How to Loosen Rusted and Painted-Over Nuts & Bolts

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

Things You'll Need

  • Isopropyl alcohol

  • Cotton balls

  • Paper towels

  • Plastic cling film

  • Tape

  • Nail polish remover

  • Clean cloths

  • Kerosene

  • Paint stripper

  • Deep penetrating oil

  • Dr. Pepper

  • Coke


Handle solvents with care. Keep chemicals away from open flames or heat sources and work in a well-ventilated area. If at any point you feel dizzy or nauseated, leave your work area and go outside, leaving the door open to allow fresh air in.

There are few things less irritating to those trying to perform home maintenance than stumbling upon a nut or bolt that cannot be budged, particularly if the immobility is caused by the hardware being covered in paint or rust. Attempts to use brute strength often end with damaged or broken bolts and smashed fingers. To safely loosen stubborn hardware, first take off the paint and then remove the rust with inexpensive, easy-to-use chemicals.


Step 1

Remove latex pain by coating the surface of the hardware with isopropyl alcohol. Dampen a clean paper towel or cotton ball with alcohol and place it over the target area. Cover the alcohol-soaked material with plastic cling film to prevent evaporation and secure the plastic with adhesive tape. Leave in place for 30 to 60 minutes. Remove plastic and wash paint away with warm water, exposing the surface of the hardware.

Step 2

Remove oil-based paints from hardware by covering the target area in nail polish remover or turpentine. Douse a clean cloth in the solvent of your choice and place it against the painted-over nuts and bolts. Rub gently to remove the paint, reapplying the solvent as needed. A similar result can also be achieved with a light application of kerosene, though it may take a bit longer to see the results of your labor.


Step 3

Use commercial paint stripper to remove enamel-based paint. Available in most hardware stores, these products are extremely effective, though they are highly volatile and must be handled with care and caution.

Step 4

Spray the rusty nuts and bolts with a deep-penetrating oil product once you have all the paint removed. Aim for the threaded areas and wait. Be sure you allow adequate time for the oil to trickle down into the rusted areas. If the hardware won't budge after 30 minutes spray it again and wait for two to three hours to try again.

Step 5

Empty one can of Dr. Pepper into a bowl. Add one can of Coke. Place a towel into the bowl and allow the fibers to soak up the soda. Wrap the towel around the rusty hardware and leave it for one hour, then try to loosen the nuts and bolts one more time. If none of this has worked, you may have to cut the hardware off.



Lisa Parris

Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.