How To Remove A Stripped Screw

How to Remove a Stripped Screw Head From Metal or Wood

Staring a stripped screw to the point where it is completely bored-out is utterly infuriating. Hence the reason why learning how to remove a stripped screw is paramount… that is, if you want to keep your sanity in tact. 

Imagine this scenario: As you’re working on a project, just as you prepare to remove a screw, you discover that its head is so damaged that no screw bit can get a proper grip.

While your screwdriver or drill spins in vain, the stubborn screw seems lodged in its place forever.

We’ve all been there. At some point, every handyman and DIY-er will need to learn how to get a stripped screw out.

Luckily, we know some safe, quick, and effective methods for stripped screw removal. So read on to learn how to remove a stripped screw with whatever type of screwdriver or drill you’re using.

Why Does This Happen? What Causes a Stripped Screw Head?

A stripped screw can happen for several different reasons:

  • Using an unsuitable driver bit that isn’t correctly sized for your screw
  • Using low-quality products such as driver bits and or screws
  • Working too fast by having your drill or driver speed set too high
  • Inserting the screw bit into the screw head at an inappropriate angle
What Causes A Stripped Screw Head
Image: Ben Rice 

What to Do: Your Options for Different Methods of Extracting Stripped Screws

Here are a few answers to “how to remove a stripped screw.” Some are quite clever, like using steel wool or rubber bands.

Yes, rubber bands! The secret is getting a grip and creating friction. The farther the threads of the screw have penetrated the wood, the bigger your challenge since you should be able to extract a protruding screw with a pair of pliers.

How to remove a stripped screw? Peruse these ways of removing a stripped screw and then put one of them to work.

Best Screw Extractor Kit
Topec 49Pcs Screw Extractor/Drill Bit Set Topec 49pcs Screw Extractor/Drill Bit Set
  • Remove any stripped or damaged screw, stud, bolt, socket, or any other fitting that has been compromised without the guesswork.

  • Each bit within the kit has been manufactured using high carbon steel and HSS materials for increased durability maximizing longevity.

  • Includes a whole host of bits including spiral flute extractors which are perfect for common fastening and removal tasks.

  • The kit also comes with multi-spline extractors for higher torque and lower profile tools, plus a left cobalt drill bit for fasteners.

1 – Screw Extractor Bit

If you have a stripped screw remover drill bit, removing that pesky stripped screw should be straightforward. Screw extractors come in a few different varieties and sizes.

Insert the screw extractor into the screw head and operate your drill in reverse. The stripped screw should come out easily.

Don’t have a screw extractor on hand? Keep reading for more handy tricks to help you dislodge a stripped screw. Most of them use tools or materials you probably have around the house.

Screw Extractor Bit
Image: Excalibur DIY

2 – Rubber Band

Carefully place a rubber band over the stripped screw and insert the screwdriver point over the rubber band. Keeping a firm hold, work your screwdriver in reverse.

The rubber band should keep your screw bit from slipping and provide enough friction to get the stripped screw out.

If you don’t have a rubber band, you can try to substitute it with a little steel wool or a bit of abrasive material from a dish scrubbie. You could even try sprinkling the screw head with a bit of abrasive cleaner or fine sand.

The rubber band method is even more effective if you use a flathead screwdriver small enough to fit into a Phillips-head screw.

Image: Raising Roosters

3 – Larger Screwdriver Bit

We’re not talking about trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, but sometimes, all you need to do the job is switch to a larger screwdriver bit. 

Hopefully, the larger bit will fit more snugly into the head and provide an effective grip. The trick here is to apply plenty of pressure (almost leaning to the screw while rotating) and use a short torquing motion until you get traction.  

Image: Knives Gear

4 -Pliers

If the screw isn’t stuck too deep in the surface, you could try to remove it with a pair of vise-grip pliers. See if you can grip the screw with locking pliers (vise grips). Once you have a firm hold, turn the pliers to loosen the screw and pull it out.

Using pliers for stripped screw removal could be labor-intensive, but this technique is highly effective for protruding screws if you do it right.

Image: Macro Town

5 -Drill

Sometimes, all you need is to drill a deeper hole in the stripped screw to give the screwdriver bit a better grip. Do it carefully and make sure that the drill bit is suitable for metal, not just wood.

This method can get challenging, though. If you drill too forcefully or make the hole too deep, the screw could break, making it even trickier to remove. We recommend watching a video tutorial before you begin drilling to make sure you use the correct technique.

6 -Hammer

If you are using a flat head screwdriver to remove a stripped screw, a hammer could help you achieve a firmer fit.

Most problematic over stripped screws are made of soft metal, so you can easily lodge the flat screwdriver a little deeper if you place it over the screw head and tap carefully with a hammer. Continue tapping as you twist the hand screwdriver until the screw budges.

7 -Oscillating Tool

If you own an oscillating tool like a Dremel, you can try using the metal-cutting disc to deepen the slot in the screw head.

The slot should be just deep enough to give a flathead screwdriver a firm grip. Firmly press the screwdriver down into the slot and twist slowly.

This method requires some precision: If you make an error and enlarge the slot too much, the screw may become even more difficult to remove.

8 -Welding a Nut

Here’s one last-chance way of extracting that you can try if all else fails. If you have some experience with welding and own the necessary equipment, you could try spot-welding a nut to the screw head.

After you wait and make sure the welded nut is secure, use a socket wrench to remove the screw and nut together.

How To Prevent Stripping Screws

How to Prevent Stripping Screws

Although it is possible to remove a stripped screw, it is best to avoid this annoying situation altogether.

If you’re installing wood shelves or even a split system air conditioner, you want to take every precaution to prevent having to rectify such a mishap. 

So with that said, here is what you should do if you don’t fancy wrestling with stubborn screws again:

  • Use the appropriate quality products and power tools such as impact driver or drill driver
  • Work at a steady pace and avoid excessive speed settings on the power tool device you’re using
  • Always keep a 90-degree angle between the screwdriver and screw head surface as you work
  • Use a correctly sized screwdriver or drill bit when driving a screw into the material
  • Avoid using old, worn screwdriver attachment bits or inferior made screws for projects
  • Do not over-tighten screws or apply too much pressure when driving the screw
  • Always avoid re-using a screw that has begun to strip even if only slightly 

When you work, the screwdriver or drill bit should fit snugly into the screw head in order to maintain good traction. If you leave any wobble room, you’re setting yourself up for a stripped screw.

Finally, the screw-type itself could be the culprit. In fact, very soft-metal screws with a Phillips head are likely to strip. A sturdy flat-tip screw will resist stripping better.

In Conclusion

A stripped screw is an annoying snag in home improvement and DIY projects, but more than one method exists that you can use to solve this problem.

Hopefully, after studying the tips above and applying one or more of them, you won’t still be scratching your head and wondering how to remove a screw that is stripped.

To avoid stripping a screw, use the right tools and insert the screwdriver at a proper angle as you work. Always keep a firm grip on your screwdriver and avoid working too fast.