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Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

Category Electrical
You need to be careful not to break the glass when removing a stubborn bulb. This guide is about removing a stuck light bulb.
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January 28, 2010

Having to change a "stubborn" light bulb from your freezer or refrigerator, not wanting it to break in your hand? Take a hairdryer to it! Aim the air at the base of the bulb's area where it screws in and it will unleash the grasp on the bulb and you are ready to install the new bulb.

By Trisha from Ventura, CA

Comment Was this helpful? 6
February 11, 20170 found this helpful

Hairdryer worked like a charm! In less that a minute I was able to unscrew the bulb without breaking! I thought it must have been a sticky substance but when I unscrewed the bulb-I saw a chunk of ice covering the back of the socket!

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Questions

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0 found this helpful
February 22, 2017

I have a stuck light bulb that I need to remove. However, all of the solutions I've found seem unlikely to help; whenever I attempt to unscrew the bulb, the ceramic socket starts to unscrew instead. The ceramic is covered, so I can't hold onto it to keep it from moving. Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with that, short of trying to take the entire fixture apart?

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
February 22, 20171 found this helpful
Best Answer

As always seems to be the case for me, I found the solution shortly after posing the question. Use a rubber jar opener to give the ceramic some much-needed grip, and then you can unscrew as normal. As it is, I still unscrewed the socket itself more than I would have liked, but everything managed to come back together.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
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February 22, 20170 found this helpful

I do one of two methods. Shut off the power, break off bulb, and use pliers OR shut off the power, break of the bulb and jam half of a large raw potato into it, then turn the potato. Sounds weird, but it works--I learned it several decades ago in a high school shop class.

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February 23, 20170 found this helpful

Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know the solution. It will definitely help future readers with the same issue.

Have a great day!

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2 found this helpful
July 17, 2010

How do I remove a light bulb stuck in the ceiling socket?

By Alex from Naples, FL

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Answer Was this helpful? 2
December 16, 20071 found this helpful
Best Answer

I have used gaffer's tape especially with floodlight or spotlight bulbs. Use a 6 inch or so strip of tape and tape about 1/2 of it at one side of the face of the bulb. Tape a second piece opposite the first. Take the end of each piece of tape and pull in the counterclockwise direction. Bulbs that I couldn't turn by hand or with rubber gripper can undone easily with tape. Duct tape or other film tape works as well but everyone should have some gaffer's tape around. It is wonderful.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
February 27, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

For a recessed bulb, like in a stove top cover, use a piece of tape on the bulb. Duct tape or packaging tape will work. Just get enough to cover the bulb and fold the remainder back. Of course make sure the power is off. Remember, safety first.

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July 21, 20100 found this helpful
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Turn off power at the breaker box. Take a potato cut in half for grabbing the bulb and turn, voila. :)

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February 6, 20140 found this helpful

The metal part of my light bulb is stuck in socket of my curio stand. The glass part broke off in my hand. I unplugged the curio stand and have been working with needle nose pliers. The pliers are tearing through the metal part of the bulb. I think if I continue it will eventually come loose.

Is there any danger of electrical shock! I don't think I should have to turn off the power at the circuit box since I unplugged the curio stand from the wall. I have the patience to keep working at it with the pliers but my main concern is getting electrically shocked or knocked on my rear!

By Samuel from Farrell, PA

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February 7, 20140 found this helpful
Best Answer

If you have unplugged the curio stand from the wall outlet you are fine. If the pliers keep tearing the metal, try this: Cut a potato so that it just barely fits into the socket. Push it down into the socket hard and turn the potato to the left. This should get the bulb base loose. Good luck.

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February 7, 20142 found this helpful
Best Answer

Samuel, I have done this many times with broken bulbs, particularly Christmas bulbs which are often cheaply made and prone to the glass breaking or separating from the metal base. All you have to do is unplug the lamp or light string, wait a minute or so for any electrical charges to drain away, and then start twisting the metal base out with the needlenose pliers. Before putting a new bulb in, wipe a tiny bit of petroleum jelly around the base of the new bulb, to keep it from rusting or corroding and sticking to the socket. Don't get the petroleum jelly on the contact point at the bottom, though, just on the threads. Next time you should be able to unscrew the bulb without having the glass break off. (Again, if the bulb is cheaply made, the glass part might come loose from the base anyway, but if you use the petroleum jelly on the base, it should come out easily.)

