Introduction: 5 Ways to Remove a Stripped Screw

Picture of 5 Ways to Remove a Stripped Screw

We've all been there; clumsily fumbling with a screwdriver trying to remove a screw only to notice that it's been stripped, either by your hands in haste or left behind by a previously frustrated repairer. I guess the screw is there for good, right? Nope!

Removing a stripped screw takes a little ingenuity, but is fairly straightforward. We'll look at a 5 surefire methods to remove a stripped screw, starting from least destructive and moving through to more destructive methods. The method you chose will depend on your circumstances and how important it is to remove that stubborn stripped screw.

We're not going to let that screw ruin your day. Screw you!

Step 1: Rubber Band

Picture of Rubber Band

Sometimes all that's needed to get a stubborn screw out is a little extra grip. The rubbery surface of an elastic band can help keep the screwdriver end in the stripped screw head and prevent cam out.

Any rubber band will work, but wide bands work best as they provide the most contact area between the screw head and the driver bit.

Place the elastic band over the driver bit and pull tight enough that there's no slack, then gently insert the driver bit into the stripped screw head and turn the screw loose.

If the screw isn't totally stripped the rubber band will help fill in the areas where the screw has been stripped and provide friction where it's needed, allowing the screw to be removed.

Step 2: Grab With Drill

Picture of Grab With Drill

If the screw is not completely sunk into your material there's a good chance you can grab it with an electric drill and easily back it out.

Open the chuck of the drill and place over the head of the screw, then hand tighten to secure the jaws of the chuck over the screw. Set the drill to reverse and gently back the screw out of the material.

This works on just about any type of threaded screw or bolt stuck provided there is a portion of the head the chuck can grab onto.

Step 3: Screw Extractor

Picture of Screw Extractor

If there is a particularly stubborn screw that just won't come out then it's time to get a little destructive.

Screw extractors are a good choice as they are counter-threaded to how screws are threaded - screws have a right-hand twist and screw extractors have a left-hand twist.

Screw extractors come in a few different sizes, and you'll need to select the right size to fit into the screw head of your stripped screw. Load the extractor into the check of your drill and tighten the chuck to hold the extractor securely.

Set the drill into reverse. Since the extractor is reverse-threaded this means that with the drill in reverse the extractor bit will drill into the stripped screw and bite into the screw head, continue drilling in reverse and the extractor will start turning the screw in reverse and back it out of the material.

Step 4: Cut a Notch

Picture of Cut a Notch

Slightly more destructive than a screw extractor is to cut a notch into the stripped screw head with a rotary tool. Depending on how deep the screw is in the material the notch cut might damage the surrounding surface.

Using a rotary tool with a cutting wheel cut a single slot into the head of the stripped screw. This will make a channel for a flathead screwdriver to seat and allow you to back the screw out.

Step 5: Wood Plug Cutter

Picture of Wood Plug Cutter

If the stripped screw is really deep inside your material and no other options seem to work then it's time to get really destructive. Wood plug cutters can be used to remove material from around the deep set screw and allow you access to an otherwise unreachable screw.

Place the plug cutter in an electric drill and position above the screw. Engage the plug cutter with the wood and remove material from above and around the stripped screw until the plug cutter has reached the screw head depth.

Remove the plug cutter and any debris it created and see if you can get access to the screw head for removal.

Step 6: Leave It?

Picture of Leave It?

Can you live with just leaving it? Sometimes screws are just too buried or difficult to get, and not worth the hassle.

Though not ideal, there may be no other way to deal with a stripped screw and you might be able to work around it. If you're resigned to leaving the screw in situ then maybe you could try and hide the screw with a patch of similar wood.

Step 7: Share Your Tips!

Necessity is the mother of invention, and I'm sure there are plenty more clever ways to remove a screw that people have come up with. Why not share your unique way to remove a screw in the comments below?

