How to Remove Painted Over Screws

You’re refinishing an old piece of furniture, and you come across a screw that’s been painted over. Or maybe you’re trying to Hang a picture frame, and the screws are so covered in paint that you can’t get them to budge. Whatever the situation, removing painted-over screws can be a real pain. But with a little patience and the right tools, it doesn’t have to be. First, start by examining the screw head. If the paint is flaking off or there is any rust, you’ll need to remove as much as possible before proceeding. If the paint is in good condition, you can skip this step.

How to Remove Painted Over Screws

Next, use a drill to create a small pilot hole in the center of the screw head. This will help prevent the screw from stripping when you remove it. It’s important to go slowly and be careful not to damage the surrounding area. With a little bit of elbow grease, you should be able to remove even the most stubborn of screws. In this blog post, You will learn in detail how to remove painted over screws.

How Do You Identify a Painted Over Screw?

Identifying a screw that has been painted over can be difficult because it is virtually impossible to differentiate between a painted and unpainted screw. However, there are a few telltale signs you should look for when trying to identify if a screw has been painted over.

One of the most common indicators of a painted-over screw is discoloration around the head of the screw. If a screw has been painted over, it will have an uneven and often patchy-looking surface that is different in color from any surrounding paintwork. 

Rough edges are also another sign of a painted-over screw. This can be caused by the paint cracking and chipping off as it dries, resulting in a rough, jagged surface. Additionally, you may notice that the screw head looks different from other screws of the same type.

Finally, if your screw is painted over, you may also notice rust around the head or underneath it. Rust can indicate moisture seeping into the screw as it was painted over, which can cause it to become corroded and weak.

You May Also Notice Rust

How Can You Tell if the Screw is Rusted or Corroded?

If you think the screw may be rusted or corroded, try to turn it with a flathead screwdriver. You can usually tell by the appearance of the screw. If it is rusty, it will have a red or orange color. If it is corroded, it will have a green or black color. 

You can also tell by the amount of rust or corrosion on the screw. If there is a lot, it is probably rust. If there is just a little, it might be corrosion. Finally, you can try to unscrew the screw. It is probably rusted or corroded if it is very difficult to turn.

Tools Are Needed


A screwdriver is a tool used to turn screws. When removing painted-over screws, you will need both a Phillips and flathead screwdriver. The Philips head works best on cross-shaped screw heads, while the flathead is better for straight-lined slots.


A drill can be used to make a pilot hole in the center of the painted-over screw head. This will help to loosen and remove the screw.

Paint Stripper:

If the painted-over screw is heavily coated in paint, you may need to use a paint stripper to remove as much of the paint as possible before attempting to unscrew it.

Screw Extractor:

A screw extractor is a specialized tool designed specifically for removing damaged or stripped screws. It works by drilling into the screw and creating a new groove for a screwdriver to grip onto.


Pliers can be used to grip the screw head and provide extra torque when trying to unscrew it. They are especially useful if the screw is rusted or corroded and difficult to turn.

This Can Be Done With a Putty Knife

Step-by-Step Processes for How to Remove Painted Over Screws 

Step 1:  Choose an Appropriate Screwdriver

You want to ensure that the head of the screw is properly matched with the tip of your chosen screwdriver, so you don’t strip any screws if it’s too large or small. If possible, try to loosen and remove as much of the existing paint/coating over the screw as possible. This can be done with a putty knife or sandpaper.

Step 2: Heat the Screw with a Hairdryer

Using a hairdryer, heat up the screw and surrounding paint/coating. This will help soften and loosen the material, making it easier to remove. Be sure not to place the hairdryer directly on top of the screw so you don’t damage it. Otherwise, you can also use a heat gun if you have one available. It will provide more heat and make the process easier.