If the glass breaks off from the base in a ceiling fixture, or other hard-wired fixture, then you do have to turn off the circuit breaker before removing the base from the socket. Turn off the wall switch for the fixture, and then turn off the circuit breaker for that fixture. Wear rubber-soled shoes and use a wood or fiberglass ladder - not metal. A portable LED lantern can be a help while working on the problem.

I also recommend wearing work gloves to protect your hands from the broken glass and the sharp metal from the base of the bulb, plus a pair of wrap-around work goggles to protect your eyes from shattered glass. Remember, an intact bulb might shatter while you're trying to loosen it.

Be safe, and good luck!

Reply Was this helpful? 2
February 8, 20140 found this helpful

As long as you pulled the plug from the outlet you will ok. Electricity needs the plug to be in the outlet in order to go to the light.

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March 18, 20131 found this helpful

I have a very small light bulb stuck in my stove hood that I cannot remove. It is hard for me to get any kind of a grip on it because it isn't sticking out very far. Please help.

By Mary R from Eagan, MN

Answer Was this helpful? 1
March 19, 20130 found this helpful

Most likely someone put the wrong size bulb in. If there is someone with maintenance skills that can help, I would take that route first. You can always try a pliers but you should wear protective eye gear, in case it breaks. However, is there something very close to it that can be removed like the vent cover, knobs or brackets? I hope these have helped.

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March 20, 20130 found this helpful

If you have one of those flat rubbery holders for opening tight jars, maybe you could fit the edges around the bulb and get a grip that way. Good luck!

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March 20, 20130 found this helpful

Have you tried using a pair of pliers? Should help

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July 3, 20130 found this helpful

I have a recessed spotlight in my kitchen ceiling that seems to be corroded because I can't twist it out. I have no way of doing the tape wrap trick either as it is too recessed to work around. Any suggestions as how to remove without shattering the light bulb?

By JL

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
May 9, 20140 found this helpful

My ceiling light in the kitchen also was stuck when it burnt out. No way to get my fingers around the bulb because the bulb was so far recessed. I put a piece of clear packing tape (duct tape would have worked too but I was too lazy to go to the garage and packing tape was in my desk) on it with pieces hanging down on both sides, grabbed the two pieces and pulled in opposite directions. The bulb turned as if it had been greased and came right out.

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Anonymous
May 7, 20160 found this helpful

I had the same problem, get the tape up the sides using a butter knife, etc. The tape is the only thing that works. I was able to grip the vise grip pliers on the bulb once I had the edges taped.

I broke the bulb out of the base and removed the base with needle nose pliers. ( with the power off of course ). Then lubricate jemust the threads in the new bulb so it won't be a problem next time. PS Potatoes are goid to eat later to relieve the stress. Not to remove a "stuck" bulb.

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Anonymous
May 17, 20160 found this helpful

Ihad the same problem with a bulb ina recessed light fixture. We have to use a ladder to reach this fixture - the bulbs do not get changed very often. Hence we were going to change all 3 bulbs. Two wouldn't come out. We read the idea of a suction cup to give turning power. A suction cup was found ( it was on the end of a hook that I put on my oven door to hold a towel ) IT WORKED PERFECTLY.

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May 21, 20140 found this helpful

The exit sign bulb went out. It's a 20 watt with no threads, but won't come out of the socket. I try turning it, but it seems stuck. Any help would be great.

By Chris

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May 31, 20140 found this helpful

Spray some WD40 into the socket around the light bulb.

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July 30, 20130 found this helpful

What can you apply to the threads of a light bulb to stop galling of the threads?

