The Best Way To Get A Stripped Screw Out

Whether you're a DIY enthusiast, a total handyman who is always fixing things around the house, or just someone trying to build a piece of furniture to spruce up your space, chances are you'll encounter a stripped screw at some point. For those who may not be familiar, a stripped screw is a screw where the head has been worn down or seriously damaged. It's typically not an issue if a screw's head gets a little worn, but when it has been stripped, it's been damaged to the point where a screwdriver won't have anything left to grip onto.

So, what's the solution? Luckily, there are quite a few ways to deal with a stripped screw, some using particular tools and others using household items you may have lying around. Commit a few of them to memory so that the next time you're in the middle of building a bookshelf and get a little too enthusiastic with your drill, you have a few stripped screw remedies to try.

Grab your pliers

If your screw is completely embedded in the wood, then this tip isn't for you. However, if your screw head is slightly elevated, pliers might do the trick, according to The Art of Manliness. Forget trying to grapple with the stripped screw. Instead, grasp the sides of the head with your pliers and wiggle it out. Vise grip or locking pliers are the best (via Home Depot). Note that this particular method requires a certain degree of muscle to be effective.

Switch to a flathead screwdriver

If you're dealing with a stripped screw, there's a decent chance it could be a Phillips screw. According to HowStuffWorks, they're self-centering and provide a tighter fit than other screws, making them a go-to option. If your Phillips head screwdriver isn't doing the job, though, consider switching to a flathead screwdriver instead (via Bob Vila). This is another hack that requires considerable strength, and you'll need to have a flathead screwdriver that fits within the confines of the Phillips head hole, but it can work.

Use a larger driver bit

If you're trying to remove your screw with a drill rather than a manual screwdriver, The Spruce recommends switching to a larger driver bit. It may not be a perfect fit, but using a slightly larger bit can accommodate the deeper grooves of the screw head and help apply more pressure to get the screw out. However, this hack may be best for slightly stripped screws, and not your worst-case scenarios (via Today I Found Out).

Layer on a rubber band

If you don't have a particularly robust toolbox, this tip might be the best fit for you. All you need is a rubber band. The Art of Manliness recommends placing the rubber band atop the stripped screw and then very, very slowly trying to unscrew it through the band, just as you normally would. The rubber works to give your screwdriver that extra little bit of grip that can encourage it to finally move the way you need it to.

Secure your screwdriver with a hammer

A hammer certainly isn't the first tool you'd reach for when it comes to removing screws, especially with a stripped screw that's stuck. However, according to Bob Vila, it can come in handy, especially when securing your screwdriver into the screw. All you need to do for this hack is to use the force of the hammer to tap the screwdriver further into the screw gently. Particularly for screws crafted from soft metal, sinking the screwdriver a bit into the stripped screw head may offer enough grip to extract the screw.

Pour on some abrasive powder

Many tricks for removing a stripped screw feature something to help get a better grip on the screw in question. If the previous tips didn't work, try this one by Do It Best. Pour some abrasive powder onto the screw and cross your fingers that it manages to help your screwdriver or drill grip the screw. Whether you're successful or not, though, you'll likely be cleaning up the powder afterward, so keep that in mind with this method.

Revamp the screw head with a Dremel

You recognize that your screw head is irreparably stripped, and your Phillips head screwdriver just isn't doing anything at all, but don't worry. Here are other options. Take an oscillating tool such as a Dremel and make a small cut in the top of the stripped screw, as Homedit suggests. Afterward, you should be able to remove it with the use of a flathead screwdriver or drill bit, as you'll have essentially created a new screw head with your cut.

Drill into the screw

If your screw head is totally stripped and you can't find a way to remove it, The Spruce recommends drilling right into the screw using a bit that can drill into metal. Now, you don't want to go crazy — you want to drill about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch into the screw to create a small hole that should allow your screwdriver to get some grip for the screw removal.

Affix a nut to the screw

If the screw head is hopelessly stripped and you're not sure what to do, Bob Vila suggests affixing a nut to the head of the screw so that you have an entirely new component to grip and hopefully remove the screw successfully. While those with a bit of know-how can spot weld a nut to the screw head, if you don't have that particular skill set, wikiHow suggests using epoxy to attach a nut around the screw for a simpler solution.

Add duct tape

What doesn't duct tape fix? Just like rubber bands, adding duct tape between the screw head and your screwdriver should help your screwdriver get that extra bit of grip that could make all the difference. As wikiHow recommends, place the adhesive side against the screw head, and use the other side to provide some extra friction as you very, very slowly try to remove the stripped screw with your drill or driver.

Try a bigger screwdriver

Before you go to extraordinary lengths trying to remove that pesky screw, consider this simple hack from RemoveandReplace. Just reach for a larger screwdriver. It seems like it wouldn't make a difference, but that slightly larger amount of surface area can help you get that extra grip you need to make the screw budge successfully. Since the screw is stripped, the slot in the head is bigger, which calls for a bigger screwdriver.

Grab a left hand drill bit

If the screw head isn't budging, reach for a left hand drill bit, as Rhythm of the Home suggests. Rather than driving the screw further into the material, these drill bits are actually meant to work in reverse, and just might be able to extract that screw when other methods aren't able to. You want the bit to lock tightly with the screw, so make sure to choose one smaller than the stripped hole.

Apply anti cam-out fluid

Yet another suggestion that involves introducing a bit of added friction to help increase your grip, Shop4Fasteners recommends applying some anti cam-out fluid to the head of the screw. For those who aren't familiar, the product is made with liquid metal grit, which will provide some much-needed friction between the screw and the driver. Hopefully, it will help your screwdriver grab onto the stripped screw head without slipping. You can also add the fluid onto the screw before drilling to avoid stripping it in the first place.

Use some steel wool

When your screw head becomes stripped and no longer offers a grip for your screwdriver, one of the best solutions is introducing a bit of friction to increase the grip. According to The Spruce, you can do that with rubber bands, duct tape, and even with steel wool. As with any trick introducing friction, you want to take your time and move quite slowly, hoping that the coarse steel wool allows your screwdriver to grab the screw.

Buy a screw extractor kit

Saving the most desperate solution for last, if you absolutely can't manage to get that stripped screw out with any of the standard hacks and tricks, you may have to invest in a screw extractor kit. According to Do It Best, these tools create an impression in the screw and then extract it. While it might be annoying to go out and buy a new device just to take out a stripped screw, at least you'll have it in your toolbox for when you encounter another stripped screw in the future!