Comments with pictures of how to remove a screw get a free Pro Membership!


threeoutside (author)2018-01-02

Thanks for this! I will probably use some of these eventually. I have one question: In step #1, it says "...and prevent cam out." What's cam out?

When you're turning the screwdriver, and the driver's edges ride up and out of the screw's head, that's known as "cam out."

It's a pain the butt, and usually makes the situation worse by further wearing down any remaining, clean edges in the screw head.

If you've ever driven a drywall screw into hardwood with a power drill-driver, with the clutch set too aggressively, you'll be sure to have experienced this many times! The drive bit will protest and rattle loudly, as it is forced out of, and back into, the screw head repeatedly. Nyarrrrgh!! Screw heads aside, I've even wrecked a few drive bits that way -- and those are hardened.

Ah! Turns out, I am sadly quite familiar with the phenomenon, just not that it had a name. I am a real tyro when it comes to tools but I am on my own so have to do some things myself. One thing (she admitted nervously) I'm ignorant about is how & when, exactly to use the clutch on my cordless drill. Any rules of thumb on that?

Sure! The idea is to have the clutch stop applying torque to the screw until it reaches the depth you want, then break loose and stop driving. The setting will vary depending on the type and length of screw, as well as the density of the wood (or other material) into which it's being driven.

So, to find the right clutch setting, set it at a low number and drive a screw. If it lets go too soon, start adjusting it upward until you find the right setting to have it stop driving when it reaches the depth you want. This might be exactly flush, or a bit "proud" (sticking out) or counter-sunk (driven below the surface of the wood/material), depending what you want to achieve.

For example, sometimes I use the driver to do most of the work, but leave the screw "proud" when I want to finish up by hand -- getting it to an precise depth using a manual screwdriver and great care. I drill-driver is a great tool, but not always a subtle one. :-)

An extra note: Often, if you want to reverse the drill-driver to back a screw out, you'll have to increase the clutch setting just a bit, so it can overcome the friction of the driven fastener. Otherwise it may just release every time, and not back out the screw. Better to try once and succeed, because multiple attempts increase the chance of cam-out, damaging the screw.

Who knew there was so much to driving screws, eh?
Have fun drivin' 'em in!

Wow, thank you so much! I shall apply the clutch much more intelligently now! Truly. This is a great help. I do love Instructables. :)

Glad you found it useful. I tend to be wordy!

I love Instructables too, just wish I had more time for doing more projects!

GerhardusS (author)2018-01-04

All well with the head near the surface there I made a lot of similar plans. What to do with those #### three pointed philips (Mercedes badge) screws that get inserted in some Oriental made electronics? They are 75 to 150 mm deep from surface of the cabinet!! I welded a rod onto a drill bit and drilled the screw head till it came off. Cannot find those screw drivers here in South Africa.I then removed the stumps with a diagonal wire cutters. any other easier ideas?

hugo valcke (author)2018-01-03

what sometimes is helping : warm up your screwdriver tip with a torch, then place it on the screw and let the heath go into the screw, it makes tjhe metal extend a bit , and at one pound the screw loosens better.

stackerjack (author)2018-01-03

These are good methods, choose the right one for the job. The method I use, which has only ever failed once in 30 years, is to use a small (Apex) screwdriver bit mounted in a bench drill. The screwdriver bit needs to be a good fit in the screw slot. Place it under the drill, then while pulling down on the feed lever, engage the bit in the slot and rotate the chuck by hand. You might find the back end of the chuck key, inserted into one of the normal chuck key holes is a good tool to apply the required turning force. Do NOT switch the drill ON.