By Robert

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August 1, 20130 found this helpful

Rub a small amount of Vaseline on the threads. It prevents rust and makes the bulb easier to remove, especially if it is seldom used and spends months or years in the fixture. Be sure not to get Vaseline on the contact point on the bottom.

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July 22, 20120 found this helpful

How do you get a light bulb out of a ceiling fan socket?

By Tom

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July 30, 20120 found this helpful

Make sure the lights are off and spray some Pam in the socket itself. With an oven glove, gently turn the bulb and it should come out. If not, look away and break the glass. Then, cut a spud in half and stick it in the broken area, then turn it. Most likely the first idea will help. If you can't get it out then, turn off the circuit to the light and use a pliers to turn it out.

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September 20, 20130 found this helpful

I have an under-cabinet fluorescent fixture that was installed at the time my house was built, 15 years ago. The tube in that fixture has burned out and needs to be replaced, but it will not budge. How do I safely remove the tube? Thank you.

By Frances V.

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Archives

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July 17, 20100 found this helpful

How do I get a stuck light bulb out of a socket?

By gmack

Answers:

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

First: Flip the circuit breaker to "off".

realsimple.com

If the globe revolves and the base doesn't, you may have to break the globe and use the "potato method". (09/01/2009)

By Cajun62234

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

Tried the tape for a stuck light bulb, worked like a charm in less than 2 minutes and no broken glass. Thanks so much. (12/14/2009)

By lbarnes

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

Couldn't get soap to work so I tried about 5 unsharpened pencils and placed a rubber band around the end. Then I was able to unscrew the light bulb base. I changed 3 broken light bulbs in about 5 minutes. My wife had the pencil idea. (07/13/2010)

By bmills1228

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September 1, 20090 found this helpful

How do you remove a light bulb that won't unscrew? It just turns the wires when I turn it.

Eric from Columbus, OH

Answers:

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

Do not use something like WD40, it can leave a residue which can cause a short between contacts. As with everyone else's suggestion, turn off the power, preferably at the breaker or fuse. Some fixtures can be miswired and the neutral is still live and you can get shocked. Next, wrap the bulb in a heavy cloth that will catch the glass if the bulb breaks. With many bulbs the glass will twist loose from the base and the filament wire will be all that still connects it. They are very fine wires and will break if you continue to twist.

Take a pair of needle nose pliers with insulated handles, double check that the power is still off, and grasp the edge of the base and twist. It will either come loose or collapse inward and then can be easily removed. If you are not comfortable doing this call an electrician. They are trained for this and have tools designed to work on these types of things. They may be expensive, but not as much as you'll spend if you get hurt.

Do you mean the socket turns? If so do not twist the bulb. You will damage the socket and or wiring, possibly causing a short. You will need to hold the socket so it cannot turn while doing the above. (11/29/2006)

By zoodad

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

  1. Safety-first: pull the plug, wear leather gloves, and safety glasses.
  2. Equip yourself with a rubberized cloth for adhesion.
  3. Approach the task with an affirmative, can-do attitude. A facial grimace helps.
  4. Applying steady, but not overwhelming pressure, grasp the piece of cloth firmly, attempt to turn the bulb counterclockwise. (note: if it is an item such as a table lamp, turn the base of the lamp slightly in the opposing direction at the same time).
  5. Repeat as often as necessary.

The important thing is not to give up. What goes on, must, in due course, come off.

(01/13/2007)

By Persistent Bob (aka, the pest)

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

There is a product on the market that will stop all of those stuck light bulbs in your house. It is called Sure Connect Bulb Grease. It is made by TW Performance Polymers. I have used this product for five years and no more stuck light bulbs. It works best on incandescent bulbs, floodlamps, canlights, and most of all ceiling fan lights. (09/24/2007)

By handymanaround the house

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

I have used gaffer's tape especially with floodlight or spotlight bulbs. Use a 6 inch or so strip of tape and tape about 1/2 of it at one side of the face of the bulb. Tape a second piece opposite the first. Take the end of each piece of tape and pull in the counterclockwise direction. Bulbs that I couldn't turn by hand or with rubber gripper can be undone easily with tape. Duct tape or other film tape works as well, but everyone should have some gaffer's tape around. It is wonderful. (12/16/2007)

