We have two bulbs in our house that need replacing. They appear to be PAR38 bulbs.

The bulbs are both in recessed sockets. There is not enough space between the bulb and the well to get fingers around. The bulbs are in too firmly to budge with what little torque we can exert from the face. Obviously, we don't want to try anything that would break them.

A Google search for "bulb changer" yields some promising results, but I figured I'd ask some humans to be sure.

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    I understand, that you don't want to break it but beside all the brilliant answers here: Turn of the power, break the bulb and take pliers to turn it out. I recommend a vacuum cleaner while breaking.# Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 5:24
  • 2
    @FabianBlechschmidt If you're going to break it, wrap it in cloth first to avoid glass flying around. And don't break CFLs... mercury and all.
    – Bob
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 9:26
  • @FabianBlechschmidt and if it's above your head wear safety glasses.
    – Brad
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 16:50
  • Before installing the new bulb, be sure to lubricate its threads with a thin film of petroleum jelly. Will make extraction much easier next time.
    – JS.
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 19:51
  • 1
    @JS is the petroleum jelly conductive and unlikely to heat up and catch fire?
    – Brad
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 20:41

17 Answers 17


Take a piece of duct tape and wrap it in the shape of an "O", with the sticky side of the tape on the outside. Stick the loop of tape to the face of the light bulb such that it is secure. Put your hand (four fingers) inside the loop and twist counterclockwise to loosen the bulb.

Credit: https://youtu.be/NNGyhRu7c0I?t=2m


Get a light bulb changer pole at your local home improvement store or your favorite hardware store. The ones with suction cups are best for flood lights, where the face of the bulb is a little flatter, but might have a tougher time gripping smaller, rounder light bulbs where you need something that can fit up inside the fixture and grip the sides of the bulb. The same applies for CFL's or LED "bulbs" that may not have a uniformly smooth round surface. And with the extending pole, you can use something like this on an 8ft celing or a 12ft ceiling without climbing to the tippity top of a free-standing ladder.

Light bulb changer


There's a company that makes suction cup hooks/hangers. You put the suction cup on an object and swing the hook. I'll bet you could attach one of these to the glass and use it to unscrew the bulb.

enter image description here

I found this on Amazon.

Edit: if the bottom of the bulb is highly curved, this won't work. The surface has to be flat or only slightly curved.

  • Not bad. Although if you're headed to the hardware store or Home Depot to find something like this anyway, you might as well just grab one of the bulb changer poles. ;-) Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 20:09
  • @Craig, I though of that, but since the OP (@Shay Guy) said they were screwed in pretty tight, I wasn't sure the pole would work. I've used these little suction cups for lots of things, and they work pretty good. I've never used the pole device and don't know how tightly they hold the bulb. But if they hold the bulb as strongly as a suction cup, yours is probably a better solution. The suction cups are pretty cheap and can be used for lots of other purposes.
    – BillDOe
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 20:53
  • Those poles do okay. They hang on pretty tightly. I used to live in a place with 10' to 16' vaulted ceilings with light canisters. Although if the bulb is in really tight (what were they thinking? ;-) then it can take some persuasion to get them out without breaking the bulb off and leaving the base screwed into the socket. In that case, you need a ladder and a pair of needle nose pliers and some patience (and be sure to turn the light switch off). The poles typically come with a suction cup attachment, too. Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 20:57

Another trick is to pull the trim out with the bulb but not all trims connect the same. Some use springs, some clip into a socket, while others are sealed. But usually works for me because I do it all the time.

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    The vast majority of recessed lighting trim can be pulled straight out, being held in by springs, so this is the first thing I'd try.
    – Adam Davis
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 12:04
  • My recessed cans won't allow the trim to pull out very far with a bulb in place. Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 19:03
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    Not only that but sometimes the trims are painted to the ceiling which could tear the sheet rock if pulled down without careful attention.
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 19:19

Use oven mitts with silicone grips

Works like magic for opening light fixtures, changing light bulbs, opening jars, and so on.

If you don't have silicone oven mitts, you can try a silicone baking mat. Just push the mat against the face of the light bulb and unscrew it.

  • Or, instead of fancy mitts, try a piece of rubber. Perhaps a rubber sheet commonly used for opening jars or peeling garlic. Or a large rubber band. Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 20:20

Do you have a glass/cup with a similar circumference? If so, stretch the wrist of a latex glove around the rim. Fit the rim of the cup around the bulb and twist.


