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The Rubber Band Trick That Removes a Stripped Screw + More Pro Handyman Tips

Never struggle with the hardware again!

You’re so excited to finally update the decades-old knobs on your kitchen drawers, but when you go in to unscrew them you can’t quite finagle the screwdriver into the slots. The culprit is likely a stripped screw. What’s more, trying too hard to extract it without the proper care can make the problem even worse. The biggest mistake people make when dealing with a stripped screw? “Applying too much force, which can further damage the screw or surrounding surface,” says Jeff Palla, president of Mr. Handyman, a Neighborly company. Is it a lost cause? Not at all, says Palla and other home improvement pros who reveal below how to remove a stripped screw as effortlessly as possible, the best way to repair the hole and how to sidestep the issue in the future.

What causes a stripped screw

A stripped screw in wood
HandmadePictures/Getty

This nuisance occurs when the slots in the head of the screwdriver have become worn down so that a screwdriver or drill can no longer properly grip the hardware. Naturally, this can make removing the screw from its spot seem impossible!

The reasons this happens on the first place, says Palla:

  1. Over-tightening: Applying too much force while tightening a screw can lead to its threads becoming damaged or worn down.
  2. Using the wrong tools: Using an incorrectly sized or worn-out screwdriver or using power tools at an incorrect setting can damage the screw head, causing it to strip.
  3. Low-quality screws: Poor-quality screws are more prone to stripping as their metal may not be as durable, leading to easier damage to the threads.
  4. Corrosion: Rust or other forms of corrosion can weaken the metal, making it easier for the screw to strip when turned.
  5. Repeated use: Screws can wear out over time, especially if they are frequently removed and reinserted. Each time a screw is turned, it can slowly wear down its threads.

There are a few ways to fix the problem, and they depend on what exactly you’re dealing with. Read on for the breakdown:

How to remove a stripped screw if the head is somewhat stripped

“The head of a screw is located at the top of the screw, it’s the widest part and it is what allows the screw to turn with the help of a screwdriver,” says Palla. “It’s the shape of the screw head that determines which tool to use to screw it in or out. If the slots are mostly intact, all you need is a rubber band: Lay the flat side of a wide rubber band on top of the screw, then apply pressure as you twist the screwdriver to loosen the screw.

rubber bands in a ball and strewn about the table to remove a stripped screw
John Scott/Getty Images

The rubber fills in gaps and provides traction that helps the tool cling to the screw’s head so you can remove it. “That can work if there’s enough left of the head to grab,” shares DIY Expert and licensed contractor Kat Christie, founder of She Fixed That LLC. “I’ve seen people use chewing gum in lieu of a rubber band.”

Related: 15 Startlingly Brilliant Uses for Rubber Bands

See how well the trick works (and why duct tape is an equally great alternative) in the TikTok from @731woodworks below:

Screw still not moving even with a little force? A power drill can be your best friend! “If there’s enough of the screw sticking out you can use the drill’s chuck (the clamping device that’s attached to the drill’s spindle) to back it out,” adds Christie. The force from the drill will help extract the hardware when it’s being stubborn.

Watch how to do so in the YouTube video from RYOBI New Zealand below:

How to remove a stripped screw if the head is completely stripped

Sometimes the top of the screw is stripped down so much that the above tips aren’t possible. In this case, Palla says you’re better off using a screw extractor. These generally feature two sides that can be attached to your power drill and are specially designed to remove the hardware and they come with different sizes so you have options based on the screw size).  “There are tons of extractors on the market,” shares Christie. “Speed Out is one I’ve used before with good results.” (Buy from Amazon, $16.59). How it works: One side further strips the head so that the other side can fit right and pull it out.

This YouTube video from Rockler Woodworking and Hardware shows just how easy it is:

How to fix a stripped screw hole

A toothpick can be used to fill in a stripped screw hole
zhikun sun/Getty

Often times, once you’ve managed to remove a stripped screw, you’ll notice you’re left with an oversized hole — from all the drilling, pushing and pullling — where the hardware had been. Thankfully, Palla says there are a few options to correct the issue so a screw hole can still be used. First, you could simply use a larger screw in the same space. This will ensure the hardware is a better fit for the hole and can stay stable and secure in the spot.

Another alternative: “Fill the hole with wood filler or glue and toothpicks,” says Palla.Shelley Pfender of Sepp n Shelley DIY shows a tutorial on how to make this work. You simply fill the hole with wood glue, add enough toothpicks to fill in the gap, and let dry.

“It takes about 48 hours for the glue to try totally,” she explains in the video. “ Then we can take a small hand saw, saw off the toothpicks, and then it’s ready to screw again. “

Lastly, you have the option of enlisting the help of a thread repair kit like Heli-Coil (Buy from Amazon, $13.45) which permanently repairs stripped holes.

Related: 10 Brilliant Ways to Use Toothpicks That Will Blow Your Mind

How to prevent a stripped screw

When working on a home improvement project, it can be incredibly frustrating to have your progress slowed down by a stripped screw. The best way to sidestep the problem altogether? “Ensuring the right size and type of screwdriver/bit can prevent stripping in the first place,” says Palla. But if you do find yourself dealing with the nuisance, you’ll want to be as patient as possible. “Try different methods if one doesn’t work, and consider using proper tools designed for stripped screw removal to avoid causing more damage,” he adds. Knowing how to remove a stripped screw will make it far less of a headache anytime it does happen!

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For more home improvement hacks:

The Genius Talcum Powder Trick That Silences a Squeaky Door Better Than WD40

One Way To Remove Duct Tape Residue? Use More Duct Tape! House Pro’s Genius Trick

How to Hang Picture Frames on Any Wall: Home Pros’ Tricks Make It So Easy

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