Recommendations for plumbing fixtures pliers

Hello all,
I’ve been searching for soft jaw vs non marring pliers for shower head changes and other plumbing fixtures for higher dollar fixtures. Can’t find ones with good ratings which are under $30. Any recommendations? Knipex are $60-80 on Amazon, but only 4 star reviews at that price. The rest are cheaper but 3-star ratings. None of the fixtures are anywhere near top grade but they are above price pfister, etc. So they are an upgrade for me, but I bet the finish is still some sort of coating which will scratch off. Can’t afford Kohler true quality stuff, funny thing that those are high enough grade that they would tolerate harsh wrenching.


In the Dark Ages of my earliest plumbing jobs - there was no Internet and limited access to tools. Your supply house - probably had a rack behind the counter displaying the more common items - and sometimes new things that might prove to be an impulse buy. Otherwise - you went to a supply house or hardware store to look through catalogs from folks like Ridgid, Reed and Wheeler Rex.
Plastic jaw pliers were rare if available at all. For dealing with polished brass or chromed pipes small girth Parmelee wrenches (if you were well heeled) or strap wrenches were the choice.

For folks on a budget - a strap wrench might still be a good choice for larger plastic, brass and chromed fittings,

Some of the first nylon jaw pliers I ever saw were from a Japanese company Igarashi Pryor - they get some mixed reviews:

This brand gets better (but only a few) reviews:

Pliers for electronics - canon plugs might also suit your needs:

But they may tend to slip on polished plumbing fixtures compared to the textured surface of most canon plugs.

I appreciate your reply. Which of these have you used? The problem with Amazon is twofold. Arguably too many products, with unreliable reviews. I own strap wrenches, always slip on pipes, esp chrome ones, but great on hose bibs. I guess this category is gimmicky and experienced plumbers probably don’t bother because they know how to plumb well. I’m a homeowner :slight_smile:

I use Knipex pliers wrench myself, yes the price is steep but they are a very fine tool. I only do just enough plumbing work to justify the cost.

I’ve not used any of the pliers I linked to above.

On chrome and polished brass pipes I’ve used only old Parmelee wrenches and Ridgid strap wrenches. My Parmelee wrenches are at least 50 years old - and modern ones seem to be marketed mostly to oilfield and steamfitting/boilermaking businesses

On polished ferrule nuts and other hex and square fittings I’ve used Knipex Plier wrenches - which when we first bought them (about 20 years ago) were phased in replacing adjustable wrenches, smooth jaw Channellocks and smooth jaw monkey wrenches for many applications. We carried a variety of sizes in our trucks - and I have a fair collection at home.

For polished trap fittings - I use Channellock wide jaw adjustable wrenches - but many other folks like Bahco

For removing showerheads and other chrome plated fittings - if you are discarding them - you can use more aggressive pipe wrenches or Channellock pliers. For installing new ones - start by hand tightening - then move to a quality adjustable wrench or pliers wrench.

As always thanks Fred.

I was going to say what you are looking for has a name in the aviation world. You want Cannon Plug pliers. They are often some variant of a slip jaw plier that has been reworked such as to use a replaceable rubber/silicone jaw insert. The best ones even come with 2 or 3 sets which are ranked in hardness from rubber to soft nylon. which you will then use the middle softness version and loose the other 2 that you never used but I digress.

Anywho - a lot of companies make these from Snap Op and their counterpart williams, to SK and Proto etc etc. Fred linked a few. I have 2 sets a small and and a large both of mine are MAC because that’s what was in the hangar that day and they were cheaper than the Snap Ons.

TO that end cannon plugs like some pluming fixtures have knurled full circle rings that are meant for you to hand tighten. These work great and they have other uses around the house/car as well. I would recommend a cheaper set.

Other thing you can do - put painters tape on the fixture and let your normal pliers grap the tape. you don’t have to tighten it that much.

Ive got a 10" smooth-jaw channellock and an 8" channellock xtra wide adj wrench. Also a couple strap wrenches. These have served me well for installing most plumbing trim from delta and moen to kohler and way higher end. Theres often a lot of technique and care involved in not damaging finishes. A tip for showerarms. You can stick one handle of a channellock inside the pipe to give more leverage for the final tightening. With teflon tape they dont require a lot of torque. You can sometimes jam one jaw inside the end of a finished nipple to use like an internal pipe wrench(another option). Using a couple layers of clean cloth/rag or a few layers of painters/masking tape can sometimes work. Some thin rubber used with normal pliers would add friction and protect finishes.
In my current job i carry a small channellock with me And use it on finishes sometimes(eg aerators). I find it doesnt do much damage when you grab firmly (no slipping) and only one time, not repeatedly grabbing and turning.
Another smooth jaw large opening option is a vintage monkey wrench. For really large trim i do have a ridgid smooth hook jaw wrench(2"+ opening). Looks and adjusts like a pipe wrench.

some times I just wrap my gloves around the finished fixture and grab with my channellocks

Man, thanks for the great feedback everyone! I suspected technique was as important as the tools. I’ll look into several of the tools mentioned above


Knipex make jaw covers ( for their Cobra and Alligator pliers. The teeth can cut through them if you’re not careful, but I’ve still found them to work pretty well.
I also own the Gedore Swedish-pattern soft jaw pipe wrench (, which works very well on anything with flat sides, but doesn’t grip round things at all.

I had a pair of these Rothenburger pliers at one point, but found them to have so little grip as to be almost useless.

Lots of the plastic (often nylon) covered jaw pliers (like the Rothenberger for which you provide a link) are pretty useless (as you say) for gripping most pipe. They might work OK on plastic, brass or chrome-plated slip nuts that provide some gripping surface. Its sort of the same with canon plug pliers - which get a better grip because the plug collar usually is ribbed or textured. I have a Parmelee No.1 handle - with separate girths that fit pipe from 3/8 to 1 inch. They never fail to grip and I’ve never had one mar the pipe - but this set would set you back $1000 or more - the 3/8 giirh being a custom size, other girths ranging in price from $225 to $273 and the No.1 handle costing something like $164

That’s a pretty fantastic looking tool. Probably worth the investment if you’re doing a lot of work where marring the pipe is a Big Deal. Maybe I should convince my boss to buy one for the shop :slight_smile: