How to Remove Stripped Screws

Stripping screws – easy to do either by using the wrong tool or a poor quality one, but can be a nightmare for any repair enthusiast.

And when frustration kicks in, it’s easy to turn the head of the screw from a “+” shape to an “O”, but here are 12 sure-shot ways of removing stripped screws, without breaking a sweat!

1. Remove Stripped Screws with a Rubber Band

Perhaps the easiest way to remove stripped screws is with a good ol’ rubber band!

A rubber band can help provide a great grip to either remove or loosen the stripped screw at the least.

It’s best to use a wide rubber band to do the trick, so grab one, and place it in between the screwdriver, and the stripped drive head.

Start by applying pressure on the screwdriver, and consequently on the rubber band, so that it hopefully fills in the gaps in the drive head.

Next, apply slow force while you turn the screwdriver to remove the stripped screw.

2. Remove Stripped Screws with a Dremel

If you have a Dremel or a similar tool, you can use it to cut a slot/notch in the stripped screw’s head. Be sure to not cut too deep, but deep enough to get a flat head screwdriver into the slot.

You should also try and cut the slot as close as possible to the middle, but a little off will work too!

Once you have the slot finished, you should be able to use a screwdriver to unscrew it in the normal manner.

3. Can I Drill out a Stripped Screw?

One of the common questions DIYers ask is if it’s possible to drill out a stripped screw — the short answer is “Yes”, and here’s how to go about it!

You can use any drill for this process, so once you have one handy, grab a drill bit that’s large enough in diameter to drill out the screw head.

For example, if it’s a Phillips screw, then get a drill bit that’s just large enough in diameter to cover the star shape in the center.

Next, align the drill and a bit with the screw drive, and slowly begin drilling out the center of the screw head. Take note that you don’t have to drill too deep, but just enough to detach the screw head from the shaft.

After you’ve drilled the head out, the stump of the screw should be clearly visible, so grab a pair of vise grip pliers, attach it firmly to the stump, and slowly unscrew the stump until it’s all out.

4. How to Use a Screw Extractor on a Stripped Screw?

A screw extractor is perhaps one of the easiest ways to remove pesky rounded out and stripped fasteners with minimal amount of frustration. The secret to a screw extractor’s effectiveness lies in its design, where most commonly it uses a tapered drill bit with reverse threading.

This allows it to lock itself into the head of the damaged screw, and remove them easily. To get started, you will need:

  • Screw extractor
  • Center punch
  • Hammer
  • Drill and not an impact driver owing to too much torque and speed
  • Wrench
  • Penetrating oil or thread

If you have a basic screw extractor, you may have to drill or expand the hole in the screw head for it to work. You can do this by grabbing a drill bit that’s smaller in diameter than the weathered screw you’re trying to remove.

To make this task a bit easier, you can also add a bit of thread cutting oil to the head of the screw.

With your drill positioned straight, drill down slowly into the screw between 1/8″ to 1/4″ (depending on the screw extractor you’re using). You can skip the drilling step if you’re using a screw extractor with a burnishing end that you can use to drill out the screw head directly.

To use the screw extractor, switch your drill in reverse mode, place the screw extractor securely into the screw head, and very slowly squeeze the trigger until the screw is out.

This process may be a bit challenging with longer screws or harder wood, but you can use an extractor set such as Pro Grabit to remove the worn out screw easily.  

5. Removing a Stripped Screw with JB Weld or an Equally Strong Welding Adhesive

JB Weld is billed as one of the strongest adhesives available in the market, and you can use it to unscrew a stripped screw. This stripped screw removal solution is pretty straightforward, where you grab a nut that’s about the same size as the stripped screw head, or has a middle hole diameter that’s smaller than the diameter of the damaged screw head.

Place the nut on top of the screw, and place JB Weld in the middle hole of the nut, but be careful not to let it run everywhere. JB Weld is a fairly strong adhesive, and takes just a few minutes to set, and once it hardens up, you can use a 6 or 12 point socket wrench to unscrew the screw.

