It happens to the best of us — finding a screw that’s stuck on a faucet, towel bar, robe hook, or piece of machinery. The tiny hexagonal fasteners known as Allen screws can often seize up over time due to rust or dirt buildup. When this occurs, you can easily strip the screw head long before breaking the screw free. 

But we have a better fix: Instead of straining and stripping the head, try this helpful tip to loosen stuck Allen screws.

How To Loosen Stuck Allen Screws

It can be frustrating when Allen screws get stuck. But don’t strain yourself trying to muscle them loose. Here’s exactly what you should do instead. 

Rather than forcefully turning an Allen wrench in a stuck screw and stripping it, first try tapping the screw hole with a nail or punch. Insert the nail or punch fully into the recessed hole, then gently tap several times with a hammer. This helps dislodge any built-up gunk or corrosion preventing the screw from turning freely.

Apply penetrating oil into the recess and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. The lubricant seeps down the threads, helping loosen rust and grime. After soaking, gently turn the wrench again and see if the screw starts to budge. The penetrating oil gets down into the nooks and crannies, breaking up whatever’s preventing the screw from turning.

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If it’s still stuck, repeat tapping the recess with a nail and reapply more penetrant. Let the oil sit and work overnight if needed. The tapping force combined with the lubricating oil often does the trick to break free even the most stubborn screw.

If you get the Allen screw up a little and it’s stripped, you can try to clamp onto the screw head with a power tool (such as a drill) to loosen it. Or, you can try needle nose pliers or vice grips with a rubber band wrapped around the head to get the stripped bolt to budge. 

Forcing the hex screw too hard will likely strip and damage it. But this process of tapping, lubricating, and giving it time should loosen it so you can finally remove or adjust the stuck fastener.

Choosing the Right Allen Wrench

Having the right Allen key or wrench makes all the difference when trying to loosen a stuck screw. Consider these tips for selecting the best wrench for the job.

  • Pick the right size. Using the proper size wrench prevents stripping the recess. An ill-fitting wrench rounds the hex sides instead of seating fully to turn the screw. Allen wrenches come in metric and SAE Allen head sizes. For stubborn screws, use a genuine Allen-brand wrench fitted to the exact size.
  • Pick the right shape. The long-arm “L” shaped wrenches provide more torque versus the short arms of a T-handle. Use a ball-end wrench to reach recessed or obstructed screws at an angle. However, opt for hex-bit sockets with a ratchet for additional leverage on stiff screws.

When To Discard and Replace Stripped Screws

If an Allen screw is too far gone, you may need to replace it entirely. Here’s when to call it quits on a damaged screw.

If the screw is badly stripped or rounded, you’ll likely need to drill it out and replace it using a screw extractor kit. Damaged screws won’t hold well when re-tightened. Note that using stainless steel or brass screws can help avoid rust problems that could cause future seizing and the need for a Dremel.

Preventing Future Rust Buildup

To help prevent future rust and seizing of Allen screws, consider using a lubricant on the threads during installation. Apply a small amount of machine oil, grease, or anti-seize compound to the screw threads before tightening the screw into place. This lubrication makes it easier to remove the screw later on by protecting the threads from corrosion and sticking.

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Silicone-based lubricants work well for screws exposed to water, like those on faucets and shower heads. PTFE or graphite lubricants are ideal options for screws on machinery and metal parts.

Plan to reapply lubricant periodically as needed over the lifetime of the fastener, as proper lubrication goes a long way toward avoiding stuck Allen screws.

Lubricating Allen Screw Threads

The right lubricant keeps water and grime out of threads and maintains easy screw removal. There are a few lubricant options to choose from when installing Allen screws:

  • Machine oil: This is a thin and fast-drying, general-purpose lubricant.
  • White lithium grease: This lubricant is thick and long-lasting, which makes screws easier to remove over time.
  • Anti-seize compound: This mixture contains graphite or copper flakes and prevents galling and corrosion.
  • Silicone or PTFE spray: This spray is best for water resistance on wet screws, like faucets and pipes.

So, Is Removing Stuck Allen Screws Possible With Patience?

Stuck Allen screws can be incredibly frustrating. The recessed shape seems impossible to grip, and applying too much brute force just strips the head. But with a little finesse and the right technique, even the most stubborn Allen screw can be removed.

Penetrating lubricants combined with light tapping breaks the stubborn grip of rust and corrosion. Gradual loosening prevents stripped screw heads. The proper Allen wrench size also prevents rounding off the hex shape. Future seizing can be avoided with regular application of lubricating compounds.

So yes, removing stuck Allen screws is very possible. With strategic patience and the methods provided, you can prevail over the pesky fasteners. Just avoid pulling too hard or using the wrong tools. Care and steadiness keep you from making the problem worse. Your next stuck Allen screw is no match for this proven approach!

FAQs About Allen Screws

How do I know what size Allen wrench to use?

Look closely at the recess shape and measure it if needed. Metric Allen screws require a metric Allen wrench, while SAE screws need an SAE Allen wrench. Having a set of both standard and metric hex keys allows you to try different sizes. 

Sometimes people confuse Allen bolts with Torx (the head of the screw looks like an asterisk), so make sure you are using the right screw extractor. You can find affordable Allen, Torx, and Hex socket sets on Amazon and your local hardware store.  

Also, sometimes people confuse Allen bolts with Torx (the head of the screw looks like an asterisk), so make sure you are using the right screw extractor. You can find affordable Allen, Torx, and Hex socket sets on Amazon and your local hardware store. .

What can I do if my Allen wrench is slipping?

Slippage means the wrench isn’t fully seated in the recess. Try a different size wrench or file the worn end of the ill-fitting wrench to restore its shape. A ball-end wrench or pliers can help you grip at an angle.

What if the Allen screw head is completely rounded?

You may need to drill out and replace completely rounded screws. Use left-handed drill bits to help get the damaged Allen screw out. Chase the hole’s threads before installing a new screw.

How can I prevent corrosion on Allen screws?

Apply lubricant like oil or anti-seize compound to the screw threads before tightening. Use screws made of stainless steel or brass if rust is an ongoing issue. Periodic lubrication behind the head of the bolt maintains easy removal.

Should I just force a stuck Allen screw to turn?

No, forcing it will likely strip the recess, making it impossible to remove. Use penetrating oil and tapping to loosen it gradually instead. Patience and the right technique are best for success.

Further Reading

Editorial Contributors
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Jonathon Jachura


Jonathon Jachura is a two-time homeowner with hands-on experience with HVAC, gutters, plumbing, lawn care, pest control, and other aspects of owning a home. He is passionate about home maintenance and finding the best services. His main goal is to educate others with crisp, concise descriptions that any homeowner can use. Jon uses his strong technical background to create engaging, easy-to-read, and informative guides. He does most of his home and lawn projects himself but hires professional companies for the “big things.” He knows what goes into finding the best service providers and contractors. Jon studied mechanical engineering at Purdue University in Indiana and worked in the HVAC industry for 12 years. Between his various home improvement projects, he enjoys the outdoors, a good cup of coffee, and spending time with his family.

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Lori Zaino

Lori Zaino is a freelance writer and editor based in Madrid, Spain. With nearly two decades of editorial experience, she’s written and edited for publications like Forbes, CNN, Insider, NBC, Newsweek, The Points Guy, The Infatuation, and many others. Having just completed her first home renovation, she’s more interested in home improvements than ever, dedicated to bringing you fresh and accurate content to help you update your living spaces.

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