Tiny bulbs on track lighting are nearly impossible to grip/grasp in any way. After trying to stick tape to front of bulb and jiggle/pull out unsuccessfully, I cut two strips, slipped end of one as far as i could between bulb and holder, sticky side to bulb, folded part of remaining tape onto bulb face almost to center. I did the same thing on the other side, then continuing to press tape gently to face of glass while applying light pull/jiggle tension. Finally bulb released!


Use your vacuum cleaner. With the vacuum turned on, place the hose or extension tube on the light bulb, turn the tube and the light comes out. The same principle can be used to reinstall the replacement bulb.


In my experience many times bulbs of this nature tend to, separate from the metal seating as you apply the pressure needed to twist them out. If this becomes the case usually the glass can be removed carefully, while turning slightly to snap any filament that may be still attached to the glass.

Power Off and as suggested use pliers to ease the metal seating out.

(Safety Glasses- its very likely TINY dust sized pieces of glass will be almost, 'Floating' around-trust me). If you haven't satisfied your original question on how to approach, here ya go, drug, hardware, dollar stores and ANY online market place sell, 'Super Stick Gel Pads'.

They can be oval or square, approximately the size of a large smartphone, and are easily cut to size. They have endless uses, and this is one, as they stick without waiver, yet can be pealed back easily, rinsed and reused.

The cost is usually under $5 for a 3 pack, and then very simply slide it up with 2 wooden Paint stirrers,or even small popsicle sticks- 2 3, 4 whatever gives you a safe feeling of pressure and maneuverability. Maybe small size -2 on opposing sides using 2 hands etc.

  1. If the bulb breaks, nearly all the pieces small or large will stick to the gel pad, & rinse off as well.

  2. It will stay attached to the bulb if you need to switch 'Implements', to say a simple pair of pasta or grill Tongs. Even your palm will be adequate and protected (not so crazy I've removed 100's of bulbs).

  • Your post could use a couple paragraphs, keeping it all together makes it tough to read.
    – James
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 19:19

wrap the bulb in saran wrap or equivalent. It will provide a great grip and reduce risk of flying fragments should the bulb break. Wear a protective glove and glasses too.


I use a suction cup dent puller to grip the glass on computers and tablets when there's no handle:

enter image description here

I doubt that glass is much different than the glass in the stuck bulbs, strength-wise.

  • Dude, have you ever used those to try to climb a building? Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 2:36

I've done this using long nose pliers for the first few turns, until there were enough millimeters free to grab it with fingers. You have to be very, very gentle with them. I wouldn't use them on CFL bulbs because they are toxic when broken. But if you don't have the other tools suggested and the duct tape doesn't work, they are worth a try with a normal bulb, even though there is some risk of breakage.


Provided the light-fitting is accessible, use rubber gloves. It works every time!


The problem with using a vacuum cleaner or long pole is the chance of dropping the bulb before you get hold of it and there's no need to break the bulb to get it out. Duct tape works fine. Form a small piece of duct tape in the shape of a T, with the outside of the top of the T sticky. The bottom stem of the T is what you hold onto. The top of the T sticks to the bulb and you can turn it easily.


As long as the base of the bulb and socket haven't corroded together, as sometimes happens, the industrial suction cup and the duct tape are both worth trying. If there is corrosion or for some other reason the bulb is really stuck in there, turning it too hard will hopefully break the glass bulb off its metal base and then you can use pliers to bend and pry the base out of the socket. (Don't electrocute yourself!) But hoping for the bulb to break off is risky. You might instead break the socket itself or just rip the whole fixture off the wall or ceiling. So before going overboard with high-powered suction cups etc. you might be better off breaking the bulb in a predictable fashion so you can pry out the base.


I ended up using grilling tongs and a towel to cushion while I removed the "pronged" bulb. The tongs allowed me to get between the bulb and the glass shade "housing." Still a challenge and yes, fragments of glass did break away from the bulb


Cut a potato in half and stick one end into the broken bulb and twist. Seriously works.

  • 4
    Please read the question before posting: the OP says "we don't want to try anything that would break them", implying that they are not actually broken.
    – Niall C.
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 16:10

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