Lightbulb Moment! Here are 5 Ways to Remove a Broken Lightbulb

by Connelly Bock
broken lightbulb in bathroom vanity

Changing a lightbulb is a fairly routine task. You go to unscrew the burned-out bulb — then boom. It shatters into pieces in your hands. Hopefully, you were able to get away without cutting yourself on the broken glass. But you still need to get what remains of the bulb out of the socket. Without something to hold onto, this can be difficult — but not impossible.

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So, how many methods does it take to change a broken lightbulb? You may have to try several before you find one that works. Here are five (and some variations) to get you started.

Safety First

The first thing you need to do is shut off the power to the light fixture to avoid shocking yourself. Don’t just turn off the light fixture; cut the power from the breaker box. Test the fixture to ensure there’s no current. Wait a few minutes for the bulb to cool before you try to remove it. Because you’re working with broken glass, you’ll want to wear gloves and eye protection, if possible.

Not all bulbs are created equal. If your broken bulb contains mercury, you’re going to want to allow the gas to dissipate before you do anything else. The Environmental Protection Agency lists the types of lightbulbs that contain mercury here. The most common type is the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). To reduce your exposure to the mercury vapor, open doors and windows, then vacate the room for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off your HVAC system. Follow these cleanup instructions.

Removal Methods

Here are five ways to remove a broken lightbulb:

1. Pliers

According to CNET, needle-nose pliers are the best tool for removing a broken bulb. Using the pliers, grab the metal part at the base of the bulb. Turn it counter-clockwise to remove. If you need more grip, you can wrap the ends of the pliers in electrical tape. When you're done, use the pliers to pick up bits of broken glass.

2. Potato, Soap or Cork

Believe it or not, you can use a potato to remove a broken lightbulb. This method works best if your bulb still has pieces of glass stuck to the base. According to WikiHow, you can use a bar of soap or a piece of cork in a similar fashion.

Cut the potato in half, then press the raw side into the jagged edges of the bulb. Twist counter-clockwise. Once it's out, dispose of the bulb and potato.

3. Broken Bulb Extractor

If the home remedies aren’t working, you might want to cut your losses and purchase a broken bulb extractor. They’re available at hardware stores for about $10. The instructions are similar to the other methods. Just insert the rubber tip into the base of the lightbulb, grab the handle and turn it counter-clockwise.

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4. Duct Tape

Duct tape is a tried-and-true method for fixing just about everything. According to Real Simple, you can use duct tape to remove a broken bulb.

First, cut a strip of duct tape that’s about two feet long. Put the ends together to make a large loop, sticky side in. Don’t let the loop close into one flat strip. Then, place the loop around the bulb. Stick the center of the loop to the broken bulb, leaving “handles” on either side. Flatten the loop. Now, you can twist the bulb to remove it from the socket.

5. Epoxy or Hot Glue

Not all of these removal methods work if the bulb is in a hard-to-reach area. CNET advises mixing up a piece of epoxy putty and packing it into the bulb base. Press a flat-head screwdriver into the epoxy and wait five minutes for it to set. Then, you should have enough leverage to unscrew the bulb.

You can use hot glue in a similar way. If the base is badly corroded, The Family Handyman recommends this method: Apply a glob of hot glue to a dowel rod or other small stick of wood, insert it into the base and fill the gaps with more hot glue. When the glue has hardened, use the stick to twist the bulb out of the socket.

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from HomeServe is important. Having a plan in place gives you peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See what plans are available in your neighborhood.