I see knobs like this on cabinets, dressers, and closet doors. They are held in place with a single wood screw. knob

Very often they are loose. I guess when we grab them we often impart a slight twist. Also, temperature and humidity changes cause the wood to swell and shrink. The system is biased towards unscrewing, so over time they loosen up.

My DIY instinct says that this is bad. That the screw will strip out the knob, or it will ream out the hole in the door. Well, it seems sloppy.

When I notice one, I give it a twist to tighten. Sometimes I put my finger over the screw head to hold it still. When it's really stiff, I might get out the multitool. Sometimes, in my enthusiasm, I strip out the knob. Doh!

What's the best way to deal with these things? For example:

  • Use handles that take two screws.

  • Put a washer under the head to distribute the load, then make them really tight.

  • Keep them all tight according to a schedule.

  • Only use knobs made of strong wood, and keep them tight.

  • Use knobs that take a machine screw instead of a wood screw.

  • Put wood glue in the screw hole.

  • Use door designs that don't need a handle.

  • I think you mean "machine screws" instead of "wood screws"? All of the handles like that that I run into have been machine screws (small fine pitch thread rather than very coarse). Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 7:23
  • What do you do if the screw has reamed out the hole?
    – Liz
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 5:22

5 Answers 5


I'd recommend going with a metal knob that's held in place by a machine screw. They're going to cost more, but they won't get damaged from everyday use, and you don't have to worry about them stripping out. Most of the knobs in my house are metal and take machine screws. I do have to periodically re-tighten them though. Some Blue Loctite might take care of it, but I've never taken the time to address the issue.

  • 1
    Loctite is the way to go. I did this in our kitchen in a fit of pique and it fixed everything. Make sure the handle's wood is still in good condition first, however. (You can use superglue as a hack to firm up the wood if it's gotten squishy.) Commented Dec 2, 2010 at 19:01

I've used teflon tape, normally used by plumbers; on knobs when the threads are stripped. It can work pretty well. Just don't expect to remove the knob without a pair of strong wrenches.


I have knobs with machine screws (notably on bi-fold doors), and still have the same problem. Personally I would recommend putting a dab of epoxy on the screw threads and screwing it into the knob. Of course that will make it pretty difficult to remove them later though if you ever want to replace the hardware.

  • 3
    Most threadlockers like Loctite are removable with hand tools, with the exception of red Loctite - you need heat for that one.
    – Doresoom
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 19:04
  • 1
    I agree with Doresoom: Use the right tool for the job, keep some loctite around. Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 7:25

Put a lockwasher between the nut and a regular washer (inside the door). Or use a Locknut and a regular washer. enter image description here enter image description here

  • In the above picture, won't the washer #1 with uneven joint cause loosening issues? We have a pressure cooker whose handle is fixed with a machine screw along with a washer with uneven ends as shown in your picture. It avoids us to tighten the screw completely and loosens more often.
    – Netizen
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 6:33
  • 1
    @IamSJ It's a lock washer, which prevents loosening. I've had the exact same problem with pressure cookers (we must have the same brand!). I think that the washer may be loosening for a few reasons... in my case, I'm pretty sure that expansion and contraction from cooking was the problem (which explains why the manufacurer used a lock washer). If you replace it, it should last a while before it starts to loosen again. Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 12:33
  • 1
    @IamSJ Other common issues with lock washers (and lock nuts) may be that the it didn't have enough "spring" in it to begin with (cheap materials), or it might have been loosened and tightened so many times now that it has lost it's "spring". Or it might be that the area above and below the washer have been worn smooth and slippery. Sometimes you can get some more life out of it by bending the washer (or opening it a little) and sanding/roughening the areas of contact (increasing the grip). Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 12:36

Ben Welborn's lock washers are nice. When things get problematic, I move on to Loctite Blue 242 Threadlocker. It's easier to deal with than dried on nail polish or epoxy.

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