What techniques work to dig layers of paint out of small slotted screw heads, when the slot is so full of paint a screwdriver won't work?

I've tried an awl, utility knife and screwdriver/hammer. These all work, but are tedious when there are a lot of them.

See also: How can I extract rusted/painted outdoor screws? or How do I remove calcification from a screw head?

3 Answers 3


I've found that using a hot air paint stripper works.

Use the concentrating nozzle and a low to medium setting. Then when the paint is soft use a flat bladed screwdriver to first take the paint off the surface and then from the slot itself.

Once the head is free from paint a further heating of the screw will also help as there will be a differential expansion of the screw and hinge (or whatever the piece is) which helps loosen the screw.

A further trick I don't always remember is that it can help to try to tighten the screw first before removing it. This might just be enough to break the rust/paint/whatever is causing the screw to stick.

  • If you don't have a heat gun you can try a hairdryer set on high. Without the concentrator nozzle you may damage the paint around the screw.
    – mikes
    Jan 9, 2013 at 11:34
  • @mikes - yeah. However, usually I've been stripping all the paint so this isn't a problem.
    – ChrisF
    Jan 9, 2013 at 11:36

I have successfully removed paint from screw heads and slots by using a rotary tool with a small wire wheel attachment.

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  • 1
    Be careful where you use one of these brushes. If you run it at too high a speed, or stress the brush too much, it'll throw off steel (stainless?) whiskers that are Supebly good at embedding themselves in feet or skin. Jan 9, 2013 at 17:57
  • I like hte dremel for this, but I would use an abrasive blade instead of a wire wheel. Jan 10, 2013 at 5:26

I just had good luck removing dried latex paint by soaking the screws in hot water, then rubbing them with a rag. It was pretty quick!

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