How to Remove a Broken Light Bulb: 5 Methods

Using Needle-nose Pliers, Bulb Extractors, Potatoes, and More

Broken light bulb on white surface

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

In This Article
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Total Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $10

Most people have had to remove a broken light bulb at some point. When a light bulb breaks in a fixture, it usually leaves small shards of glass attached to the base, which is likely still firmly screwed into the socket. You'll be faced with the challenge of removing the metal part of a light bulb without injuring yourself or damaging the fixture. You can remove a broken light bulb safely and efficiently with the following tricks, including household items you have already, such as a potato attached to the base, an empty soda bottle, or a stick and glue. You may already have a tool on hand, namely pliers, to handle the job. There's even a tool to remove broken light bulbs, called a broken bulb extractor, available at any home improvement retailer.

Before You Begin

Make certain that the power to the fixture is off—you can't remove a broken light bulb without turning off the power. If the problem is in a plug-connected lamp, unplug it. If it's a hard-wired fixture, turn the breaker off or remove the fuse for that circuit. It might seem like overkill to turn off the power to simply remove a light bulb that is stuck in the socket, but it's essential, especially if you are working with a broken incandescent bulb.

Once the glass globe of an incandescent light bulb has broken, the filament is exposed. The bulb emits light when current passes through that filament. If the circuit is closed, there will be current running through the part you need to work with to get the base out. That's a very dangerous situation, so make sure the flow of electricity is turned off. To be certain, use a circuit tester to confirm there's no current.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Eye protection
  • Gloves
  • Needle-nose pliers (optional)
  • Broken bulb extractor (optional)
  • Circuit tester (optional)
  • Lighter (optional)


  • Strong trash bag
  • Raw potato (optional)
  • Soda bottle (optional)
  • Quick-setting epoxy or hot glue and glue gun (optional)
  • Old dowel or stick (optional)
  • New light bulb


How to Remove a Broken Light Bulb

Materials and tools to remove a broken light bulb

The Spruce / Sara Lee

  1. Clean Up the Glass

    If there are some shards of glass still attached to the base, put on gloves and eye protection, then carefully snap off the bits of glass with your gloved fingertips. Drop the glass into a strong trash bag for disposal.

    Shards of glass removed from base with yellow gloves

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  2. Use a Broken Bulb Extractor

    This unique tool is available at most hardware and home improvement stores. A broken bulb extractor has a rubber tip to engage the base of the broken bulb. It has a plastic body with a threaded socket on the back end that allows the extractor to be screwed onto an extension pole—handy for hard-to-reach bulbs.

    Simply push the extractor firmly over the filament support and into the base, and use it to turn the base out of the socket.

    Broken bulb extractor inserted into base and filament support

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  3. Try Using Needle-Nose Pliers

    If you don't want to invest in a bulb extractor, you can use pliers to turn the base out of the socket. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to grip the metal edge of the base and start turning counter-clockwise. The base may split and start to curl up around your pliers like the top of a sardine can; that's okay. If the piece you are turning breaks off before the base turns, drop it in the trash and start on a new piece of the base.

    Eventually, the base will come out, either by turning or by being removed in pieces. Be patient and careful not to damage the socket in the process.


    The other way to use needle-nose pliers is to open the jaws wide enough to engage the walls of the bulb. Then, with two hands maintaining the wide open jaws, rotate counter-clockwise and the bulb should come out.

    Needle-nose pliers gripping metal edge of base

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  4. Employ the Potato Technique

    If you don't have tools on hand, or you simply want to try something a little more fun to extract the broken light bulb, reach for a potato. A medium-sized uncooked potato can make an effective bulb extractor and there are two methods you can use:

    1. Carve one end of the potato into a cylinder small enough to fit inside the base and engage it, about 3/4-inch in diameter. Taper the tip of the cylinder and make a hole in the center of it to fit over the glass filament support. Hold the potato by the unpeeled end and, as with the broken bulb extractor, push it firmly over the filament support and into the base. Then use it to turn the base out of the socket. This method works best when you are left with an empty base and no protruding broken bulb parts.
    2. You can also cut a raw, unpeeled potato in half, and firmly press one of the cut halves of the potato into the remnants of the bulb and base without having to carve it into shape. This works when there is more to grip onto than just an empty base. The potato will grip the parts jutting out as you begin to twist the base out of the socket.
    Carved potato inserted into light bulb base

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  5. Melt an Empty Soda Bottle

    Look for an empty soda bottle of any size and take off the cap. Hold a lighter to the tip of the rim where the bottle cap is usually threaded until the plastic rim starts to melt. Insert the bottle's melted tip into the broken bulb and hold it there until the plastic has cooled down and melded onto the bulb's base. Then try to unscrew the base with a back-and-forth motion until the base loosens and you can remove it from the socket.

  6. Harden Quick-Setting Epoxy or Hot Glue

    Find an old dowel or stick that will fit up into the bulb's base. Apply a generous amount of epoxy or hot glue all over the tip of the stick. Shove the stick into the base so the epoxy or glue dries while in place. When the epoxy is hardened or the glue is cool, slowly twist the stick to loosen the broken bulb's base so it can be safely removed from the socket.

  7. Inspect the Socket and Insert the New Bulb

    Inspect the socket to make sure there are no fragments of glass or metal from the old light bulb inside it. If you went the potato route, clean the inside of the socket with a clean paper towel and make sure it's dry.

    Install the new bulb. Avoid over-tightening it—you don't want to have to go through this same process the next time. Turn the power back on and enjoy your working light.


    You can purchase bulb lubricant to help prevent the issue of broken bulbs in the future. Apply a little to the threads of the bulb base before inserting the bulb and tightening it.

    New light bulb inserted into socket by hand

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  • Are broken lightbulbs safe to touch?

    The glass itself is safe to touch. But you do not want to inhale any residue from the broken light bulb due to its toxicity. To avoid any problems when removing a bulb for any reason, wear safety gloves and put a plastic bag over the bulb while you are twisting it out of the socket so that if it does break, the shards go directly into the bag. If you get cut from a broken bulb, just treat it like any other cut.

  • Should you turn off the power before removing a broken light bulb?

    Yes, you must turn off the power to remove a broken bulb to avoid experiencing an electrical shock. You should make sure the light switch is turned off even when you are changing a bulb that is not broken.

  • Can you leave a broken light bulb in the socket?

    A broken bulb that's still in a socket won't draw any electricity (keep the light switch on the off position), but it's still unsafe to leave it in the socket. If the glass is shattered, it can cause injury if more glass breaks off or if you accidentally swipe the jagged glass with your hand. However, don't leave a socket empty once you take the broken light bulb out. Touching the inside of an empty, exposed socket can cause an electrical shock.