TedRees (author)2018-01-02

I find that a pair of vice grips often does the job.

hay_jumper (author)TedRees2018-01-02


Amnesia Wes (author)2018-01-02

Sometimes, plain old toothpaste will give the phillips screwdriver tip the extra grip it needs to help remove the stripped screw.

doo da do (author)2018-01-02

had. Not f thought of the cut off tool

leslielimpid (author)2018-01-02

You can greatly reduce the number of stripped screws by using Robertson(square) drive screws instead of slot head or Phillips screws.

jackyd7 (author)2018-01-02

I have removed hundreds of flat head Allen head screws that that an inexperienced person had over tightened in steel and an Allen wrench would just twist but not budge. Flat head screws have more surface than a button head or half high Allen head or a standard socket head Allen screw. It doesn't need as much torque to hold without backing out.

The trick I used to get them loose was to use an automatic center punch, or a standard center punch and a small hammer. First I go straight in on the outer face to make a point to get the punch a starting place, then use the punch to shock the fastener loose. Sometimes using an Allen wrench while shocking in the counter clockwise rotation using the automatic center punch. I worked on machines in a transmission factory where many other people repaired the same components. All did not have the same skill sets as I have, so there lied the problem of over tightened screws.

I have used the punch method also in wood

As was said above welding a nut can sometimes be a viable method when working in metal. Another way of getting a rusted fastener is to weld a junk piece of metal(2 x1/2 x 1/2 as an example) to the head and use a hammer to tap the metal forward and backward applying a penetrant oil.

Good luck with your trials and may God bless.

lenabellainwv (author)2018-01-02

I have drilled down through the head with a bit that is a little larger than the screw shaft. When the head comes loose then the piece of wood can be slid up over the remaining screw shaft. Then use vise grips to remove the screw shaft.

chefspenser (author)2018-01-02

Great Instructable. Thanks everyone for the input.

My personal tool box contains ten different hammers!

DavidR165 (author)2018-01-02

Any easy way to do this with a slotted screw apart from making a new slot like your Step 4? I had one where the head had broke in half. I tried drilling a hole for a screw extractor but it just disintegrated leaving a little stump sticking out. Luckily I didn't need to reuse the same screw hole so I used a 'Manchester screwdriver' (aka a hammer) to bury the stump into the wood.

pgs070947 (author)2018-01-02

I suppose don't strip it in the first place is number one, but we all do it. And using decent screws and a pilot hole in tough woods saves some grief.

Getting the right screwdriver helps - Philips isn't Pozidrive etc. and size does count as well - Pozi #0, #1 etc..Size 1 fits less than 3.5-mm (woodscrews), size 2 fits 3.5 to 5-mm, size 3 fits 6-mm etc.

Declag the recess and tap the screwdriver into the recess.

Tighten first, then see if it shifts.

There used to be a useful compound called Hexagrip, RS used to do it.

It's just a mixture of grease and silicon carbide grit, the same as lapping grit. might get you just enough extra bite. Diamond coated screwdriver bits can help

Side cutters can get a grip on the head sometimes, or Moles will either get it out or leave it in two halves

gmh5760 (author)2017-12-30

In the military we used manual impact drivers to remove stubborn fasteners from the birds. Works AMAZINGLY well. Insert the bit you would like into the head, lines the bit up into the fastener, while pressing into the fastener rotate the body of the driver about 1/4 turn in the desired direction of rotation, then SMACK the end of it with a hammer. Work GREAT.

Mega_Spell (author)2017-10-27

my screw are extreamly small and deep in my 3ds...what do you think i should do because i need ALL the screws out and like, 75% of them are stripped...

the modder (author)2017-08-01

cool ideas =)

profort (author)2017-06-07

Great Job

ndpani (author)2017-02-26

Nice Instructable. What I try first is to spray WD 40 all round the stubborn screw.

Allow to soak for few minutes and the try normal methods. I did not read all the comments. May be someone has already suggested this simple attempt.


JohnR245 (author)ndpani2017-02-27

(with metal) WD-40 & Liquid Wrench have been my go-to for years but never been impressed. The I discovered PB-Blaster - WOW! Stuff smells strongly but works incredibly!

If you can get a grip on the head I'd suggest Genuine Vise-Grips & would not suggest a drill chuck.

