I have some closet shelving clips I need to remove to paint a wall. The problem is that they are molly bolts. These are the exact clips/mollys.

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The question is similar to this one, but in my case, I am dealing with molly bolts, instead of simple wall anchors, and they are plastic which have become hardened/stubborn over time (they are less pliable). With a good amount of fanagaling I can rip them out of the wall, but that makes the hole bigger, almost rendering (or actually rendering) the clip usless unless I patch the drywall to reuse the clips. Is there any way I can "uncompress" the molly bolts, so that I can slide them out more easily with less damage to the wall?

Most sites/videos on the matter, suggest simply cutting off the molly bolt head and pushing it into the wall but in this case its a shelving clip that I want to reuse so I cant cut it. I saw a youtube video on the subject, where they suggest inserting a small screwdriver into the screw hole and banging with a hammer to decompress it, but because these are plastic and not metal, the molly bolt does not want to "uncompress", it just "bounces" when you try to hit it out.

6 Answers 6


Leave it in place, use masking tape, paint around it....


Those look like the Closetmaid ones. If you just remove the nail you can gently pull the plastic out.

Me I would just paint over them if it's just a closet.

  • sorry, the picture I had before was just an example. Ive uploaded actual pictures of what I have.
    – n00b
    Dec 18, 2013 at 21:27
  • @noob. Ok in that case remove the screw and try to gently pull them out. :) Twist and pull and the plastic should compress enough to get them out. Dec 18, 2013 at 21:34

You're better off either cutting them flush or pulling the clips out with pliers and patching the holes. A few years ago I repainted my closets and pantry, and decided it was easier to just uninstall EVERYTHING and start over. I had these anchors, which were pretty much impossible to remove without destroying:

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The anchors you have are also single-use. If you want to put the shelves back up, might I suggest getting brackets to tie into the studs like these:

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You won't need drywall anchors, and you can use screws directly into the studs, which means stronger support and easier removal in the future. Or you can get replacements for the same type of hardware you have here.

  • I just had a thought. If I cut them flush, cant I simply just simply put the face back together with the cut off base and put the screw back in? I would think the screw would hold it all together again.
    – n00b
    Dec 18, 2013 at 18:13
  • I don't think that would work. The metal portion isn't a screw - it's a straight pin that simply forces open the plastic anchor once inside the wall. Plus the base inside the wall is likely to fall off inside the wall once you cut it flush. That's what happens to standard toggle bolts when you uninstall them too.
    – Doresoom
    Dec 18, 2013 at 20:51
  • OrganicLawnDIY has a good point. Have you tried just removing the pin with a pair of pliers? If that's all that's holding the toggle portion open, then you may be able to wiggle them out afterwards.
    – Doresoom
    Dec 18, 2013 at 20:56
  • The picture I had before, was just an example. I have uplaoded the actual picture of the clips. The third picture shows that even after taking out the screw the plastic stays rigid (even though I can force it out, it still rips the drywall more). If I cut off the face from the rest of the bolt, couldnt I Just connect it back together with a screw?
    – n00b
    Dec 18, 2013 at 21:26
  • 3
    What's going to stop the part in the wall from simply spinning with the screw when you try to screw them back together?
    – Doresoom
    Dec 18, 2013 at 22:50

I know this is an old thread, but hopefully my suggestion will help people other than the OP.

Since this uses a bolt, rather than a pin, you can screw out the bolt until it's loose, then gently pry on the plastic hanger until you can get a pry bar/claw hammer/something between it and the wall. Then you will need to press (not screw and not hammer) the bolt back into the wall while prying out the plastic. This is the idea @Bryce had, but with easily found tools.

What you are doing is stretching out the bent plastic closer to the original configuration. It may not be perfect, but it should get the anchor close enough for you to pull it out without enlarging the hole too much. Just make sure to protect your wall from the prying tool, as that can easily leave marks you probably don't want to take the time to fix.

As mentioned in other answers, the plastic may be brittle and break. In that case, you'll just have to get new anchors or go with a completely different type of fastener. As @Doresoom suggested, using fasteners into studs is the preferred way to go, but most likely you'll need a stud finder and those can be expensive and/or unreliable.


Take the screw out and chisel off the plastic head. Don't try to pull it out, just push it into the wall cavity, spackle it and paint it.

Sorry, I missed where you said you want to reuse these. I've always considered these types of anchor bolts as disposable. One use only. Buy news ones as you don't want your shelves to be compromised using wanky, used wall board anchor bolts.

These work nice for taking off the heads

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A tool like this, in the right size, would be perfect. But kinda overkill:

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  • how would that work?
    – n00b
    Dec 18, 2013 at 22:33
  • You unscrew the screw until it's out, then put it in a turn or two so it's holding the far end and sticking out the face. The tool's fingers slip behind the clip. Wind down the tool's bolt on the head of the screw, it pushes the screw and far end of the molly back, shrinking the wide part of the molly, returning it to the shape it was when new and unexpanded. In theory. In practice, if the mollys are brittle they may just break. Still seems like way more work than painting around them (exactly how perfect a paint job do you need inside a closet, anyway?)
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 19, 2013 at 21:27

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