How To Straighten Crooked Receptacles

Electrical outlet recepticle
GaryAlvis / Getty Images

If you're the type who's always straightening picture frames that are slightly off kilter, electrical outlets that lean to one side probably drive you a little batty. They're every bit as visible and pictures and, darn it, they should be straight. But outlets are screwed to the wall and can't just be nudged with your fingers. Well, actually, they can...with a little help from a screwdriver to loosen the outlet first.

The same technique works just as well for light switches.   

How to Straighten Crooked Outlets 

  1. Turn off the power to the outlet at your home's service panel (breaker box). Switch off the breaker feeding the outlet's circuit, then test the outlet with a noncontact voltage tester to make sure the power is off. If you don't have a tester, you can plug a lamp into the outlet and turn it on; the breaker that turns off the lamp is the right breaker. 
  2. Remove the screw at the center of the outlet's coverplate. This usually needs a small flathead screwdriver. Remove the coverplate and set it aside. 
  3. Loosen the two screws holding the outlet's metal mounting ears to the electrical box. There's one at the top and one at the bottom of the outlet. These usually are combination-type screws that can accept either a flathead or Phillips screwdriver. You only need to loosen them a couple of turns; just enough so that the ears can slide sideways under the screws. The ears have elongated holes so you can adjust the outlet from side to side. 
  1. Use one hand to push or twist the outlet to straighten it and hold it in place, then tighten the two mounting screws with the other hand. If you loosen both screws and move the outlet as far as it will go, you can get a good 1/4 inch or more out of it.
  2. Reinstall the coverplate with its screw, making sure it is straight, too. Be careful not to overtighten the screw; it's very easy to crack a plastic coverplate.
  1. Switch the breaker back on at the service panel. You're done! Finally, that outlet that's been bugging you for years is straight, and you can focus your eagle eye on other household imperfections.