HOWTO quick-fix a stripped screw-hole

Here's a great tip from ApartmentTherapy for getting a little more life out of a stripped-out, too-lose screw-hole in wood: line the hole with toothpicks and replace the screw:
Taking my father's advice, I unscrewed the hinge and placed a few pieces of toothpick in the screw hole. As I reinstalled the screw, I could feel that the toothpick pieces were doing their job. Basically the screw is able to grip onto the soft wood of the toothpick pieces, which creates a tight fit that couldn't be achieved in the stretched and stripped hole.
Quick Fix: Use Toothpicks in Stripped Screw Hole (via Lifehacker)


  1. wooden matchsticks work even better. use some epoxy or white glue, too, if you really want it to hold.

    1. Me too, but yes, match sticks and wood glue! Screw in while glue still wet. Then sit back and bask in the glory of DIY accomplishment!!!

      Also, I suggest trying DIY plumbing when pipes are not in walls. Fixed kitchen sink and the sense of control is still carrying me through the daily reign of chaos two years later.

  2. 100 year old tip at least, but still a good one. Use matchsticks and white glue instead though, as urbanhick suggests.

  3. Wooden tooth picks are actually fairly hard wood and will hold well. You can buy little bits of perforated metal to put in stripped holes to provide grip for screws but the toothpick hack works just as well.
    Another common fix is to pump the hole full of hot glue and drill a small pilot hole after it hardens.

  4. I’ve used golf tees and wood glue for bigger holes. Same principle. It’s a bit more work though as you have to cut off the top of the golf tee.

  5. Certainly not always an applicable solution, but a screw of larger diameter is an alternative. Also, a longer screw can help.

  6. Strongly recommend the use of toothpicks in hardwood, matchsticks in softwood. Either way, coat them in white or yellow glue before you put them in there, and make sure there’s no weight or leverage on the repair until the glue dries.

    If you don’t use some glue, the same forces that blew out the screw will do so again in about the same amount of time.

  7. In the time it took me to register, others have said essentially the same thing. But I’ll say it anyway. An even better fix is to first fill the hole with a wood glue (like Wilhold white), then insert the wooden match sticks and let it all dry before you drive in the new screw. Match sticks typically are made of poplar, which is a hardwood (believe it or not). So the fix is pretty durable.

  8. If there’s a good chance that the screw stripped due to being undersized for the application then the best repair is to drill out the hole and drive in a brass machine screw insert. It will take the same diameter screw and give a much stronger hold in the same amount of space. I’ve done this many times on particle board speaker cabinets when the screw holes opened up from teh material crumbling away. If the hole is in a panel and the back is hidden you can drill out the hole and press a T-nut in from the back. This is a metal insert with a machine thread and a pronged flange that spikes itself into the back of the panel. It’s very strong.

  9. For “toothpick” or “matchstick”, just substitute “pretty much any little piece of wood or cardboard that can be jammed tightly into the hole. Wet it before inserting the screw, the new plug will swell to grip the hole.
    The glue’s not really necessary, if the hole is packed tight first.
    I work on old buildings. Where, a hundred and fifty years ago, they wanted to put metal fixings into stone, they cut a crudely whittled plug out of any bit of scrap wood they could find. Then they just bashed or screwed in anything they wanted. No glue. And I can hang my weight off them.

  10. 100 year-old tip? I’ll bet Archimedes came up with this to keep his screws from leaking. He had to invent the toothpick first, however. Especially prescient since teeth hadn’t been evolved yet.

    Even Archimedes knew you need GLUE!

  11. Came here to post about the wooden matchsticks as well.

    That’s the second time today BB has made me think of my grandpa (who taught me the matchstick trick, as well as fishing and cooking). Truly a wonderful thing.

  12. I’ve got a minute so here’s a meta take on this. Failures have reasons. When a screw strips it might be because of an accident. Or maybe it was poor engineering. If it’s bad design then bodging it back together with parts on hand will be a temporary fix at best. If you want things to stay fixed it’s important to understand why they broke and make an appropriate repair.

    Most of the time a tooth pick or match stick is all you need but it’s important to understand when a more robust repair is needed.

    And that’s my over-analysis of a stripped screw hole.

  13. There is a term in spanglish for this type of repair. It’s “Rasquache”. Rasquachismo is the ethos around do-it-yourself-with-what’s-handy. It has no negative connotations that I know of.
    Oh, and there are endless situations where you have to use the exact same screw size and type to do the repair (basically any time the fasteners are visible and have to match).

