How to Remove a Stripped Screw: Tips and Prevention

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When you are working on a project, there is nothing worse than a stripped screw. Most DIYers are familiar with the feeling of dread that comes when you have a screw get so stripped it is no longer usable. Even for if you are super careful, it is bound to happen eventually. When you do get a stripped screw, don’t panic! It doesn’t have to be the end of the project. There are quite a few tried and true hacks out there to help get you out of that mess. This article will teach you those life saving hacks for how to remove a stripped screw. More importantly, this article will give you a few quick tips of how to prevent a stripped screw. Soon you will find yourself breezing past a stripped screw like it is no big deal. Let’s get started!

Tips for Prevention

I decided to start off with a few quick tips of stripped screw prevention. Because as they say, “The best defense is a good offense!” The best way tip for prevention is to make sure you are using the proper tools. Make sure you are using the correct screw for the project you are trying to complete. Not all screws are created equal. Long drywall screws, for example, are too brittle to drill through wood without breaking. Another tip is to invest in a proper drill bit set. If you have a good drill bit set, you can select the right size bit to drill your pilot holes. This will ease the strain on the screw and reduce the chances of your screw getting stripped. Lastly, use the correct size screwdriver. The most common reason that screws get stripped is from users using a screwdriver that is too small.

Hacks to Remove a Stripped Screw

Even if you are very careful and use all the correct sized bits and tools, you may still get a stripped screw. When that happens there are a few hacks to help you remove that screw so that you can move on with the rest of your project. Here are a few of our tried and true life hacks for removing a stripped screw.

Rubber Band

Using a rubber band is by far the most popular trick for removing a stripped screw. The method is a simple one. All you need to do is place a rubber band on the top of the stripped screw. Then you can very firmly insert your screwdriver into the screw and slowly turn it counterclockwise. Make sure you work slowly, keeping firm pressure on the screw. The rubber band will help prevent your screwdriver from slipping and causing further damage to the screw. If you don’t have a rubber band on hand there are other substitutes you can use. These substitutes include steel wool, or the abrasive side of a dish sponge. This method can help more often than not. Because it is such a simple method we recommend trying the rubber band trick first, before moving on to other methods.  


Another simple method to remove a stripped screw is by using a pair of locking pliers. While this method of removal is simple, it only works under certain circumstances. The screw which you are trying to remove needs to have space between the head of the screw and the surface to which it is fastened. The locking pliers don’t need much space, just enough for them to get a firm grip on the head of the screw. As mentioned above, make sure you work slowly for best results. You do not want to strain the stripped screw too hard when using pliers, otherwise you run the risk of accidentally snapping the head off. Trust me, you do NOT want that to happen.


Most stripped screws are made of soft metal. That is a major factor of why it was able to be stripped in the first place. If your stripped screw is a soft metal, you can use a hammer to help you remove the screw. Place the screwdriver into the head of the stripped screw, and gently tap the hammer on the screwdriver. Repeat until the screwdriver has lodged itself firmly into the screw. This may give you the extra grip needed to slowly, and carefully remove the screw.

Flat Head Screwdriver

More often than not, a stripped screw calls for a Phillips screwdriver. However, after the screw has been stripped you may find it easier to use a flat head screwdriver to remove the screw. Find a flat head screwdriver that is narrow enough to fit entirely into stripped screw. Then slowly work the screw back out, without causing further damage to the screw. It will take a bit more muscle to spin the screw with a flat head. To help ease the work a little, it may be a good idea to combine this method with the rubber band method from above.  

Oscillating Tool

Another method that you could try would be to use an oscillating tool. If you own an oscillating tool, you can place the metal cutting disc on your tool to cut a new and deeper slot into the stripped screw. Than use the flat head method to remove your stripped screw. As always, work slowly with this method to avoid damaging the screw further, or slipping and scratching the surface of your project.


You may want to try using a drill to remove a stripped screw. This works by drilling a very small and shallow hole into the top of the stripped screw. This allows the screwdriver to reach deeper into the screw, giving it better grip to spin the stripped screw. Double check that the drill bit you are using is designed to drill on metal and not on wood. With this method, a little goes a long way. Do not drill deeper than ⅛ an inch. Otherwise, you run the risk of popping the head of the screw off.


The last method is the nut method. While it is effective, it may not be a plausible option for most users. This is because this method requires welding equipment (which most users don’t have readily available). If you happen to have welding experience and equipment, then you can spot-weld a nut to the top of the stripped screw. After waiting the appropriate amount of time, simply use a socket wrench to remove the nut and screw.

In Conclusion

Although a stripped screw may be a pain in your neck, it doesn’t need to be the end of the world. Careful prevention can stop this annoyance from happening, and quick thinking can help remove the screw if it does. Once you remove the screw, you can complete your project as planned!

Related Article: Finding the Best Cordless Screwdriver: Top 10 Reviewed and our Pick

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