really stubborn.
You can tap the end of your clamped down wrench with a rubber mallet to start it moving as well.
Once it budges and started to loosen, you can eventually twist it the rest of the way off by hand.
5. Turn Cartridge 180 Degrees
Your hot and cold water reverse problem is caused by a cartridge that is out of alignment.
Here’s what to do:
Simply rotate the cartridge 180 degrees (half-way around) from it’s original position.
You can use your smooth edge pliers and grip the end of the valve itself.
If it won’t twist, you may need to pull the cartridge completely out.
You can do this by gripping the tip and pulling hard and straight until it comes out.
Then rotate it, and insert it back into it’s position in the valve receiving pipe coming from the wall.
Then, put the valve sleeve back in place.
Replace the retaining ring and clip if necessary, the handle, handle screw and index cap.
Turn your main water line back on and give it a try!
In some cases, you may not have to remove your cartridge once you have your handle removed.
Some single-handle models are designed with the handle actually screwing into a small independent piece of plastic that sits between the handle and the cartridge.
Don’t worry if you don’t see this – yours may not be designed this way.
If this piece is placed on the wrong side, then the handle will be reversed, and the hot water will be cold, and vice versa.
Move this piece to the opposite side and screw your handle into it there.
Which Side Is Hot and Cold on a Faucet?
Cold water is always on the right side, while you get hot water from the left.
This industry standard is uniform across North America and applicable for single and dual-lever faucets.
Wondering why? Simple.
When hand pumps were introduced indoors, they only had one option, cold water.
And since the majority of people are right-handed, it was natural to place the faucet where it would be convenient.
When hot water became accessible through indoor plumbing, it helped to continue the system to avoid accidental scalding from hot water as most people naturally reach for the right side first.
Can You Install a Mixing Valve Upside Down?
Most plumbing fixtures, when installed incorrectly, lead to issues such as mixed up temperatures or the knob turning and no water comes out at all!
That’s not the case with a mixing value, also known as a thermostatic mixing valve (TMV).
A TMV is a T-shaped valve added to your boiler or water heating source.
Its purpose is to pre-mix hot and cold water and maintain water temperature as it flows out of faucets—regardless of whether you’re using the vanity basin, shower or tub.
The science behind it is pretty simple.
The valve’s element expands and contracts based on water temperature, regulating how much hot and cold water enters from their respective inlets.
Reverse installation of the mixing valve means the hot and cold sides will change. However, that will not affect the functioning of the TMV.
So there you have it. You should be set and no longer have your hot and cold reversed on your shower faucet. Life is good.