What to Use if You Don’t Have a Screwdriver

6 min read

what to use if you don't have a screwdriver

Does this situation sound familiar? You need to remove some screws from a piece of furniture, remove screws from a wall, open your laptop or computer case, but don’t have a screwdriver?

Don’t worry – you aren’t alone in this! Many of us have experienced this situation and the frustration it brings. Even fantastic plumbers, electricians, painting and decorating professionals have experienced it. The good news is that we have gathered a list of everyday objects, which you can use to complete your task without having to leave your home to borrow or buy a screwdriver.

Removing a Phillips head screw

Phillips head screws have two grooves that form a cross on the top and are the most common type of screws in use. Be careful when using the following methods as it is very easy to strip or wear down the corners formed by the grooves and the head of the screw. Stripped screws become very difficult to remove.

Flathead screwdriver

If the only screwdriver you own is flat-headed, you can use this to remove Phillips head screws. Insert the end of the screwdriver into the longer of the two grooves and turn it counter-clockwise. Be aware that if the screwdriver is too small, you may end up stripping the corners inside the screw head.


Place the edge of a small coin (pennies work well for this) into the longest groove of the screw head and try turning the screw counter-clockwise. This method will generally only work on larger screws rather than smaller ones.

Butter knife

Similar to using a coin, place the flat edge of the butter knife in one of the grooves of the screw and try turning it counter-clockwise to unscrew. If the screw is very tight or the butter knife is of low quality, the knife may bend when you try to remove the screw.


If the screw head is raised above the surface of the material it is fastened to and you don’t have a pair of pliers (or they didn’t work), find your hacksaw and saw along the line of one of the grooves to extend it. You should now be able to remove the screw using a flat-headed screwdriver or a coin.


If you have an old toothbrush and a lighter, you can try this method as a last resort. Melt the end of your toothbrush with a lighter or another source of heat. Once the end is soft and melting, place it directly into the grooves of the screw head and allow it to cool down. Once the plastic has hardened, you may try turning it counter-clockwise to remove the screw.

This method is best suited for loose screws. Tighter screws will cause the toothbrush to snap, leaving some plastic inside the grooves of the screw head. When using a lighter, melt the plastic slowly and carefully to avoid any accidents and melted plastic dripping all over the place.

Old CD

If the screw is quite loose, you can use an old CD to remove it. Place the edge of the CD in one of the grooves and gently turn the CD counter-clockwise. If the CD starts to warp, immediately stop turning it. This means that the screw is too tight and the CD may break, which could lead to injury.


If the screw is not screwed all the way through, you can try using a pair of pliers to remove it. Grip the screw head with your pliers and slowly turn them counter-clockwise to remove it.


This method will only work if the screw is quite loose. If it is fastened tightly, do not attempt this method as this may lead to injury! Place the edge of your nail into one of the grooves and turn counter-clockwise until it is loose enough to remove with your fingers.

Explore our other tool replacement guide and learn what to use if you don’t have a wrench.

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Removing a flathead screw

Flat head screws have a single groove running along the top of the screw head and are more commonly found in older furniture.

Some of the Phillips head screw removal methods can also be used for flatheads, these are:

  • Using a coin;
  • Using a kitchen butter knife;
  • Using pliers;
  • Using your thumbnail.

Other ways of removing flat head screws are:

  • Using a card. Any type of plastic card can be used, be it credit or debit cards, library cards, ID cards, or National Insurance cards. Don’t use a card that cannot be easily replaced  – if the screw is too tight, your card may snap. Place the edge of your chosen card into the groove and turn counter-clockwise until the screw can be removed.
  • Using the tab from a can of juice. Remove the tab from the can and place the flat edge into the groove of the screw, then turn counter-clockwise to remove the screw.

Check our list of 15 tools for every homeowner and get those DIY repair projects started.

Removing a small screw

Even with a proper screwdriver, small screws are a fiddly nightmare to remove due to their tininess, so the methods listed above will not work. Use caution when trying the methods below as it is quite easy to strip the screw head or cause the tool to slip.

  • The tip of a knife. Insert the tip of a pointed knife into the head of the screw. If possible, tilt the knife a little bit for better stability. Carefully turn the knife counter-clockwise to remove the screw.
  • Metal nail file. Place the tip of the nail file into the head of the screw and turn counter-clockwise. Don’t apply too much pressure when removing the screw as you may strip the screw head.
  • Small scissors. If you have a pair of small vanity scissors, place the tip of one of the blades into the head of the screw and turn counter-clockwise to remove the screw. The scissors should be sharp as blunted scissors will not work well when attempting to remove the screw.
  • Tweezers. Place one of the pointy tips of a pair of tweezers into the screw head and carefully turn them counter-clockwise. If the tweezers do not have a pointy end, you will not be able to insert them properly.

So there we have it, you can now remove screws without needing a screwdriver. We always recommend that you use the right tool for the job to reduce the chance of injury. However, if you have no other options or need to remove a screw in a hurry, there is no harm in properly using one of the methods above.

Header image source: supercavie/shutterstock.com

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10 Responses

  1. Christian Morales says:

    Thanks for the hacklife tips. I’ll use it just in case of emergency. 😀

  2. Dinah says:

    The tweezer method worked out great for removing a tiny screw. Thank you!

  3. Gaetan says:

    Once I used the point of a roofing nail to screw back a very small screw that had fallen of my reading glasses….worked like a charm….now I know ….and so do you all lol

  4. Gaetan says:

    Oh….you might need to square off the very tip of the nail …for it to work nicely….even a *fingernail file will Work

  5. banana says:

    thanks now i can take my school apart one screw at a time

  6. John adam says:

    helpful product

  7. Christian says:

    Simple solutions are always the best. I must remember about it – you never know when it might be helpful;). Thank you for sharing.

  8. Alan Davis says:

    A nail can be shaped into a star wrench, etc, with a few light taps from a hammer. Very useful

  9. Sherri says:

    Something I find useful is the pointed end of a nail.

  10. Saws Hub says:

    Great ideas, very helpful right now as I can’t be bothered to look for my lost screwdriver right now, thanks for this!

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