How to Remove a Rusted Screw From a Shower Handle

Although removing a shower handle is typically a quick and easy task, rusty screws can throw a curveball, making things a bit more complicated. Shower handles are usually fixed in place by a set screw that holds them to the valve stem. Use this quick guide to help you remove the rusty screw from your bathroom’s shower handle.

Locate The Screw

It seems fair to assume that if you know the screw is rusty, you know where it is on your shower handle. Just in case you don’t, it should be located near the lever’s base, sometimes behind it. Some manufacturers cover it with a decorative cap that you will need to pop off.

Now that we have confirmed we all know where the set screw is, we can get started on removing it. Rusty screws can be tricky to remove, as you don’t want to damage the rest of the faucet, or worse, the plumbing hiding behind it.

Removing The Rusty Screw

There are a couple of methods you can try when attempting to remove a rusty screw. Some of these methods can and will damage the fixture, so it is essential to be careful and keep that in mind.

Removing The Rusty Screw

Before you get too carried away with attempting to remove the screw, ensure that the water supply is off (if you are taking the faucet apart), and use a towel to cover the drain in case any parts drop.

When handling rusty material, wearing protective gear, such as safety glasses and a mask to prevent you from breathing in rust particles while working on the screw doesn’t hurt.

Method 1:

If the screw head isn’t damaged or overly corroded, you may be able to remove it without having to do any in-depth methods that will consume your time. Using a pair of vise grip or locking pliers, grasp the screw head firmly and turn until the screw loosens.

However, with corroded screws or screws that are embedded in the handle, this method may not work for you, so continue to the others.

Method 2: WD-40

Before trying any of the other following methods, it doesn’t hurt to give WD-40 a try. In some cases, a couple of squirts of WD-40 on the rusty screw will help loosen things up enough to remove it. Try this method before any of the others, as it could prevent you from wasting time.

All you’ll need is WD-40 and a screwdriver or Allen wrench since most set screws are Philip’s head or Allen screws. Simply coat the screw and surrounding area with the lubricant and allow it to sit for a while.

Once it has sat, attempt to remove the screw with an appropriately sized screwdriver or Allen wrench. You also can try a penetrating oil to remove the screw. If you do choose to try a penetrating oil, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Penetrating oil can stain certain materials, so be careful where it drips.

Method 3: Hammer And Screwdriver

Rusty screws can be challenging. You can try using a hammer, screwdriver, and a few other tools to remove the offending screw. However, set screws with a Philips screw head tend to wilt under pressure and strip reasonably easily, especially when using a power drill.

Hammer And Screwdriver

Stripped screws are a whole different ballgame, but we’ll take a quick look at removal tips down below.

For this method, you’ll need:

  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver or Allen wrench
  • Commercial rust penetrant
  • Gripping paste (as needed)

To start, strike the screw a few times with the hammer. This should help break the rust seal that is giving you issues. Next, spray the rust penetrant on the screw. Products like Liquid Wrench, which is a formula that targets corrosion and rust, may do the trick here.

Note the directions on the rust penetrant packaging; many products like these need to be used in a well-ventilated area and have specific instructions on their usage. This product will help loosen the rust and act as a lubricant to help remove the screw.

As the packaging indicates, ensure that you give the product time to process if there is a wait time. Next, use the hammer to tap the screw a couple more times and a few taps around the screw.

Use an appropriately sized screwdriver to remove the screw. If there is no give and the screw remains stuck, you can try using a gripping paste to help keep the screwdriver fixed in place. If you decide to use a gripping paste, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.

Method 4: Heat


For rusty screws that continue to hold fast, you can try to remove the set screw with heat. It is important to note that this method can cause substantial damage to the fixture, so you should use this as a last resort.

For this method, you’ll need:

  • Water-based degreaser
  • Leather gloves
  • Fire extinguisher (for safety)
  • Torch
  • Cold water
  • Screwdriver

Before starting to heat the screw with the torch, ensure that you have removed any residual products that may be flammable with the water-based degreaser. If you tried the methods above, which require penetrating oil and rust penetrant, make sure you remove all of the product in its entirety.

Once you have thoroughly cleaned the area, use the torch to heat the screw. Make sure you have your fire extinguisher close by and are wearing leather gloves. The heat from the torch may cause specific finishes to blister and can damage any other parts susceptible to heat.

Douse the screw in cold water immediately after the torch. Repeat the heating and cooling process several more times. While the heat causes the screw to expand, the cold causes it to contract. When used in tandem, they can help loosen the screw.

Allow the screw to sit until the area is cool to the touch, then use a screwdriver to remove it.

How To Remove A Stripped Screw

While attempting to remove a screw that refuses to budge, it is easy to strip it. If, during these methods, you managed to strip the screw, no worries. There are a few methods that you can try.

First, try to use a rubber band. Place the rubber band into the stripped screw and fit the screwdriver in after it. This should help occupy the space in the stripped screw enough for you to gain enough traction to remove the screw.

If that doesn’t help, you’ll need a few tools, including:

  • Power drill
  • Standard drill bit
  • Screw extractor
  • Adjustable wrench

To start, fit the drill bit onto the power drill. The bit diameter should be big enough to fit into the head of the screw. Ensure that it isn’t too big, or you’ll create a whole different issue to deal with.

Power drill

Once the drill is fitted with the bit, drill out the center of the head. Drill just down through the center of the screw’s head. Use the drill to push the screw extractor into the hole. Then, turn the screw extractor using an adjustable wrench in the counterclockwise direction.

The screw should loosen and release, and then you are good to go on the rest of your project.

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