What do you do when you realize the screw you are trying to remove from a plastic surface is stripped? Or worse, the screw hole widening without the screw coming out.
At this stage, learning how to remove a stripped screw from plastic is essential. That is why I have compiled a couple of methods you can use to remove a stripped screw from plastic.
But first, let’s learn the meaning of a stripped screw
What Is a Stripped Screw?
A stripped screw refers to a screw with corroded or worn-out slots on the head, making the screw hard to tighten or untighten. Often, a stripped screw is a used screw that has been in and out repeatedly. Overtightening a screw may also strip it.
How to Remove a Stripped Screw from Plastic
- Add some super glue to the top of the stripped screw
- Set your screwdriver on the stripped screw, then let the glue dry.
- Twist the screwdriver using steady pressure to remove the stripped screw.
- Clean the tip of your driver to remove the glue.
What Makes the Screws Stripped?
Screws can become stripped when their grooves or threads become damaged or worn down, making it difficult to turn or remove them.
There are several common reasons why screws may become stripped:
Incorrect tool usage
Using the wrong type or size of screwdriver is a common cause of stripped screws. It is important to use a screwdriver that matches the screw head’s shape (such as Phillips, flathead, or hex) and fits snugly into the screw’s grooves. If the screwdriver is too small or too large, it may not engage properly with the screw, leading to slipping and potential damage to the screw’s grooves.
Applying excessive force while tightening a screw can cause the threads to strip. This is particularly common when using power tools, such as electric drills or impact drivers, which can generate high torque. If too much force is applied, the screw threads can become deformed or worn down, resulting in a stripped screw.
Screws made of low-quality materials may have weaker threads that are more susceptible to stripping. These screws often have softer or less durable metal, which can easily wear down or deform when subjected to force. Using screws of higher quality, made from stronger materials like stainless steel or hardened steel, can reduce the likelihood of stripping.
Exposure to moisture, chemicals, or environmental factors can cause screws to develop rust or corrosion. When screws corrode, the metal can weaken and become more prone to stripping. Corrosion can also create a bond between the screw and the material it is threaded into, making it difficult to remove without causing damage.
Screws that are frequently removed and reinserted can gradually wear down over time, making them more prone to stripping. Each time a screw is inserted and removed, it can experience friction and slight deformation, which can gradually compromise the integrity of the threads. This is particularly true for screws used in softer materials like wood or plastic.
If a screw is not properly aligned with the hole or if it is inserted at an angle, it can cause the threads to strip when tightened. Misalignment can place uneven stress on the threads, leading to their deformation or damage. It’s important to ensure that the screw is inserted straight into the hole and that it engages smoothly with the threads.
How to Remove a Stripped Screw from Plastic
Using a Rubber band
Using a rubber band is an ancient method of removing a stripped screw from plastic surfaces. It did the trick before the invention of modern tools such as screw extractors and screw extraction pliers.
Gather the necessary materials
Collect a rubber band and a screwdriver with a flathead that matches the size of the stripped screw. Make sure the rubber band is wide enough to cover the entire screw head.
Prepare the rubber band
Take the rubber band and stretch it out, creating tension and making it taut. This will help improve its grip on the screw head.
Position the rubber band
Place the rubber band over the stripped screw head, ensuring that it covers the entire surface of the screw head. The rubber band will provide additional traction for the screwdriver.
Insert the screwdriver
With the rubber band in place, insert the screwdriver into the screw head, applying downward pressure to secure it. Make sure the screwdriver is properly seated in the screw head to avoid slipping.
Apply torque and turn counterclockwise
While holding the screwdriver in place, apply downward pressure and turn it counterclockwise (left) to loosen the screw. The rubber band should enhance the grip, allowing you to exert more force.
Maintain steady pressure and turning
Continue applying downward pressure on the screwdriver while turning it counterclockwise. Use slow, steady movements to avoid slipping or damaging the plastic. The rubber band should help increase traction and prevent the screwdriver from slipping out.
Remove the stripped screw
As you keep turning counterclockwise, the stripped screw should gradually loosen. Continue turning until the screw is completely removed from the plastic material. If the rubber band slips or loses its grip, reposition it and try again.
Remember to exercise patience during the process, as removing a stripped screw can sometimes be challenging. Applying excessive force or using abrupt movements can damage the plastic material or cause the screwdriver to slip, potentially causing injury. Take your time and proceed cautiously to achieve the best results.
