How to Unscrew a Small Screw Without a Screwdriver

Sometimes you don’t have the right tool for the job — especially when you’re working with tiny screws.

If you’ve ever had to unscrew a small screw that didn’t seem like it was designed to be removed by humans, then here’s what you need to know: there’s almost always a way.

A Phillips screwdriver won’t fit in some single-slot screws, and a flathead won’t work in Phillips screws.

Removing a Phillips Head Screw

Phillips head screws are very easy to identify. They are screws with two grooves forming a cross in the middle of the head of the screw.

Sometimes one of the grooves is longer than the other. In this case, you should use the longer groove for removing your Phillips head screw – it is easier to use.

Butter Knife

Let’s face it, sometimes turning a screw by hand is not an option. It might be a really small screw, or your hands are slippery with soap or oil, and you just can’t get it to catch.

If you have a butter knife with a rounded tip, then you’re in luck. Insert the knife in the slot of the screw.

Then angle the handle down to give you some leverage as you turn the screw counterclockwise. It should become unstuck.

Credit Card

It sounds like a joke, but if you only have a small screw, try using a credit card. It may work to get the screw out.


No matter the size of the screw, which can range between two and 12 millimeters in length, there are simple ways to grit your teeth and get the job done.

If you’ve got a dime on hand, preferably a thin one that’s no wider than the screw, you’re practically halfway through unscrewing your first stubborn screw.

Just place the dime beneath the head of the screw, then grip it by its sides with pliers or your fingers.

Old CD

If the screw is really loose, you can use one and a half CDs (Compact Discs). Place the edge of the first CD in one of the grooves and gently turn it counter-clockwise.

When it starts to get stuck, stop turning it and place the second CD next to the first on the side opposite of where the screw is.

Repeat this for the second groove right beside the first. Continue turning this way until both grooves are clear and you can remove or unscrew your screw.

Rubber Band

What is ingenious about this method is that it uses one of the most common household items for a job that most people don’t want to tackle with anything more than a screwdriver.

It only works, however, when the size of the screw is small, otherwise, you will probably snap the rubber band before ever getting the screw loose. Just wrap the rubber band around one end and use it to grip the screw and unscrew.

Flat Head Screwdriver

If you have a flat head screwdriver handy and need to unscrew a small Phillips head screw, use a flat head that is about the same length as the longer groove in the Phillips head screw.

Insert the flat head into the longer groove and turn counterclockwise to unscrew.

Removing a Flat Head Screw

A flat head screw has one groove across the head of the screw only.

The methods for removing a Phillips head screw can also be used to remove a flat head screw. These methods are:

  • Butter knife
  • Credit card
  • Coin
  • Old CD
  • Rubber band
  • Flat head screwdriver