It's not always easy to remove a stripped screw. Sometimes, the head of the screw is too damaged for any tool to get a grip on it and unscrew it. Other times, you'll find that the bit has sunk into the metal so far that there's no way to turn it without stripping even more of the screw head away.
In this article, we'll show you some ways to remove stripped screws, no matter what project you’re currently working on. Let's get started.
Use a Sleeve Anchor
Cable and wire fittings are available in a variety of materials, so you probably have one or more of them lying around or can find them from your nearest tool shop. In many cases, they make excellent improvised wrench replacements when something goes wrong with the real thing.
Just choose one that's larger than the screw's shank, and it should fit over the end.
If you don't have anything that will work in your toolbox, try any hardware store or home improvement warehouse for sleeves of various sizes. Try a larger one before trying smaller ones—you can always file down the excess metal if necessary.
This works best if you can get enough to hold onto the screw with something other than your bare hands—if there are no teeth on the sleeve, use clamps to grip it as well as you can. Securely clamp or otherwise grasp the part of the project that surrounds the stripped-out hole. Use pliers or another gripping tool to secure the sleeve and turn it, using as much leverage as you can muster.
You may be able to replace the cable or wire fitting with a nut of appropriate size and use an adjustable wrench on it to tighten in place, but this isn't always possible. If it is, great. You can stop here. Otherwise…
Use a Pipe Wrench
As long as your pipe wrench has enough teeth on the jaws to grab onto the screw well enough that you don't just strip out more of its head while trying to loosen it—and if your stripped-out screw isn't very large (1/2″ [13 mm] or smaller)—it's worth giving this method a try.
In most cases, you should be able to get enough purchase with the wrench's pipe-style handle to make this work. Once you've got the jaws of the wrench on it, just turn as hard as you can—again using as much leverage as possible.
If there's anything else you can use to add leverage (such as a crowbar of appropriate size), do so. You could also try getting pliers or a vise grip onto the screw head itself and turning that while holding the wrench steady. With all of these methods, try wiggling the screw first if your best force doesn't produce faster results; some screws are more rounded than others and may spin loose under pressure.
If none of that works…
Try an Ultraviolet Light
If you've got an ultraviolet light, try shining it on the stripped screw for a few minutes. The heat from your shop's lighting may be enough to loosen things up if the screw-and-light combo is hot enough—if not, time will take care of it. Be patient and thorough with this one.
If none of those methods work…
Try Liquid Wrench or WD-40
If you don't want to inflict any additional damage on your already-hurting project, try WD-40.
This lubricant will help free up the threading in your screw, plus it's water-soluble so you can wash it away with warm water afterward if necessary. If there was anything left of your stripped screw that could be loosened by torch or heat (see above), this should work well in most cases—but let the tool cool off before trying to loosen the screw further.
If none of those works…
Turn and Die Grinding
In a last-ditch effort, turn and die grinding is worth a shot. This isn't something we recommend for every kind of metalworking project, but it may work well if you're working with aluminum, brass, or magnesium—or another material that's already relatively soft.
How do I get a stripped screw out of wood or plastic?
If you've got a stripped screw in wood or plastic (or any other non-metal project), we recommend trying the methods above, but no more. You'll almost certainly ruin your chances of salvaging the screw by using heat or solvents on it when they're not recommended. If all else fails and you have to replace the screw, use a drop of superglue—just enough to coat the threads well enough so that they catch again—to hold a new one in place after you drill out the old hole.
Are there any other further methods I can try to remove a stuck screw (which isn’t stripped)?
You may find yourself in a situation where a screw is stuck and won't come out despite all of your efforts. Here's what we suggest:
If the screw is just stuck in place and not stripped:
Use a modified Phillips screwdriver to remove a stuck screw.
If your project has been put together with screws that have an indented tip—the style known as Philips—try using any old flathead screwdriver to pull it out. Just don't use anything too small, since you risk breaking something. You can also try using pliers or channel-lock pliers instead of a flathead, but realize that they'll probably damage the head if you're unsuccessful.
Use a rubber mallet (or vise grips on your drill) to tap the grip loose
A few taps on an appropriately sized hammer should loosen it up enough for you to get a good grip. We've heard that you can also use a drill to get the screw loose: fit a chuck over your stripped screw and try tightening it with the bit spinning, which should loosen things up if you need to remove the screw this way. Just be very careful not to strip the threads on any more of your project's screws—and always double-check your work before inserting the final few screws in your project.
You can try using a torch-like we suggested with stripped screws, but don't hold it too long against both wood or metal (the former will burn). Hold as close as possible while heating it for at least 30 seconds—longer may help, but be careful not to overheat the screw and damage your project.
Try oiling it up
If you've got grease or spray lubricant around, try spraying or smearing that down on your stuck screw—again, just a little bit of lubrication may solve the problem right away.
The very last resort when the screw just won’t budge
At this point, consider giving up on removing the screw using the above methods and try another piece of hardware (you might want to drill a new hole for it). For the stubborn screws we couldn't get out through any other means, sometimes just having the right tool was enough.
Final thoughts on how to remove a stripped screw
In conclusion, using the right technique and hardware will save you time, effort, and money.
Removing a stripped screw can be a time-consuming job however it will not be impossible. With the right tools and techniques, you can remove almost any screw from wood, metal, or plastic.
Finally, if you'd like to learn how to do more things around the house yourself, here is an article on how you can remove a sink stopper and as well as another article on how to grout a shower. We hope you get the most out of these articles.