Using Steel Wool
Removing a stripped screw from plastic using steel wool can be a challenging task, as you need to be careful not to damage the plastic further. However, with the right technique and some patience, it can be done. Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide:
Materials you’ll need:
- Steel wool
- Pliers or locking pliers
- A screwdriver (preferably one that fits the stripped screw)
- Optional: A small hammer or mallet
Assess the situation
Examine the stripped screw and plastic surface. Determine the severity of the damage and decide if the screw can be removed with steel wool alone. If the screw is severely stripped or the plastic is fragile, you may need to explore other methods such as using a rubber band or a specialized screw extractor.
Prepare the steel wool
Take a small piece of steel wool and unravel it into thin strands. The strands should be fine enough to fit into the stripped grooves of the screw. Ensure you have enough steel wool to fill the stripped area.
Insert the steel wool
Using your fingers or a pair of pliers, take a few strands of steel wool and carefully insert them into the stripped grooves of the screw. Press the steel wool firmly into the grooves, ensuring it fills as much space as possible. The steel wool acts as a grip and provides additional material for the screwdriver to catch onto
Grip the screw head
Using the pliers or locking pliers, grip the head of the screw firmly. Make sure you have a good grip, as you’ll be applying torque to turn the screw.
Apply downward pressure
While gripping the screw head with the pliers, apply downward pressure to create tension between the screw and the steel wool. This tension will help prevent the screwdriver from slipping out of the grooves.
Turn the screwdriver
With the downward pressure applied, insert the screwdriver into the stripped screw and attempt to turn it counterclockwise (to loosen the screw). Use steady and controlled force to avoid slipping or damaging the plastic.
Alternate techniques (if needed) If the screw doesn’t turn easily, you can try a few additional techniques:
- Tap the end of the screwdriver gently with a small hammer or mallet while turning. This can help create some extra force and potentially break the screw free.
- If the plastic allows, heat the area around the screw with a hairdryer to expand it slightly. This can loosen the screw and make it easier to remove.
Remove the screw
If the screw starts to turn, continue applying downward pressure and slowly remove the screw from the plastic. Take your time to avoid damaging the plastic further.
Note: If the screw still won’t budge or if you’re concerned about damaging the plastic, it’s recommended to seek professional help or consult a handyman.
Remember to use caution and work patiently throughout the process. If at any point you feel excessive force or resistance, it’s best to stop and reassess the situation.
With pliers, you only need to inspect if there is some space between the stripped screw head and the plastic surface. If available, then proceed with the process.
Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide to help you through the process:
Tools you’ll need:
- Pliers (preferably needle-nose pliers or locking pliers)
- A rubber band or a piece of cloth (optional)
- A drill with a drill bit (optional)
Prepare the screw
Before attempting to remove the stripped screw, it’s essential to prepare it by cleaning any debris or dirt surrounding it. This will make it easier to grip and remove the screw.
Choose the right pliers
Using needle-nose pliers or locking pliers will provide you with the best grip on the stripped screw. Needle-nose pliers have thin, tapered jaws that can fit into tight spaces, while locking pliers have an adjustable jaw mechanism that can firmly hold the screw.
Assess the screw head
Examine the stripped screw head to determine its condition. If the head is slightly damaged but still has some grip left, you can proceed with the pliers. However, if the screw head is severely damaged or completely flattened, you may need to use a different method, such as drilling.
Position the pliers
Gently hold the screw head with the pliers, making sure the jaws are aligned with the screw’s slots or edges. Apply moderate pressure to ensure a secure grip.
Rotate the pliers counterclockwise
While holding the pliers firmly, try to rotate the pliers counterclockwise to unscrew the stripped screw. It’s essential to maintain a steady grip and avoid excessive force to prevent further damage to the plastic or the screw head.
Apply additional gripping techniques
If the pliers alone are not providing enough grip, you can try a couple of additional techniques to enhance grip:
- Rubber band method: Wrap a rubber band around the screw head, providing a layer of grip between the pliers and the stripped screw. This can increase friction and help loosen the screw.
- Cloth method: Place a piece of cloth (such as a rag or towel) over the screw head before gripping it with the pliers. The cloth acts as a buffer, allowing the pliers to get a better grip.
Consider drilling (if necessary)
If the above steps are unsuccessful or the screw head is severely damaged, drilling may be the next option. Use a drill with a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the screw’s diameter. Carefully drill into the center of the screw head, applying steady pressure until the screw starts to loosen. Once the screw has been drilled into, use pliers or a screw extractor tool to remove it.
Note: When drilling into the screw, be cautious not to apply excessive force or drill too deeply, as this could damage the plastic material.
