10 Ways to Remove a Stripped Screw

Removing Screw

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A stripped screw is one whose head indents are completely bored-out. The drill's driver bit or your manual screwdriver has nothing left to grip onto.

To remove the screw, few gadgets work better than an inexpensive screw extractor bit. But what if you don't happen to have an extractor bit on hand? Fortunately, you have a generous number of options for removing that stripped screw. All of these methods use basic tools or materials that you may already have on hand around the house or shop—drill bits, pliers, steel wool, and even abrasive powder or rubber bands.

  • 01 of 10

    Switch to a Flat-Head Screwdriver

    If you're trying to remove a Phillips head screw, switch to a manual flat-head screwdriver. By pressing hard, it's often possible to dig into the stripped head by angling the screwdriver.

  • 02 of 10

    Use a Larger Driver Bit

    Switch out the driver bit in your drill for another one designed for a screw with a larger head. The larger driver bit can distribute the pressure across more of the screw head, helping to turn the screw out.

  • 03 of 10

    Pull Out the Screw With Pliers

    If you can grab onto the head of the screw with pliers, this is usually the most reliable method of removing a stripped screw. Locking pliers are especially helpful when using this method. Even if you can only barely grab the outer rim of the screw head, this is enough purchase needed to begin turning out the screw.

    Tip

    If you're working with wood and you're having trouble getting a grip on the screw head, try grooving out a couple of shallow indentations next to the screw head.

  • 04 of 10

    Switch to a Manual Screwdriver

    If you've been trying to remove the stripped screw with your drill, often switching to a manual screwdriver for the same screw type is enough to extract the screw. A manual screwdriver gives you more control over the torque than with a drill—which can sometimes run away from you.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Use Steel Wool

    Lack of grip is always the problem with a stripped screw. Your driver bit just keeps rotating around the bored-out screw head. One way to provide instant grip to the surface is to insert steel wool between the screw head and the driver bit.

  • 06 of 10

    Tap the Screwdriver With a Hammer

    Place a manual screwdriver against the stripped screw. Then, with a hammer, lightly tap the handle of the screwdriver. In many cases, this is enough to seat the screwdriver slightly deeper into the stripped screw, providing enough grip for you to turn the screw out.

  • 07 of 10

    Cut a Slot For a Flat-Head Screwdriver

    Use a rotary cutting tool or a multi-tool fitted with a metal blade to cut a slot on the screw. Cut the slot straight across to create a groove for the blade of a flat-head screwdriver.

  • 08 of 10

    Use an Abrasive Powder

    Similar to the steel wool method, the more friction you can apply to the head of the screw, the better. You can sprinkle a small amount of abrasive cleaning powder or fine sand to the surface of the stripped screw, then apply the drill driver-bit to the screw and try to turn it out. In many cases, the powder or sand is enough to prevent the bit from slipping on the screw.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Drill Into the Screw

    This method is much like using a screw extractor tool—except you only need to have a drill and a set of drill bits suitable for drilling into metal. Choose a bit that is smaller than the screw head. Place it in the center of the screw head and drill slowly to form a hole about 1/8- to 1/16-inch deep. Remove the drill bit from the drill and switch back to your driver bit. Often, the hole helps your driver bit sink just far enough into the screw so that it can grip better.

    Caution

    If you drill too deep, you risk breaking the screw or snapping off the drill bit in the screw.

  • 10 of 10

    Use Rubber Bands For Grip

    Wide rubber bands work well for providing the driver bit with enough traction on the stripped screw. Cut the rubber band with scissors, then lay it across the screw head. Place the driver bit on the rubber band and press hard while turning the screw counter-clockwise.