I am taking the time to update all of my outlets and switches in my home since they are 14+ years old or older and most of them are the METALLIC and NOT NYLON and have the vanity/cover plate entirely painted over and its taking me about 20 minutes of futile finagling of unscrewing the slotted screws (slots caked to the brim with paint) on EACH OUTLET/SWITCH, my issue and question to you awesome Goobers is,

Is there a safe, fast and efficient method to remove these paint filled vanity/cover plate slotted screws from the outlets and switches ?

Thank you in Advanced !!

  • I find that angling the screwdriver with a corner of the tip at one end of the slot and giving it a light tap with a small hammer usually clears the slot quickly. It may need a second pass from the opposite end to clear sufficiently.
    – HABO
    Feb 2, 2021 at 3:49
  • Be sure to read our "what to watch out for" article so you avoid those known problems... Feb 2, 2021 at 19:58

1 Answer 1


t's the slot in the head of the plate screw that makes unscrewing the screws a hassle! I always curse slot headed screws when I encounter them!

The trick to use that makes the screws unscrew with no problems is to clean out the slot of the screw head. Using a utility knife slice through the dried paint that is clogging the slot. It may take a couple of passes with the knife blade, but it will clear the paint quickly.

Pay attention to your digits (fingers) location when slicing.

The screwdriver tip now has a deeper straighter slot to turn against. No more slipping.

  • what do you mean by "digits location" Feb 2, 2021 at 2:33
  • 3
    @Alyosha_Karamazov digits = fingers in this case Feb 2, 2021 at 2:42
  • @Alyosha_Karamazov- yes, what 3PhaseEel said. (I updated my answer to be more clear.)
    – ojait
    Feb 2, 2021 at 3:03
  • Note, @Alyosha_Karamazov, that this technique (or simply scraping with a screwdriver, as suggested in a comment on your question) will work on any type of screw head that's been filled with paint, dirt or other gloop making it difficult to unscrew. Slotted screws are easier to clean out, but that's about the only advantage to them.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 2, 2021 at 13:27
  • Dig paint out of a Philips or Torx screw sometime, and you'll be singing the praises of slotted... Feb 2, 2021 at 19:58

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