6. Can you Unscrew a Stripped Screw?

Another no-frills way of removing a stripped Phillips (cross head) screw is with a flat-head screwdriver.

Get an appropriately sized flat-head screwdriver, place it into the drive head, and while applying some pressure try to unscrew the screw.

If you notice a lack of grip when the screwdriver is placed in the head, then combine the rubber band method as described in solution 1 for better results.

You can also use a Phillips screwdriver that’s a bit bigger than the hole to get out minorly stripped screws.

Simply, place the Phillips screwdriver on the head of the screw, apply a fair bit of pressure, tilt the screwdriver slightly at an angle, turn, and voilà — the stripped screw should come out without any hiccups.

7. How to Remove a Stripped Screw with Needle-Nose Clamping Pliers (Locking Pliers)?

If the head of the stripped screw is protruding a bit, and you can access it, then you can try using a pair of screw extracting pliers to remove it. This technique also works well for removing a stripped screw from laptops.

Grab the pliers, and get a good grip on the screw head, then tun the pliers until you feel the screw loosen up a bit.

Once loosened a bit, you can use a regular screwdriver to back it out the rest of the way.

8. Use a Hammer to Remove Stripped Screws from Non-Fragile Materials

If the material you’re working on is fragile, then using a hammer will not work. But, if the screw is stuck in tougher materials, you can try hammering the screwdriver into the head of the stripped screw just enough to provide it with a good position to unscrew it with a regular screwdriver.

9. How to use EZ Grip for Screws that aren’t too Far Stripped

Specialty products such as EZ Grip can be applied to the stripped screw to boost the friction between it and the screwdriver, similar to what you’d do with the rubber band method. This stuff is excellent if used as directed on the can.

10. How to Remove a Stripped Screw with Duct Tape?

If the screw is lightly stripped, the duct tape trick should work. Start by covering the stripped screw head with duct tape, and insert an appropriate screwdriver into the groove at the top of the tape.

Apply a bit of pressure, and turn the screwdriver counterclockwise to remove the stripped screw.

11. How do You Remove a Rusted Screw?

Metal self-tapping screws and self drilling screws are subject to rust and corrosion over time, hence becoming trickier to remove. To remove a rusted screw, you can use a chemical product such as WD-40 to get the job done or items you probably already have in your house, such as lemon juice, regular cola, or hydrogen peroxide.

Get started by pouring the dissolving agent over the head of the screw, and in its immediate vicinity, and then softly tap the head of the screw with a hammer.

The resulting vibrations from the tapping allow the agent to work its way down the threads of the screw. Now, try to use a screwdriver to unscrew the screw.

You can add a second application of the dissolving agent if the screw is still stuck.

If that doesn’t work, you can hit the head of the screw with the hammer to loosen the corrosion seal between the screw, and the object the screw is stuck into.

If you haven’t used a flammable dissolving agent, you can use a lighter to heat the metal the screw is stuck into in an effort to break the corrosion bond between the object and the screw.

12. How do You Remove a Screw with No Head?

What if the screw doesn’t have a head?

Have no fear, as you can still try and remove it by first using a center punch to mark a point for the drill to begin.

You can also tap a thin nail into the center of the screw head if you can’t get your hands on a center punch.

First, load your drill with a very small drill bit, fire it up, and drill a small hole down the shaft of the screw. Next, grab a little bigger drill bit, and drill an even larger opening in the screw shaft.

Stop drilling when you notice the hole is big enough to insert an easy-out tool, aka screw extractor. Lastly, turn the tool gently until you remove the screw shaft.

Final Thoughts:

Removing stripped screws can be a daunting task, but the aforementioned hacks should help get the job done. Some screws with stripped heads are easier to get out than others depending on how far deep it is in the material, and the level of damage to the drive head.