Removing a stripped screw from plastic by drilling can be a delicate process, as you want to avoid damaging the surrounding plastic.
Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide to help you through the process:
Tools and materials you’ll need:
- Drill (corded or cordless)
- Appropriate drill bit size (slightly smaller than the screw diameter)
- Screw extractor or a set of left-handed drill bits
- Pliers or locking pliers (optional)
- Safety glasses
- Masking tape or painter’s tape (optional)
Prepare the work area
Place the plastic object on a stable surface where it won’t move or shift during the process.
Ensure there’s enough space for you to work comfortably.
Choose the right drill bit
Select a drill bit slightly larger than the screw’s core diameter. It should be smaller than the outer edge or threads of the screw.
For example, if the screw is a Phillips head and its core is 3mm, start with a 3.5mm or 4mm drill bit.
Set up the drill
Insert the chosen drill bit into the drill’s chuck, ensuring it’s securely tightened.
Adjust the drill’s speed setting to a moderate level. You want enough power to drill through the screw but not so much that it damages the plastic.
Position the drill
Align the drill bit with the center of the stripped screw head.
Hold the drill perpendicular to the surface of the plastic to ensure a straight drilling motion.
Start the drill at a low speed to create a pilot hole. Apply gentle pressure as you begin drilling into the center of the screw head.
Once the pilot hole is established, increase the speed gradually while maintaining steady pressure.
Increase the drill bit size
Switch to a slightly larger drill bit and repeat the drilling process.
Gradually increase the size of the drill bit until the screw head is significantly weakened or removed completely.
Be cautious not to drill beyond the screw head into the plastic itself.
Extract the screw
Once the screw head is removed or weakened, stop drilling.
Use a screwdriver or pliers to extract the remaining screw body from the plastic. Apply gentle pressure and twist counterclockwise until the screw is removed.
If the screw is still stuck, you can use pliers to grip the screw head and carefully rotate it counterclockwise until it releases.
Inspect the plastic
Check the plastic object for any damage caused during the process.
If there are any cracks or holes, consider using a suitable adhesive or filler to repair the plastic.
Using Epoxy Glue
Epoxy glue may seem irrelevant in stripped screw removal conversations, but it can help if you put in some effort and embrace patience.
Materials you will need:
- Epoxy adhesive (preferably a two-part epoxy)
- Toothpicks or wooden skewers
- Pliers or a screwdriver
- Fine-grit sandpaper (optional)
- Acetone or rubbing alcohol (optional)
- Disposable gloves (optional)
Ensure you have a clean and well-ventilated workspace. If necessary, wear disposable gloves to protect your hands.
Assess the situation
Examine the stripped screw and the surrounding plastic. Determine whether the epoxy adhesive will provide enough grip to remove the screw. If the screw is too small or the plastic is fragile, this method may not work effectively.
Mixing epoxy adhesive
Follow the instructions provided with your epoxy adhesive to properly mix it. Typically, you’ll need to squeeze out equal parts of the epoxy resin and hardener onto a clean disposable surface and mix them thoroughly with a toothpick or a wooden skewer.
Apply epoxy adhesive
Dip the tip of a toothpick or wooden skewer into the mixed epoxy adhesive. Apply a small amount of epoxy to the inside of the stripped screw hole, covering the stripped area.
Insert toothpick or skewer
While the epoxy is still wet, insert a toothpick or wooden skewer into the hole, pushing it against the epoxy. Make sure it goes deep enough to provide stability.
Let the epoxy cure
Allow the epoxy to cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It usually takes several hours to fully harden. Avoid putting any pressure on the toothpick or skewer during this time.
Remove the screw
Once the epoxy has cured, firmly grasp the toothpick or skewer with a pair of pliers or a screwdriver. Rotate it counterclockwise to unscrew the stripped screw. If the toothpick or skewer starts to slip, apply more pressure with the pliers or screwdriver to ensure a tight grip.
Once the screw is removed, clean up any excess epoxy residue around the hole. You can use a small amount of acetone or rubbing alcohol on a cloth or cotton swab to remove the epoxy if needed. If the plastic surface is rough or damaged, you can lightly sand it with fine-grit sandpaper to smooth it out.
Using Screw Extractor Kit
If all the soft methods have failed, you can use the screw extractor kit specifically designed to remove stripped screws.
One end of the extractor is for extracting the stripped screws, while the other bit is for drilling into the stripped screws to make them easier to grip with the screws.
The extractor kit is easily accessible, affordable, and simple to use and so they’ve become a must-have tool for every DIYer.