Step 3: Apply Penetrating Oil 

Once you have heated the screw, apply some penetrating oil to the surface. This will help to break down the paint and let it slip off much easier. Let the oil sit on top of the screw for several minutes before proceeding with your project. If you don’t have penetrating oil, you can also use a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water. You can put it on the screw head and let it sit for a few minutes.

Step 4: Insert the Screwdriver into the Screw Head 

Carefully insert the appropriate screwdriver into the head of the screw and twist it slowly. Using a putty knife, carefully remove the paint/coating from around the screw. Be careful not to scratch or damage parts nearby. Keep twisting the screwdriver until you feel it catch on the head and start to turn.

Step 5: Apply More Penetrating Oil if Needed 

If you find that the paint/coating is still stuck onto the screw, apply more penetrating oil and let it sit for a few more minutes. This should help to loosen the material and make it easier to remove. Continue turning the screwdriver slowly and gently until you feel it catch on something, which is usually a sign that the screw has broken free from its paint/coating. 

Step 6: Remove the Screw 

Once the screw has been loosened enough, you can remove it from its hole. Make sure to note what direction it came out in and where it was located so that you can reinstall it correctly. Using a damp cloth or rag, wipe away any remaining paint or coating that may still be stuck to the screw. Place the screw back into its hole in the same direction it came out and twist it back into place.

Step 7: If All Else Fails, Use a Screw Extractor

If the screw is still stuck and cannot be removed using the above steps, it may be necessary to use a screw extractor. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer of your chosen extractor tool to carefully remove the damaged or stripped screw. You may also need to use pliers or a drill as well. It is important to be patient and gentle when using a screw extractor to avoid causing further damage. 

Following these steps on how to remove painted over screws, you should now have successfully removed a painted-over screw. Remember to always be careful when working with screws and use appropriate tools for the job. With the right techniques and tools, you can easily remove any stubborn painted-over screws in your next DIY project. Happy fixing!

Use an Oscillating Tool

Tips for How to Remove Painted Over Screws 

  1. Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from any debris that may fly off during the process.
  2. Make sure to wear gloves and use a hand tool (an electric screwdriver or socket wrench) when removing the screws. Be careful not to over-tighten the screw head, as this can cause further damage to the surface of the screw.
  3. Use a metal putty knife or similar item to gently pry off the paint from the head of the screw. Make sure you are gentle and do not scratch the surface of the screws too much to avoid any further damage.
  4. If necessary, use an oscillating tool (such as a Dremel tool) to carefully sand down the paint from around the head of the screw. This will help loosen any stubborn paint that has hardened over time. Be sure to use a low-speed setting to avoid damaging the screws further.

What Can You Do to Prevent Painted Over Screws From Corroding?

If you have painted-over screws that have already corroded, the best thing to do is remove them and replace them with new ones. But if you want to prevent it from happening again, there are some steps you can take. Before painting, ensure all screws are rust-proof and properly lubricated with a quality lubricant. This will make it harder for moisture and paint to break down the screw and cause corrosion.

You should also use a primer before painting screws, which will help protect them from rusting due to the paint. Additionally, consider using caulk or sealants where possible to further waterproof the area around the screws. If the screws are made of metal, you should consider applying a topcoat or sealant over the paint after painting them. This will help protect them from moisture and will make it more difficult for rust to form in the future.

It’s also important to check your painted-over screws regularly to ensure they don’t become loose or corroded. You can do this by using a screwdriver to tighten any loose screws or a mild detergent solution to clean off any rust spots that develop.

Are There Any Special Techniques for Removing Painted Over Screws That Have Been in Place for a Long Time? 

When removing painted-over screws that have been in place for a long time, it is important to take extra precautions. If possible, start by trying to loosen the screw with a regular screwdriver or cordless drill. However, if this does not work, you may need to use more specialized tools, such as an impact driver or even a hacksaw, to cut the screw head off.

Another option is to use a heat gun or hair dryer to soften the paint around the screws and loosen them up. Once heated, you can use a regular screwdriver or an impact driver if necessary. However, be sure not to overheat the screws, as this could damage them and make them impossible to remove.

