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How to Remove a Stripped Screw and Get On With Your Project

Whether you’re a DIY veteran or a newbie weekend warrior when it comes to minor tasks around the house, it’s inevitable that you’ll one day strip a screw. When that happens it doesn’t have to ruin the day or your project because there are a number of ways to remove a stripped screw. Using any one of these techniques can help you easily extract the screw and get on with the work.

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What Is a Stripped Screw?

A screw becomes stripped when the grooves on the head of the screw – whether for a Phillips head or flat screwdriver – have been completely worn off. Your drill bit or screwdriver has nothing to sink into in order to leverage the screw when it twists.

Of course, there is such a tool as a screw extractor bit that you can use in your drill, which works like a charm, but you definitely don’t need one. You just have to know different ways to remove a stripped screw. In fact, all the methods explained here use common items from the home or garage to get that stuck screw out. The beauty of having so many ways for how to remove a stripped screw is that if one isn’t working for you, try another.

What Tools Do I Need?

How to get a stripped screw out

Rubber Bands to the Rescue

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One of the most effective methods for how to remove a stripped screw is to use a rubber band. All you have to do is place a rubber band over the top of the screw that’s stripped and won’t come out. Stick the screwdriver into the rubber band on top of the stripped spot. Slowly turn the screwdriver until the screw comes out. If you can’t find a rubber band, you can always use a little piece of a green kitchen scrubber or some steel wool instead.

Try a Bigger Drill Bit 

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Another option for removing a stripped screw is to try using a larger driver bit in your drill. Choose one that’s a little larger than what you would use for the screws. Sometimes, this spreads the pressure across the screw head a little more and helps get the screw turning.

Just Pull it Out!

Depending on how the screw sits in the hole, it may be possible to pull it out with a pair of pliers. Look at how closely how the screw head sits in the hole. Is there any space between the screw and the surface?  If so, grab the locking pliers and use those to grip the screw head. If you can grab the head, you can start turning it and screw it out of the hole. This method takes some time and elbow grease but can be very effective in the right circumstances.

Drill a Hole in the Screw

You might wonder how drilling a hole in a stripped screw will help you remove it, but sometimes the little hole is just enough to give the screwdriver a better grip. You’ll need a drill bit made for metal and some caution: You don’t want to drill down too far into the stripped screw or you might break off the top.

Try a Different Screwdriver

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This option is always worth a try when you’re looking at how to remove a stripped screw. If the screw head is meant for a Phillips head screwdriver, try using a flat head version. While this can work, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: You need to choose a flathead screwdriver that is skinny enough to fit entirely within the Philips head slot. Also, doing this is going to take some strength and sweat. Another hint for making this method work is to use the rubber band along with the flathead screwdriver. Lastly, if you were using a drill bit, try switching to a manual screwdriver. Tt’ll give you a little more control and just might do the trick.

Take a Hammer to It

No, we’re not suggesting that you try to bash it out with a hammer, but it could be that the screw became stripped because it’s made of a softer metal. In this case, it’s worth trying to tap the screwdriver into the metal with a hammer. Position the screwdriver over any remaining indent and then hammer it into the metal as best you can. Doing this can push the screwdriver in firmly enough that you can twist it to get the screw out.

Put Your Dremel to Use

If you are a building or crafting enthusiast you probably own an oscillating tool like a Dremel, which can help you solve your stripped screw problem. All you need to do is attach the metal-cutting disc and use it to make a new, deeper slot in the top of the screw. Then, just grab your flathead screwdriver, firmly insert it into the new slot and twist.

Get a Screw Extractor Kit

While it’s called a screw extractor kit, this is basically a set of special drill bits that have two ends and are made specifically for this job. One end is for drilling into the top of the stripped screw to make a depression. Then, all you have to do is switch the bit to the extraction part and then drill in reverse to remove the screw. This works very well but only helps if you happen to have one on hand. That said, they are not expensive and are a good addition to any tool kit.

Use a Specialty Product

As you might imagine (or not) there’s a specialty product for just about everything these days. How to remove a stripped screw is no exception liquid products such as Screw Grab, DriveGrip, and others can be a handy thing to keep on hand if you’re a committee DIY enthusiast. Most are a liquid that you put on the crew to create more grip and friction between the screwhead and the screwdriver and they do work best on screws that aren’t entirely stripped. Essentially, it’s the same concept as using a rubber band or steel wool.

For those with a full workshop and more repair or woodworking experience, there’s one more last chance method that is useful for how to remove a stripped screw.

Weld-on a Nut

Assuming you have experience with welding and the screw is in a place where it’s safe to do so, you can attach nut and use a socket wrench. Choose an appropriately sized nut and weld it to the screw head. After it has cooled and set, all you have to do is use a socket wrench to twist out the screw. A little extreme, but it can be a handy option if all else fails.

This list of tips should help you solve how to remove a stripped screw and get on with your project. After you’ve dealt with this problem a few times, you’ll get a feel for which method will likely work best in a particular instance. You might even develop a go-to solution that works consistently for you. The main thing to remember is not to panic because this is a common problem and can usually be solved rather simply.