How to Use Drywall Anchors

Vases on wall shelf

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Great for building walls, drywall isn't so great as a base for attaching items. Made from powdery gypsum and paper, drywall covers wide expanses inexpensively and it's great for soundproofing. But these positives also make drywall a weak base for attaching shelves, pictures, towel bars, or light cabinets.

If it's not possible to drive the fasteners for the item you wish to hang into the wood studs—always the best option—they must go into the drywall. Since fasteners driven directly into drywall easily tear out, special drywall anchors will do the job quickly and efficiently.

3 Types of Drywall Anchors

Drywall Sleeve Anchor

A drywall sleeve anchor is a plastic sleeve or insert that fits into a small, previously drilled hole in the drywall. When the provided metal screw is turned into the sleeve, the sleeve expands. This helps the metal screw to stay in the wall, with greater shear strength.

Drywall sleeve anchors typically are the least expensive type of drywall anchor. They're best for very lightweight items, such as pictures and light mirrors that range from 5 to 20 pounds.

illustration of how to install screw anchors
The Spruce / Theresa Chiechi

Drywall Threaded Corkscrew Anchor

A drywall corkscrew anchor is a large plastic or metal threaded screw-shaped insert designed to be self-drilled (no pilot hole) into the drywall. A provided metal screw is then tapped into the anchor, and it's this second screw that holds the item to the wall.

Corkscrew anchors operate much like sleeve anchors, though they are far more robust because the anchor's sleeve digs deeply into the hole it creates.

Corkscrew-style drywall anchors are more expensive than sleeve anchors. They're helpful for attaching heavier items such as shelves. light cabinets, and towel bars.

Drywall Wing Style Anchor

With a drywall wing-style anchor, the object is held firmly in place by wings that press against the back of the drywall while a flange on the front presses in the opposite direction.

A toggle bolt is one example of a wing-style anchor. A spring-loaded pair of wings is pushed through a pre-drilled hole. Next, the wings are drawn into the back of the drywall by turning a bolt.

Wing-style anchors tend to be the strongest type of anchor, ideal for shelves, heavy mirrors or pictures, or for TV mounts.

Safety Considerations

Heavy items such as pedestal sinks, large furniture, and kitchen wall cabinets should not be installed on the wall with drywall anchors. Instead, attach heavy items firmly to wall studs.

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Watch Now: How to Install 3 Types of Anchor Screws

How to Install a Drywall Sleeve Anchor

You'll need plastic sleeve anchors with provided screws, a flathead or a Phillips screwdriver, drill, driver bits, a set of drill bits, and a hammer.

Anchor screw tools
The Spruce / Margot Cavin​
  1. Select Drill Bit

    Select the correct size of drill bit by consulting the instructions on the drywall anchor package. If you do not have the instructions, estimate the bit size by comparing bits to the shaft of the sleeves. When in doubt, use a smaller bit than the one that seems appropriate.

    Various drill bit sizes
    The Spruce / Margot Cavin
  2. Drill Hole in Drywall

    Fit the drill bit in the drill. Drill a hole in the drywall.

    Drill wall hole with power drill
    The Spruce / Margot Cavin
  3. Tap Sleeve In

    Push the sleeve into the hole by hand. If the sleeve is tight, gently tap it with the hammer.

    Tip

    If the sleeve resists, do not continue to tap. Instead, remove it, drill a slightly larger hole, then insert a new sleeve.

    Tap the anchor in pre-drilled hole with a mallet or hammer
    The Spruce / Margot Cavin 
  4. Drill Screw Into Sleeve

    Drill the screw into the plastic sleeve with a drill or with a manual screwdriver.

    Drill in screw
    The Spruce / Margot Cavin 

How to Install a Drywall Threaded Corkscrew Anchor

You'll need a hammer, small nail, and screwdriver to install a threaded drywall anchor.

  1. Pierce Hole

    For nylon (plastic) anchors, create a small start hole by tapping a nail into the drywall's paper. Metal anchors do not need a start hole as they are strong enough to create one on their own.

  2. Twist Anchor Until Flush

    Place a Phillips or flat head screwdriver in the notched head of the anchor. Turn clockwise, applying firm (but not hard) pressure, to draw the anchor into the drywall.

  3. Finish Anchor

    Turn the anchor until it is flush with the drywall paper. Do not twist too hard or you risk stripping the head of the anchor.

  4. Add Screw

    Add the provided screw to the drywall anchor.

How to Install a Drywall Wing Style Anchor

You'll need a drill, drill bits, and a screwdriver to attach a wing style anchor on drywall.

  1. Drill Hole

    Consult the product's instructions for the diameter of the drill bit to use to drill the hole.

  2. Attach Bolt to Item

    If the bolt is attached to the wings, detach it. Slide the bolt through the hole in the item you want to attach to the wall.

  3. Put Wings on Bolt

    Thread the wings onto the bolt. Make sure that the open part of the wings is facing toward the head of the bolt.

  4. Insert Wings and Bolt in Hole

    Compress the wings. Slide into the hole.

  5. Pull Wings Ahead

    With one hand, pull the bolt and its attached item forward. You should feel the wings touch the back of the wall. Maintain this pressure as you turn the bolt clockwise.

  6. Fasten Bolt and Item to Wall

    Continue turning clockwise until the item is securely fastened to the wall. Do not overtighten.

How to Remove Drywall Anchors

Drywall Sleeve Anchor

You'll need a drill, a flathead screwdriver, and needle-nose pliers to remove a sleeve-style drywall anchor.

  1. Remove Screw

    With the manual screwdriver or cordless drill, remove the screw from the plastic sleeve.

    Twist out screw with screwdriver or power drill
    The Spruce / Margot Cavin
  2. Pry up Side of Sleeve

    The anchor's plastic sleeve has a flange that rests flat against the face of the drywall. Use the flathead screwdriver to pry up the edge of the flange.

    Pry anchor up with flathead screwdriver
    The Spruce / Margot Cavin
  3. Remove With Pliers

    Grab the edge of the flange with the needle-nose pliers. Pull the anchor sleeve straight out.

    Pull anchor out with pliers
    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Drywall Threaded Corkscrew Anchor

Remove the item and screw from the anchor. Place a screwdriver end onto the notched head of the anchor. Turn counter-clockwise until the anchor is free.

Tip

If the anchor head strips or otherwise cannot be removed, tap it about 1/8 inch into the wall, cover with drywall compound, then paint.

Drywall Wing Style Anchor

With a screwdriver, turn out the bolt counter-clockwise. The wings will drop into the wall. Remove the item from the bolt.