  14. Chopsticks make really good screw-hole plugs.

    Get the round, tapered, unfinished bamboo sort. Cut the stick off where the taper matches the hole, squirt some glue in the hole (wood glue if you have it, white glue otherwise), hammer the stick in, and then use a pair of end cutters (nippers) to cut the plug flush to the surface.

    If you don’t have end cutters, cut the stick off flat with a saw or side cutters just before you finish hammering, then hammer in until flush.

    You’ll likely need to drill a pilot hole for the new screw, as the bamboo is very hard. But between the toughness of the bamboo and the wedging action of the tapered stick, it’s a much more permanent repair than toothpicks or matchsticks.

    1. Putting in new material to fill the hole and re-drilling is what a tech calls fitting an insert. After he stops swearing.

      As for glue on a matchstick or tooth pick, I wouldn’t want wet glue directly on the screw unless it’s never coming out of there again. The fastener that you glue in is likely to be the very one that you need to take out later and find yourself stripping the head off of because it’s stuck. But it is a quick, secure fix if you want to take the chance.

      1. easy cure for glued-in screws: soldering iron/gun held to head of screw for 2-3 minutes. heat transfers thru screw and melts the glue, even epoxy, to the point where it’s soft enough to loosen the screw. a moment of frustrated desperation (and subsequent years of application) taught me this. necessity truly is the mother of invention.

  15. When I wasn’t to do it ‘right’, I drill out the hole larger and plug and glue with the right sized dowel rod. Sand smooth let it dry, drill pilot hole, and screw away!

  16. steel wool is the best. you can really pack it in pretty tightly and when you drive the screw in the wool just bites into the wood even more. i think i saw this tip in popular mechanics years ago.


  17. Personally, I find it sad that people now a days need to “learn” these standard methods that have been around since the invention of the screw. As mankind has moved into the age of computer technology, far too many have lost touch with the hardware that has been with mankind since the invention of the wheel. Next we will read an article explaining how to replace a lightbulb. Imagine that folks, you can unscrew a lightbulb and then screw in another one. You may need other people to help however as it is a complicated task.

  18. NO!
    you don’t do it like that!!!
    you have to go to the furniture store and buy a whole new kitchen! what are you? afghanistani or something? and don’t forget to use your credit card! with 35% APR…

  19. I worked or a while as a maintenance man on a university campus. Every summer we had to go through the dorms and repair all the damaged furniture. I learned this trick from a guy named Hollywood, who just crammed toothpicks in there with no glue. I didn’t use the toothpick trick, preferring instead to find a larger screw.

    Neither option guarantees success with inferior particleboard.

    Unrelated: one time I found Hollywood’s false teeth in a bin of screws. When I pointed this out to him, he just popped them back in.

    Pro Tip: don’t eat ice cream from a half-empty carton found in a college kid’s freezer months after the kid moved out, and make especially sure that you don’t do this with the scraper you just used (along with industrial solvent) to remove tape residue from the walls. You just might get hepatitis.

      1. No problem. Here are some other things I learned and would like to pass on:

        1) If you PLACE a light bulb on the floor, it can’t FALL onto the floor. This is as true for a single incandescent as it is for a box of 30 4′ fluorescents. Although everyone should smash a box of fluorescent lamps at least once.

        2) If you are making a dolly and you have two fixed casters and two swivel casters, the fixed casters should not be attached diagonally from each other.

        3) You just can’t gum that dang old lettuce.

  20. I’ve taken to using cedar shims whittles down to fit the hole with 5 minute epoxy. Wood glue is,’t very good to fix this sort of thing as it needs close, clean contact of wood to wood, difficult to achieve in a stripped out screw hole. The epoxy has some gap filling qualities, sets quick, the cedar is soft & less likely to cause a split around the hole. If I’m thinking I’ll grab my paste wax, which lives in the same container as the epoxy kit, & wax the screw to keep it from getting glued to the epoxy.
    A tip from a pro.

  21. Try slivers of compressed instant sponges. Cut to size dry. Place dry sponge slivers in screw hole (or gap that ants are getting through). Trickle water on the ends of the slivers until they expand in place. Let dry. Saw off the front edges.

  22. I use golf tees, just tap it in with a hammer. They’re tapered nicely. You can also use them to shim out a sticky door or fill in screw holes left when you remove a door or need to move a shelf in a built-in unit. You can get a bag of wooden tees for almost nothing and once you have them you’ll find a million uses.

  23. Thanks so much for the tips! I just bought a used kitchen table that I fell in love with and have been dealing with loose screws trying to get it back to perfect.

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