We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Best Way to Loosen a Rusted Screw?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At HomeQuestionsAnswered, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The recipe to loosen a rusted screw is a relatively simple one. To dissolve the corrosive seal, use a penetrating oil spray, such as WD-40®. Spray the screw head and allow one or two minutes for the lubricant to penetrate the corrosion around the screw. As an alternative, you can try brushing kerosene on it. At this point, avoid using a power tool to remove the screw, since the potential to strip the head is too great. Instead, choose a screwdriver with an excellent fit for the head of the screw.

If a flathead is required, be sure the tip fills the slotted head of the rusted screw securely and is not too thin for the slot or too narrow for the screw head. A Phillips screwdriver head should likewise provide good bite into the head. If the tool tip shifts position within the screw’s head, it's too small. If it doesn’t fit securely into the head, it's too large.

With the correct screwdriver inserted, apply significant pressure by leaning into the screw. This keeps the screwdriver from slipping and possibly stripping the head, and it also creates better bite. Attempt to loosen the rusted screw by turning it counter-clockwise. It may take a moment or two of constant torque to crack the seal and get the screw moving.

If the first attempt does not work, apply more lubricant and try gently tapping the screw’s head from all angles. You might also insert your screwdriver tip and use a hammer to lightly tap downwards a few times. This can help to break the corrosive seal. Try turning the screw again.

If the head of the screw becomes stripped or damaged, or it simply won’t budge, you may need to resort to a powered screw extractor. There are several models, but in essence, these tools drill into the screw itself counter-clockwise, using a reverse thread. Note that some screw extractors have the potential to ruin the threads of the screw hole, requiring it to be re-tapped afterwards. Screw extractors are a last resort when manual removal has failed.

Screw extractors and lubricants are available at hardware stores everywhere. When a rusted screw is removed, it is best to replace it with a new one, even if the original screw is otherwise undamaged.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon324830 — On Mar 12, 2013

I have some way cool Japanese screw pliers called Neji-Saurus (screw dinosaur!), which whip screws with stripped heads out in a jiffy (trust the clever Japanese to come up with a simple solution).

By anon143774 — On Jan 17, 2011

your idea to use a thicker slotted head to unscrew the rusted screw worked in seconds! Thank you much!

By anon127225 — On Nov 15, 2010

Yes, anon12934. I thought the same way. Thanks for posting.

By anon12934 — On May 16, 2008

I've found that it is easier after you spray the screw and wait to first try to tighten it just a bit. I've found that it loosens easier.

By anon2833 — On Jul 27, 2007

When possible I use vise grips on stripped out screw heads to bite the sides of a screw before resorting to a screw extractor.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.