Materials you will need:
- Screw extractor kit (consisting of an extractor bit and a drill bit)
- Power drill
- Pliers or adjustable wrench (optional)
- Protective eyewear
- Masking tape (optional)
Put on your protective eyewear to ensure your eyes are shielded from any flying debris.
If the plastic surface is delicate or prone to scratching, consider protecting it with masking tape. This will provide an additional layer of protection during the extraction process.
Selecting the right extractor bit
Examine the screw extractor kit and choose the appropriate size of the extractor bit. It should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the stripped screw.
Attach the extractor bit to your power drill according to the instructions provided with the kit.
Creating a pilot hole
Align the drill bit from the screw extractor kit with the center of the stripped screw.
Apply gentle pressure and start drilling a pilot hole into the screw. Be careful not to drill too deeply or apply excessive force, as it may damage the plastic surrounding the screw.
Inserting the extractor bit
Once the pilot hole is created, detach the drill bit from the power drill and attach the extractor bit.
Slowly insert the extractor bit into the pilot hole, ensuring it grips the walls of the screw tightly. Apply steady and even pressure while turning the extractor counterclockwise.
Extracting the stripped screw
Engage the power drill in reverse or select the counterclockwise rotation direction.
While keeping the drill at a low speed, begin turning the extractor bit counterclockwise. The extractor bit’s design will create friction and help remove the screw from the plastic.
If the screw starts to loosen, continue turning until it is fully extracted. If it becomes difficult to turn, avoid forcing it to prevent further damage. Instead, proceed to the next step.
Use pliers or an adjustable wrench (if necessary)
If the extractor bit fails to remove the screw completely, you can use pliers or an adjustable wrench to grasp the screw head securely.
Gently rotate the pliers or wrench counterclockwise, applying steady pressure while keeping the screw as upright as possible. This will help prevent any further damage to the plastic.
Remember, patience and precision are key during this process. If the stripped screw remains stubborn or the plastic begins to show signs of damage, it may be best to seek assistance from a professional or consider alternative solutions like drilling out the screw entirely or using epoxy to secure the damaged area.
How to Avoid Stripping a Screw
Stripping a screw is a common issue that can happen when too much torque is applied, or the incorrect tools are used.
Here are some steps to help avoid stripping a screw:
Choose the Right Screwdriver
Ensure that the screwdriver or drill bit matches the type and size of the screw. There are many types of screw heads, like Phillips, flat, Torx, square, and more. Using a mismatched screwdriver is a surefire way to strip a screw.
Apply Adequate Pressure
When turning the screw, apply enough downward pressure to keep the screwdriver tip fully engaged with the screw head. If the driver is allowed to ‘cam out’ or slip out of the screw head, it can cause stripping.
If you’re using a power tool, don’t rush. High speeds can generate heat and increase the risk of stripping. Use a slow, controlled motion to turn the screw.
Keep it Straight
Make sure you’re turning the screwdriver or drill straight. If you’re at an angle, you’re more likely to strip the screw.
Pre-Drill Holes for Wood
If you’re working with wood, it’s often helpful to pre-drill a hole before screwing. The hole should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the screw’s central shank. This reduces the force needed to drive the screw, lessening the chance of stripping.
Use Manual Tools for Small Screws
Tiny screws, like those found in electronics, can strip easily. For these, it’s often better to use a manual screwdriver with the correct head and size, rather than a power tool.
Clean and Clear
Make sure the screw head is clean. Debris in the screw head can prevent your tool from fully engaging, leading to a higher risk of stripping.
If despite your precautions, you do end up with a stripped screw, there are several strategies to remove it, such as using a rubber band, pliers, a screw extractor, or drilling a small hole into the screw and using a screw extractor to remove it. However, these methods can potentially damage the material around the screw, so it’s best to avoid stripping the screw in the first place.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of your skill level, it’s possible to encounter stripped screws while engaging in DIY crafts. Unfortunately, this can happen due to various reasons such as using incorrect tools, applying excessive pressure, or utilizing low-quality screws. However, there are methods to remove stripped screws and continue with your project.
While it’s important to know how to remove stripped screws from plastic, it’s even more crucial to prevent this issue from occurring in the first place. You can avoid stripped screws by carefully selecting the appropriate screw and screwdriver, as well as applying the right amount of pressure. If you notice screws starting to strip, it’s crucial to pause, assess the situation, and make any necessary adjustments.
If there’s anything we’ve missed or if you have additional insights, please feel free to share them in the comment section below. Let’s continue the discussion there.