Second the manual impact drivers - even cheap ones work well but suggest good tips (Craftsman)

DB.Cooper (author)JohnR2452017-03-23

well done! i love that stuff. stinks forever though! almost as bad as old gasoline.

nice way to offer a suggestion of an alternate lubricant

tamias47 (author)JohnR2452017-03-10

PB Blaster is the best for rusted-in situations. I still have a can from -- believe it or not -- the 1970s, and it still works. (Was driving a 1959 GMC moving van back then.)

You need to try Kroil, in either AeroKroil or KanoKroil form. It's fantastic!

Across the net the word is that a 50/50 mix of dextron/mercon ATF and acetone works even better and at fractional cost. I haven't tried it "yet". Fwiw. I have used kroil. It's hard to quantify if better than PB Blaster shrugs.

hmm, never heard of it? Thanks! Have you used noth AeroKroil & PB Blaster & like Kroil better or just know Kroil rocks!

I've tried WD, PB, Kroil. Kroil is thinner, and wicks better over time. When removing a rusted exhaust manifold, Kroil works like this: Spray, wrench, drink a beer, spray, wrench drink a beer, spray, wrench, bolt comes loose. I haven't had that increase over time with PB. I own old Subarus in New England, so all I do is work on rusted bolts =)

WOW - yea, got to give Kroil a try!

I feel your pain. - I lived in New England for years and owned / wrenched a BUNCH of 'field bombs' NEVER would dream of removing an exhaust manifold - would sell/junk the car before that!

Curvecrazy (author)JohnR2452017-03-03

Notice to "all". WD40 stands for Water Displacement 40. WD40 does not lube effectively at all and as a penetrant well? Give me a break. But...that's the one everybody reaches for. PB Blaster or similar much much better for penetrant but still I believe banging the item with a metal object helps the penetrant get in.

JohnR245 (author)Curvecrazy2017-03-03

yes, good trivia & yes, WD-40 has no discernable penetrating properties.. However (big) IF I'm not mistaken WD-40 contains silicone which is awesome ad repelling water and some offers some lubricity but not long-term.

You are also right, shock & heat can do wonders. Guess one good think about living in SC is I seldom have to use either - PB does suffice

Curvecrazy (author)JohnR2452017-03-06

I think it has like 15% mineral oil content. I don't believe there's silicone but I may be wrong and frankly I don't care. WD40 works for instance to dry a soaking wet Drive chain. Silicone is, in the grand scheme, a pretty poor lubricant. I wouldn't use silicone on anything and it contaminates everything in your shop.....

blazin_mtl (author)JohnR2452017-02-27

I basically did the same and used Jigaloo silicone spray, Genuine Vise-Grips and a hammer on a 1/4"x2" hex screw. The head was way too large for a drill chuck and the screw was way too tight. First I tried Husky brand grips but they didn't bite as well as the genuine ones. I used the hammer to help loosen the screw - hammer, spray, repeat. I was going to use a small torch to heat the screw but with the spray I didn't want to start a fire.

bobbyes30 (author)2017-02-26

i used this oil for stripped screw. i'ts MAGIC!!!

Nikiniku (author)bobbyes302017-02-26

I have to assume that it's some sort of lubricant like WD40, and that being so, is not for extracting screws from wood? Am I right?

Curvecrazy (author)Nikiniku2017-03-03

WD40 is NOT a lubricant. It's a water displacent. If the engine runs rough in damp weather spray it on your plug wires!!!! Spray it on a soaking wet chain before actually luring to remove the water? Not a lubricant!

fxsvelo (author)Curvecrazy2017-03-06

Actually, that's a myth. WD40 is a lubricant. See:

I use LiquidWrench and patience. Failing that, lots of heat.

