How to remove rusted screws

Our guide on how to safely remove a rusted screw it in simple-to-follow steps.

18 July 2019

Nails and rusty screws in jars
In the home

Key Steps

  • Wear protective gear while you remove rusted screws, especially when using hammers or blow torches
  • Use rust penetrant and a hammer to loosen a rusty screw
  • If all else fails, heat with a blow torch, cooling once it smokes with cold water to loosen it enough to use a screwdriver for removal

Trying to remove a rusted, stuck screw? The rough surface and expansion of the rust makes it hard to get them out, even using a screwdriver. Here we’ll show you how to remove rusted screws and replace them safely. If it’s not a rusted screw but a broken one that’s causing you problems, visit our article on how to remove a broken screw here.

Think you can’t save a rusty screw? Think again! Soak it in a white vinegar and baking soda solution before scrubbing it clean: good as new and ready to use.

How to stay safe when you remove a rusted screw

When you’re removing rusted bolts and screws, it is important to take some key safety precautions.

  • Always wear protective gear. This should include gloves as well as eye goggles and a surgical mask to prevent you breathing in rust particles if they come loose as you remove the screw.
  • Take care when using strong rust removal products. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and work in a well-ventilated area.
  • If you’re using heat to remove the rusted screw, wear leather gloves and ensure there is a fire extinguisher to hand in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure children and pets are kept well away from the place where you are working to remove the screw.

Two hacks for rusty screw removal: remove a stuck screw with our simple guide

Here are our top hacks for how to remove a stuck screw that’s crusted up with rust:

1. Use a hammer and screwdriver to remove a rusted screw

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands if you slip, and goggles and a surgical mask in case of rust shards or particles which may come loose during this process.
  • Strike the screw 2-3 times with a metal hammer. This will break the rust seal causing the screw to be stuck.
  • Spray on a commercial rust penetrant. This will soak the screw and help to loosen the rust and act as a lubricant.
  • Using the hammer, tap the screw a few more times, and the area around the screw too.
  • Using the screwdriver (ensuring it is the right one for the screw type) you should now be able to remove the screw.
  • If it is still stuck, use a gripping paste to keep your screwdriver in place. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for products such as these.

2. Removing rusted bolts and screws with heat

  • Use a water-based degreaser to wipe down the screw.
  • Make sure the area is fully cleaned, as you do not want anything flammable going up in flames unexpectedly.
  • Wear leather gloves and keep a fire extinguisher close by.
  • Heat the screw using a blow torch until it begins to smoke.
  • At this point, add cold water immediately.
  • Repeat this heating and cooling process 2-3 more times. The heat makes the screw expand, the cold causes it to contract and together they help the screw to become loose.
  • Once you have checked the screw is cool enough to touch after this process, use a screwdriver to remove it.

With our guide for how to remove a stuck screw, you now have all the steps you need to be able to remove and replace them safely. Plus, if you’ve got the DIY bug, why not try some of our easy furniture restoration project ideas here?