How to Remove a Stripped Screw

Stripped screw unscrewed from wood beam with screwdriver and screwdrivers in background

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

A stripped screw may seem hopeless. You're driving the screw—usually with a drill —and the head indents to the point where it is completely bored-out. The drill's driver bit or your manual screwdriver has nothing left to grip onto. The harder you press on the screw, the more it gets stripped.

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, there are a 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.


Watch Now: 4 Ways to Remove a Stripped Screw or Bolt

  • 01 of 10

    Switch to a Flat-Head Screwdriver

    Flat-head screwdriver inserted into stripped screw in wooden fixture

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    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. All you need is to raise the screw by 1/8-inch to be able to switch over to extracting the screw with pliers.

  • 02 of 10

    Extracting Screw With Pliers

    Metal pliers pulling out stripped screw from wooden fixture

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

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

    1. Hold the pliers to the side (the front of the pliers' jaws are rounded, so they can't grip as well).
    2. Adjust the pliers so that the jaws are just a little smaller than the head of the screw.
    3. Attach the pliers to the screw head.
    4. Turn the screw counter-clockwise.
    5. Make at least two or three full rotations.
    6. Unclamp the pliers.
    7. Re-clamp the pliers so they face forward (it's easier to turn like this).


    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 in the wood, next to the screw head.

  • 03 of 10

    Use a Larger Driver Bit

    Larger bit drive attached to electric drill to remove stripped screw from wooden fixture

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    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.

    Even old drill bits that have become worn down are worth trying. These bits have a flatter tip, so they add more surface area.

  • 04 of 10

    Switch to a Manual Screwdriver

    Manual screwdriver unscrewing stripped screw from wooden fixture

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    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. You can also lean into and put more pressure on a manual screwdriver.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Use Steel Wool

    Steel wool inserted between stripped screw head and drill bit in wooden fixture

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    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

    Hammer tapping black handled screwdriver on stripped screw in wooden fixture

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    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

    Using a rotary tool to cut a slot in a stripped screw

    The Spruce

    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

    White abrasive cleaning powder poured on stripped screw in wooden fixture

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    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 on 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. Choose a non-chlorinated cleaning powder.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Drill Into the Screw

    Electric drill drilling into stripped screw in wooden fixture

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Drilling into the screw 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.

    1. Choose a bit that is smaller than the screw head.
    2. Place the end of the bit in the center of the screw head.
    3. Drill slowly to form a hole about 1/8- to 1/16-inch deep.
    4. Remove the drill bit from the drill. 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.


    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

    Rubber band in between stripped screw and drill bit for traction

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Wide rubber bands work well for providing the driver bit with enough traction on the stripped screw.

    1. Cut the rubber band with scissors.
    2. Lay the rubber band across the top of the screw. It helps to use your free hand to screw it across the screw.
    3. Place the driver bit on the rubber band.
    4. Press hard while turning the screw counter-clockwise.

    If that doesn't work, it's sometimes helpful to leave the rubber band intact (uncut) and to try turning the screw out through two layers of rubber.