Nikiniku (author)fxsvelo2017-03-06


Actually, I think Curvecrazy is the only one who has ever said that WD40 is not a lubricant, It's amazing how often the "debunkers" get things wrong, and I think that that claim is usually more of an attempt to mislead and deceive rather than of just being mistaken. Whenever I hear someone claim that something is untrue because it has been debunked, I give him almost zero consideration. As far as I'm concerned, "it's been debunked" usually just means that the person who says that doesn't agree with whatever has been "debunked." They say, "it's been debunked" rather than saying, "I don't agree with that."

fxsvelo (author)Nikiniku2017-03-06

I think that if you're making a claim, you should cite your sources. (Hence my link to the WD40 website.) You'll help everyone learn and you might even learn that you were wrong, so lucky you, you're learned something new today yourself.

Curvecrazy (author)fxsvelo2017-03-06

LOL? SERIOUSLY? With all due respect. Here is one link that confirms what I'm saying:

Now.... you guys can use whatever you want to lube whatever you want and that is fine with me, cause it's presumably your stuff and you not lubricating it "properly" is your problem not mine. In my world, I lube things with "real lube" and I try hard to use the right lube for the right purpose. I stick to what I posted earlier based on ~ EXTENSIVE RESEARCH ~ that I myself have done with WD40 myself personally on motorcycle chains to name one application. WD40 used to have a place on my lubricant shelf before I learned better. Yes it removes water from mechanical things and the stuff is great for removing decals(+++), I'll give it the credit it's due there. Lubricant? Hardly.

The thing that bothers me about folks like you is you spread bad information and the problem with that is that people who don't know better will read your comment and believe you to their detriment. There is much information around the net verifying what I'm saying.

The real myth is that WD40 is any degree of credible lubricant. Do your own real experiments or let Popular Mechanics et al do research for you but please educate yourself before simply spreading bad information to unsuspecteds.

You chose to link WD40's website. Nice. Do you really think they'd say it's not a lubricant when the world at large has mistakenly assumed the belief that it is? Of course not. The manufacturer profits greatly -be assured- from "joe know nothing every guy home owner" etc using WD40 to lubricate whatever he can point a can of it at...while actually doing almost no lubricating at all!

Let me clear you up on something basic... you can use water as a lubricant and it will lubricate for a very short time. Truth. Now...would you now tell people to use that to lubricate stuff! Well, that's a rhetorical question. You probably would.

DB.Cooper (author)Curvecrazy2017-03-23

not sure where the document is but my dad and grandpa would keep old oil cans with spouts to "routinely" lubricate joints and motors. Search google for information on hit and miss engines - they have a spot for daily oil filling meant to lubricate.

the instructions on my bobcat say to grease all the joints for lubrication purposes prior to use.

additionally careful pilots of smaller airplanes, many boats, and other things of a similar nature are required by the manual to routinely lubricate different parts. (often before each use)

in my shop I have a metal brake that comes with instructions to lubricate weekly with wd40. there is no water to displace.

despite being a water displacement - my question to all is this:

if it lubricates, is it not a lubricant?

why would the effectiveness relate to the use? for the average diyer, or even a beginner wd40 often solves the problem that needs solved.

as someone acquires knowledge they learn about other products, in that sense would the comments section not be a good place to offer more instructive and help comments such as: have you tried using.."marvel's mystery oil" (ex..)

fxsvelo (author)Curvecrazy2017-03-06

Thanks for the link. It confirms that WD40 is a lubricant. Probably not the best lubricant for many applications, but a lubricant nonetheless.

To be honest, I have many, many lubricants in my shop and while I often use WD40, if what I'm needing is lubrication, I'll probably reach for something else. Right tool for the job and all that.

That said, WD40 is useful for lots of applications and some of those might actually include lubrication. I saved a pair of non-functional Shimano SIS (bicycle) gear shifters by repeated application of WD40 to flush out the solidified grease and got them working again, and has kept them working for 8 years (and still going) precluding an expensive replacement. The combination of solvent and light oil was perfect for that job.

So, yes, right tool for the job. It just takes some wisdom and experience to know what the tool is. I'm certainly not tossing my cans of WD40.

