I've been trying to figure out whether or not it's safe to use regular hooks in the ceiling without a toggle or joist or other reinforcement for lightweight applications. I would imagine there would only be maybe 3 pounds of force on it. I just don't want to drill big holes in the ceiling.

Everywhere I look it says to hang things from the ceiling you need to have the hook in the joist, or you have to use anchors but it says for around 10 pounds and over. I'm just using them for string lights though. I'd really prefer to have something non-invasive that won't scar the ceiling if I decide to remove them. I was thinking I could just use standard drywall hooks.

Each one needs to support just the weight of 2 or 3 strands or string lights that drape from the wall to the center of the ceiling.

Are there any particular sizes I should look for, threads, or specific types of hooks or whatnot or should any small ceiling hook work?

Everywhere I search, people are trying to use their hooks for heavier applications like big light fixtures, plants, etc. so I wasn't sure if it was ok for small light things. Also I have attached the string lights in question. Little heavier than Christmas lights but not by much.

The entire 100 foot string weighs 12 pounds and will be across 13 hooks.

Link to the lights I am using.

  • What do you mean by standard drywall hooks? Drywall without an anchor gives virtually no tearout strength with screws.
    – K H
    Mar 22, 2021 at 8:06
  • When the "hook without an anchor" rips out of the ceiling, it makes a much bigger mess than installing an anchor for the screw in the first place would have. For the application, you should be fine with simple anchors, no need for a big hole and toggles.
    – Ecnerwal
    Mar 22, 2021 at 10:09
  • Don't forget, that while your current lights are lightweight, you may chose to replace them in the future with something heavier, or someone else may move in after you and try to hang something heavier and be met with a nasty surprise. It never hurts to plan ahead.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 22, 2021 at 16:17
  • there is a chance that supermagnets could be used to attach the light string to any nails or screws in the ceiling
    – jsotola
    Mar 23, 2021 at 2:30
  • I've hung xmas lights on a drywall ceiling with thumbtacks, lasted years. Do relieve the strain on the first tack though, or they will fail rapid-fire.
    – dandavis
    Mar 23, 2021 at 19:38

3 Answers 3


If you have a plaster ceiling and it's in good shape, not coming away from the lath anywhere, there are some screw types and techniques that could reasonably hold weight like this. I don't recommend it but it's possible and you need to experiment to find what works well in your plaster. It varies. If you do this, also follow the advice below for the FIRST HOOK in drywall.

Assuming however you have a drywall ceiling:

The FIRST HOOK, the one that has the long tail of the power cord, switch, and plug dangling from it, should be a strong hook screwed deep into a joist. At least a #8x2" eye hook. This will take the strain of being wiggled and pulled when the plug or switch is handled by human hands. The cable should be firmly attached (eg tight wire ties) to this hook in order to prevent further downstream hooks from taking any stress from handling.

After that for the subsequent hooks: Options to hang lightweight things on ceilings and leave no, or minimal damage after removal:

  1. Removable sticky-backed stretch-to-remove such as 3M command strips. Those should hold the weight of this string and can be removed with no trace but sometimes the paint comes off with them.
  2. Use steel screw hooks or screw eyes (not cup hooks), find the thinnest longest one you can. I've seen #8x1.5" and M3x1.5". If you could find a #6x1.5" that would be great but I can't see one. Screw through the drywall into a joist without drilling. The purpose of the joist is not because you have a heavy piece to hang. It is to allow you to use a very thin screw that will hold well, and can be removed with minimal damage to the ceiling and no drilling. The hole left behind will be almost invisible without painting, with just some filler.
  3. If you don't want to find and use joists then find the smallest plastic anchors you can, and use them with small cup hooks to conceal them. Don't use decorative cup hooks without anchors. They are too short to reach joists and won't hold without anchors.
  4. If you just don't want to use a drill, buy self-drilling drywall anchors. I don't recommend this, however, because if you do hit a joist with one of these you end up with a mess. With very small plastic anchors (method #3) you can drill into the joist to accommodate them or cut them short at the surface.

I have a similar string of lights on my drywall ceiling. I used a Cable stapler to tack it up, putting a staple every 18 inches, you could go with less spacing if feel it is necessary.

A cable stapler use special staples and is designed to cradle the cable/cord so that the staple does not shoot though the insulation and through the wire within.

Of course you want do the stapling without the lights plugged in and you want to inspect each staple to insure it did not penetrate the cord before plugging them in.

When the time comes to remove the lights it is simple and easy. The staple hole are very small and you just take a little Spackle, push it into the hole with one finger and swipe the excess away with another.

The heavy power cord portion will require hook or some adhesive Zip Tie Mounts or some other solution.

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photo from hnstools.com


If you are putting screws into a ceiling they will eventually fail with even the most nominal weight on them. My son when he was little had a hot air balloon with a tail made of nylon that weighed 4-5 ounces. I figured, drywall screw will be fine. Well it was fine for about 9 months, then just fell.

If I were you - and I run string lights too - I would either do one of two things or a combo.

  1. Command strips
  2. Monkey hooks - I would play with the bend so only a little was sticking out at a "u" angle. Two monkey hooks could hold that strand with no issues and if your monkey hook setup fails you still only have a tiny dot in your ceiling (that you can repair with white toothpaste - yep went there).

The problem with screws or hooks with screws is if they fail, they leave a big hole and to reuse them you have to make a bigger hole with an anchor.

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