How to Remove Rusted Stripped Screws

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Removing a rusty or stripped screw can seem like a lost cause, but there are methods that can help you get your project back on track. Rusted screws are particularly tricky because they are bound to the surface by the rust, and the head of the screw is likely to get stripped when you're trying to remove it.

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Break the Bond and Lubricate

Since the rust has created a bond between the screw and the mating surface, you need to break the bond before attempting to remove the screw. Start by striking the head of the screw with a hammer or an impact screwdriver. Strike it a few times to break away a portion of the rust; then apply a rust penetrant.

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Wait a few minutes to allow the lubricant to penetrate any cracks that were created by striking the screw. Hit the screw head again a few times and wait another 15 minutes to allow the rust penetrant to begin working. Tap the screw head a few more times, and then attempt to remove the screw. If the screw is beginning to strip, apply a grip paste to make removal easier.

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Use a Rubber Band

Getting the proper grip can be another reason why a screw can be difficult to remove. If you notice your screwdriver continually slips out of the head of the screw, stop the removal process and find a rubber band or a small piece of rubber. Place the rubber on the head of the screw; then place your screwdriver in the grooves of the screw head. The rubber will help fill the gaps in the screw head, giving the screwdriver a better grip. Be sure to push down forcefully as you turn the screwdriver because the rubber will make the screwdriver more likely to slip in the grooves.

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Cut a New Groove

If the head of the screw becomes stripped when you're trying to remove it, then a good option to help the removal process is to cut a new groove. This requires a hacksaw or an oscillating tool. Create a new slot on the head of the screw that is deep enough to allow for a flathead screwdriver to grip the screwhead. For best results, use a screwdriver with a tip that is as wide as the slot to maximize contact and leverage.

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Apply Heat To Crack Rust

This method is definitely a last resort, as it may cause the surrounding material to melt if it is made of anything other than metal; it can also cause your rust penetrant to catch fire if you've already tried the previous method. Clean the rusty screw head and its surroundings with a grease-fighting cleaning product. Make sure to have a fire extinguisher on hand and wear fireproof gloves for safety.

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Apply heat directly to the screw head using a butane lighter until you see the screw beginning to smoke. Cool the screw head immediately with a water-soaked cloth or by applying water directly to the screw. The combination of hot and cold will break the rust away, making removal possible. Continue the hot and cold cycle as many times as necessary until the screw gives way.

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