If the screw is stuck and cannot be removed by any of these methods, then your best option may be to drill out the screw head and replace it with a new one or fill the hole with wood filler if possible.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Can I Reuse the Same Screw After Removing It From a Painted Surface?

A: Yes, as long as the screw is not damaged during the removal process and is still able to grip securely into the material. You may need to clean off any remaining paint or coating before reusing the screw. It is also important to note where the screw was located and in which direction it was inserted. This will ensure proper reinstallation and prevent any potential issues with the screw moving forward.

Q: What If I Accidentally Strip the Screw While Trying to Remove It?

A: If you accidentally strip a painted-over screw, there are a few options available. You can try using an impact driver or pliers to grip onto the sides of the screw head and turn it. Another option is to use a screw extractor tool, which is specifically designed to remove stripped screws. If all else fails, you may need to drill out the screw and replace it with a new one.

Q: Can I Paint Over Screws Without Causing Damage or Corrosion?

A: Yes, you can paint over screws as long as they are rust-proof and properly lubricated beforehand. It is also important to use a primer before painting the screws and to apply a topcoat or sealant afterward for added protection against moisture and corrosion. The key is to make sure the screws are properly prepared and sealed before painting. However, it is generally recommended to avoid painting over screws if possible, as it can make them more difficult to remove in the future.

Q: Is There a Difference Between Painted Over Screws and Stripped Screws?

A: Yes, painted-over screws have been covered in paint or coating, whereas stripped screws occur when the head of the screw has been damaged or worn down, making it difficult to grip and remove. While similar techniques can be used to remove both types of screws, painted-over screws may require additional steps such as sanding or using a heat gun to loosen the paint before attempting removal. Stripped screws may also need specialized tools like screw extractors to help loosen and remove them. It is important to properly identify the type of screw before attempting removal.

Q: How Can I Prevent Screws From Rusting When Painting Over Them?

A: To prevent screws from rusting when painting over them, it is important to use rust-proof screws and properly lubricate them before painting. Applying a primer before painting will also help protect the screws from rust caused by the paint. Additionally, using caulk or sealants around the screws can further waterproof the area and protect against moisture. After painting, consider applying a topcoat or sealant over the screws for added protection against rust in the future. Regularly checking and maintaining painted-over screws can also help prevent rusting over time. 

Q: Is It Necessary to Remove Painted Over Screws Before Painting?

A: It is not always necessary to remove painted-over screws before painting, but it is generally recommended. If the screws are in good condition and properly prepared beforehand, they can be left in place. However, removing them allows for better coverage and ensures that the paint adheres directly to the surface without any obstruction. It also allows for easier maintenance and potential future replacement if needed. Ultimately, the decision to remove or leave painted-over screws before painting depends on the situation and personal preference. 

Overall, taking proper precautions and regularly checking and maintaining painted-over screws can help prevent any potential issues in the future. So, be sure to follow these tips for successfully painting over screws without causing damage or corrosion. Happy painting!

 Fill the Hole With Wood Filler if Possible


Removing painted-over screws can be tricky, but with the right tools and techniques, it doesn’t have to be. By heating up the screw head with a heat gun or blow torch, then using an appropriate screwdriver for the job, you should be able to get your screws out without damaging them. 

If that fails, try cutting off the head of the screw with a saw and then using pliers to extract it. I hope this article has been beneficial in learning how to remove painted over screws. Make Sure the precautionary measures are followed chronologically.

Photo of author

Enrique Howard

Hi, I am Enrique. I started my professional life as a handyman and did a lot of external and internal repair of home and office with a little bit of electric and plumbing support. I have extensive experience in tools testing such as drilling, turning, milling, and non-conventional machining like EDM. So let me help you on your journey towards becoming an enlightened DIYer with amazing tools that you can use on your project.

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