How to Remove a Stripped Screw

Instructions for removing stripped screws using household gripping aids, pliers or a drill bit and screw extractor.

It happens all too often -- you're having trouble driving a screw in or getting it out when your screwdriver slips and strips the head. Now, instead of a tight-fitting slot, all you have is a slippery slope that your screwdriver can't grip. Whether you were driving the screw or removing it, the best course of action now is to extract it and replace it with another one. You'll need a drill.

Lubricate the Screw, Bear Down on the Driver

If you're trying to remove a screw that's locked in by rust and corrosion, you may be able to get it to turn if you dissolve the rust. Spray the screw head generously with lubricant, and give the lubricant at least 10 minutes to work. Put the screwdriver aside, and insert an appropriate screw bit into a drill -- the drill provides much more torque than you can develop by yourself. Push down on the drill with as much force as you can muster while you operate it in reverse. Once you get the screw to move a smidgeon, the rest should be easy.

Get a Grip

All is not lost if the screw bit won't grip -- you can use some household items to provide traction:

  • Cover the screw head with a rubber band and rubber glove, and push the drill bit into the rubber while operating the drill.
  • Tap the drill bit into the screw head with a hammer before inserting the bit into the drill.
  • Grip the screw head with locking pliers and turn the screw with the pliers.
  • Glue a nut to the screw head with epoxy glue. When the glue sets, turn the nut with a wrench.

Use a Screw Extractor

Stuck, stripped screws are a common problem, which is why you can buy a screw extractor at any hardware store. Before you use one that's appropriately sized for the screw, you need to drill a pilot hole in the head. The complete extraction procedure is uncomplicated:

  1. Drill a 1/8- to 1/4-inch hole in the head -- depending on the size of the screw -- using a metal-boring bit. This hole needs to be about 1/4 inch deep. Remove the bit from your drill.

  2. Insert the tip of the extractor in the hole you drilled, and tap it in with a hammer.

  3. Fit the drill over the extractor and secure it with the drill chuck. Push down on the drill while operating it in reverse at low speed. The extractor's spiral threads should grip the metal and force the screw to move.