Curvecrazy (author)fxsvelo2017-03-06

I cited Popular Mechanics testing link and there's various other testing and confirming of their findings having been done, so why not look for the information yourself before making claims that I'm wrong? It was formulated and intended to be a water displacent not a lubricant and they also make claims to its ability as a rust prohibitive but let me assure you that you can do better and not needing to try hard......

Do you have a financial interest in WD40 to promote their product?

Curvecrazy (author)Nikiniku2017-03-06

Are you saying I was trying to mislead people with my comments? I speak from my own sad experience in everyday and harsh environments fwiw. Silicone spray is also pretty useless and as a bonus when silicone is applied by aerosol it will go airborne and contaminate your space! Btw, I am hardly "the only one who ever said WD40 is not a lubricant". Google is your friend check it out for yourself... the information is out there. I don't appreciate you implying I'm trying to mislead others with my comments and in the future you might actually provide evidence that I'm wrong or politely ask for evidence of what I'm saying or? Well.... google. Duh.

Nikiniku (author)Curvecrazy2017-03-06

I had a reply, but then I saw the cautionary note about being nice, so I'll content myself with this: lubricate-- apply a substance such as oil or grease to (an engine or component) to minimize friction and allow smooth movement. Yes, that's what WD40 does for me. Maybe the word "lubricate" has a different meaning for you. That's the only way that your words could have any meaning. However, WD40 does for me what I want it to do, so I'm happy with it. I'm sorry that it doesn't do for you what you think "lubricate" means.

Curvecrazy (author)Nikiniku2017-03-13

More comedy here. OK.

Yes we seem to disagree on what lubrication means or what lubrication is. You're arguing symantics. I suppose your thought process is that you sprayed WD40 on something and the squeaks went away! OK, great...So WD40 IS A LUBRICANT!!! Yes!!! Now, if you pay close attention, very shortly, the squeaks will come right back. So, seeing as you're a true believer, you spray it with WD40 again. Same. Same. Same. Rinse. Repeat forever. And that's not even addressing the continued damage to the mechanism due to the lack of a real metal to metal barrier to minimize wear. Now... I think at the very least we're wanting to minimize wear are we not? Well, I am wanting no wear and hence we are headed in the direction of my definition of lubrication.

My definition of lubrication is a substance that applies effectively for a given application, a substance that penetrates where it's needed into substrate on substrate contact areas that forms a barrier against wear while being as effective and long lasting as possible, while definitely not washing out at the first sign of moisture.

To be clear, there's no perfect lubricant. Although... humor intended here.... I can see you continuously spraying WD40 on a mechanism for indeterminate time attempting to achieve that state with that near useless "lubricant". There'd be a pile of empty spray cans there and if the mechanism involved locomotion the item of interest would have long since failed but there you are still, dutifully spraying and believing!!!! And most of the product is running right out of the mechanism right before your eyes while the rest will do likewise shortly. Once your god supply of WD40 runs out the remainder residual will also "leave the mechanism" leaving behind the thinnest least effective lubrication you could ask for somewhat better than? Water.

Nobody but a simpleton would be happy with lubricant that doesn't last, point 1, and lubricant that doesn't effectively prevent further wear, point 2. WD40 was designed to displace water. It is a petroleum based product and as such, it can be argued that it's a lubricant. Like? There's mineral oils in it or very lite equivalent. This lite petroleum base will not create an effective boundary layer between wear parts.... IT IS NOT DESIGNED TO!

To put it nicely, it's a lubricant in name only!

Simply put....Why would you lubricate anything with that when much better lubricants are available that not only offer many times superior protection to your stuff but also will continue to so for extended time?

For some of you WD40 seems to shine so brightly that a can of it could "double" as a lantern and light the dark......

Anyways. Hopefully some people's misconceptions about WD40 are cleared up by the time I wasted here.

Curvecrazy (author)Curvecrazy2017-03-03


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