By Eddie

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

Once the glass breaks, there is no doubt you have a problem, particularly if the lamp is an appliance type with a small socket. There is a solution, however. Run, do not walk to your nearest hardware store and buy yourself some "Gunk Liquid Wrench". It costs about 4 bucks. Soak a Q Tip with a small amount of Liquid Wrench and apply it around the edge of the remains of the bulb in the socket or the bulb base if glass is still intact. You need very little. The Liquid wrench creeps into the joint and voila, if the glass is still there, the bulb will twist out easily.

If no glass, wrap rubber bands around a dowel of the approximates size of what is left of the bulb base and plug the dowel into the base and twist counter-clockwise. Voila No. 2, out comes the base, no problem. Remember to pull the plug/turn off the power and wear work gloves and goggles if necessary before you do anything. Liquid Wrench has been around for at least 70 years that I know of, and probably more. It works great for frozen nuts and bolts, too. Doesn't mix very well with ginger ale, though. (02/25/2008)

By Rob, Elora Ontario Canada

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

In my case the bulb had shattered, but the little glass stick (technically called glass mount) was still standing. So I wrapped a rubber around the little stick, and put Nivea cream around the base of the bulb, and success. (10/04/2008)

By Facundo

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

If you can't find the duck tape, reinforced packing tape with the string like parallel ribs works, too. (10/13/2008)

By Pat

Removing a Stuck Light Bulb

I tried the duct tape and it worked but after a few tries. The stubborn bulb had probably been in the socket for well over 15 years (never replaced it before). I tried the tape trick a couple of times and the tape came off pretty easily. Then I got the idea that the bulb exterior might be dirty or greasy. I got some Fantastic, sprayed it liberally into some paper towels, and cleaned the bulb well. I let it dry and then tried the tape again and it worked beautifully. Thanks so much for the tip. (12/09/2008)

By Tried Tape and it Works

Comment Was this helpful? Yes

November 29, 20060 found this helpful

How do you get a light bulb out of the hood of a stove? It is completely stuck.

Thanks,
Ginny

Answers:

Removing Stuck Light Bulb

As there's no other feedback yet, and I can't think of an easy method(!) I'll offer the only method I can think off. Make sure the power is unplugged, cover the bulb with a cloth and smash it. This will expose the metal socket part so you can grip it with pointed pliers and twist and pull until you get it out. This method would only be a last resort obviously! Do you know what is holding it in? If its a bayonet fitting it will need to be pushed inward before turning anti-clockwise. If you get a replacement bulb you will be able to check the fitting type out. The manufacturer may have a website you can contact for advice. (07/13/2004)

By Jo

Removing Stuck Light Bulb

I found this at This Old House: When a burned-out bulb is stuck in its socket, your only option is to turn it until it either unscrews or shatters. First, unplug the fixture. Then, wearing leather work gloves and safety goggles, carefully twist the bulb until it loosens. (Cover it with a rag for extra protection.) If it shatters, remove the glass shards. Then unscrew the base of the bulb by firmly pressing a raw, un-peeled potato or a bar of soap into the socket and giving it a good twist. If the spud or soap slips, press it in harder and try again until the base breaks free. (07/13/2004)

By Dan>

Removing Stuck Light Bulb

Heloise (from hints from Heloise) says not to use a potato as they have juice in them, Instead press a bar of soap onto the bulb. (07/13/2004)

Removing Stuck Light Bulb

Try spraying a bit of WD-40 around the socket/bulb connection . Be sure the power source is off. (07/13/2004)

By Linda

Removing Stuck Light Bulb

My thought was WD40 too. Soap sounds like a good idea. If you use pliers or any metal tools make sure you are wearing shoes with rubber souls and the pliers have insulated handles. And yes, be sure the power source is off! (07/14/2004)

By Anne H.

Comment Was this helpful? Yes
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