8 ways to remove a stripped screw, recommended by a professional contractor
- Professionals use a screw extractor with a drill to remove stripped screws.
- Products like ScrewGrab, which helps add friction, can help in many instances.
- For a more DIY method, try using a rubber band or steel wool to increase grip.
A stripped screw can turn a quick fix or small adjustment into a big hassle. It can happen to any screw and can make removing or tightening it almost impossible. You might encounter a stripped screw while doing
Palm Springs-based general contractor Juan Perez has been in the home construction business for 30 years, and he encounters stripped screws every day. These are the methods he suggests to remove a stripped screw.
1. The expert-recommended method: Use a screw extractor
If some of the more DIY methods below don't work, professional contractors use screw extractor sets to remove stripped screws. Extractors are a special style of double-sided drill bit. First, use the squared-off end to out the damaged area of the screw. Then, use ridged conical end to remove the screw. Your drill should be in reverse for both steps in the process.
Perez says to be sure to use the correctly-sized extractor as you can destroy the screw if it's too big. Choose the bit that's just large enough to remove all evidence of the Phillips head and create a smooth hole for the other end to grip.
2. Use ScrewGrab
ScrewGrab is a gel that increases friction when applied to a screw head. Perez says he keeps a bottle of it in his toolbox because it often comes in handy. Put a few drops into the screw opening, and it helps the screwdriver grip better. This is also a good method to use for small, delicate screws like on a computer or phone.
3. Tap the screwdriver with a hammer
One of the quickest fixes for a stripped screw is just to lightly tap the screwdriver into the screw with a hammer. This can seat the tool deep enough to enable you to remove the screw. Perez recommends starting with a very gentle tap to the butt of the screwdriver.
4. Use a rubber band
You may be able to use a rubber band to remove a stripped screw. Get a rubber band that's as wide as the screw head and place it over the head, then use a screwdriver or drill driver on top of it. The rubber may fill in voids and give the tool more grip.
Perez says a similar handyman trick is to use steel wool in the same way. Since everyone has a rubber band or steel wool, this can be the easiest solution for a stripped screw.
5. Try a larger driver bit
If you're using a driver bit in a drill, try using a driver made for a larger screw than the one you're working on. Sometimes the larger bit distributes the force better, giving you more leverage to remove the screw.
6. Try different screwdrivers
Perez says to try a manual screwdriver if the drill driver isn't working, drills sometimes have too much torque and can strip the screw even more. Using different-sized screwdrivers might give you the grip you need. Try one with a smaller or larger tip or blade. If you have a stripped Phillips-head screw, try using a small flat-head screwdriver to remove it.
To be prepared, Perez suggests having a range of different sized and different types of screwdrivers in your toolbox. He also says to try using a brand new screwdriver as the problem may be with a worn tip or blade.
7. Use locking pliers
If any part of the screw or screw head is exposed, you may be able to use locking pliers to remove it. Simply grip the pliers around the screw head so they're tight and locked and twist the pliers counterclockwise to manually remove it. If the screw is too deep in wood to grip with pliers, use a flat-head screwdriver to push down the wood around the screw to help you get a better grip.
8. Cut a new slot
If you have a rotary cutting tool or a small hacksaw, you may be able to cut a slot across the screw head so you can use a flat-head screwdriver. Though Perez says this method can be risky and can easily damage the surrounding material, so only use it as a last resort.
Stripped screws are something you're likely to encounter while making home improvements. There are several DIY solutions to try, like tapping the screwdriver deeper into the screw with a hammer, using a rubber band for extra grip, or twisting the screw out with locking pliers. For stubborn screws, professionals recommend trying a friction-increasing gel like ScrewGrab or using a screw extractor drill bit.
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