How to remove a stripped screw

Have you ever encountered a stripped screw while working on a project? It can be frustrating and time-consuming to deal with a stubborn screw that refuses to budge. However, with the right tools and techniques, removing a stripped screw can become a manageable task. In this article, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of removing a stripped screw, providing you with valuable tips and precautions along the way.

How to remove a stripped screw
Ksenia Chernaya

What is a Stripped Screw?

Before we delve into the removal process, let’s understand what a stripped screw is. A stripped screw refers to a screw whose head has been damaged, making it difficult to unscrew using a conventional screwdriver. This usually happens when the grooves on the screw’s head become worn out or filled with debris, preventing a secure grip.

Reasons for Stripped Screws

There are several reasons why screws can become stripped. Understanding these reasons will help you prevent similar incidents in the future.

Incorrect Screwdriver Size

Using the wrong-sized screwdriver is one of the most common causes of stripped screws. When the driver is too small or too large for the screw head, it leads to slippage and damages the grooves, making it challenging to remove the screw.

Over-tightening the Screw

Another reason for stripped screws is over-tightening. Excessive force applied during installation can cause the head to strip, making subsequent removal difficult.

Low-Quality Screws

Using low-quality or worn-out screws increases the likelihood of stripping. These screws are often made from softer materials, and their grooves are more prone to damage.

Tools and Materials Needed

Before you begin the removal process, gather the following tools and materials:

  • Screw Extractor: A screw extractor is a specialized tool designed to grip and remove stripped screws. It features a reverse-threaded tip that digs into the screw as you rotate it counterclockwise.
  • Drill: If a screw extractor is not available, a drill can be used as an alternative method to remove stripped screws.
  • Rubber Band: A rubber band can provide extra grip when attempting to unscrew a stripped screw.
  • Hammer and Chisel: In some cases, if the screw head is protruding, a hammer and chisel can be used to create a new groove for a better grip.

Step-by-Step Guide to Remove a Stripped Screw

Most stripped screws can be removed. In some cases, improving the friction is enough for the screwdriver or drill bit to grab the screw and turn it out. Stubborn stripped screws can be removed by cutting a groove in the screw and turning the screw with a flat-head screwdriver. Stripped screws that defy other methods can be removed with a screw extractor kit or with left-hand drill bits.

Now, let’s walk through the step-by-step process of removing a stripped screw:

Assess the Damage: Begin by inspecting the screw and determining the extent of the damage. Evaluate whether the screw head is completely stripped or if there are any visible grooves left.

Choose the Right Method: Depending on the severity of the stripping, select the appropriate removal method. If the screw head is intact with some grooves remaining, a screw extractor or rubber band method may work. For severely stripped screws, using a drill or hammer and chisel might be necessary.

Using a Screw Extractor: If you have a screw extractor, insert it into the drill and choose a drill bit slightly smaller than the screw’s diameter. Slowly drill into the center of the stripped screw until it catches. Apply firm but steady pressure as you rotate the extractor counterclockwise to remove the screw.

Using a Drill: If a screw extractor is not available, you can use a drill with a suitable bit. Select a drill bit size that matches the screw head and place it in the center of the screw. Apply gentle pressure and drill slowly into the screw until it loosens. Be cautious not to drill too deep and damage the surrounding material.

Using a Rubber Band: For slightly stripped screws, stretch a rubber band over the screw head. Press the screwdriver into the rubber band and apply steady downward pressure while turning counterclockwise. The rubber band’s friction should provide enough grip to loosen the screw.

Using a Hammer and Chisel: If the screw head is partially stripped but still protruding, position the chisel’s edge against one side of the screw head. Tap the chisel lightly with a hammer to create a new groove. Once the groove is established, use a screwdriver to remove the screw.

Tips and Precautions

  • Before attempting to remove a stripped screw, ensure you have the correct tools and materials.
  • Apply steady pressure while turning counterclockwise to avoid further damage to the screw or surrounding material.
  • If a stripped screw is located in a delicate or valuable item, consider seeking professional assistance to avoid accidental damage.
  • Prevent stripped screws in the future by using the appropriate-sized screwdriver and avoiding excessive force during installation.


Removing a stripped screw doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By following the step-by-step guide and utilizing the right tools, you can successfully remove even the most stubborn stripped screws. Remember to exercise caution, patience, and take preventive measures to avoid encountering stripped screws in the future.


  1. How can I prevent screws from becoming stripped?
    • To prevent screws from becoming stripped, always use the correct-sized screwdriver and avoid over-tightening.
  2. Are there any alternative methods to remove stripped screws?
    • Yes, alternative methods include using pliers, applying heat, or using chemical adhesives to loosen the screw.
  3. Can I reuse a stripped screw?
    • It is generally not recommended to reuse a stripped screw, as its holding power may be compromised. It’s better to replace it with a new screw.
  4. What should I do if the stripped screw is stuck in wood?
    • If a stripped screw is stuck in wood, you can try using a pair of pliers to grip the screw and rotate it counterclockwise.
  5. Should I use lubricants when removing a stripped screw?
    • Lubricants can help loosen a stuck screw but should be used sparingly. Avoid using lubricants that may damage the surrounding material.

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