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Safely Remove a Stuck Light Bulb

By ProVim Staff 7 years ago11 Comments
Home  /  General Electrical Questions  /  Safely Remove a Stuck Light Bulb

We recently received a request from a customer to remove a stuck light bulb.  This is a common occurrence for many homeowners, so I’ll share a couple of methods that might be useful to remember – suction cups and duct tape.   Remember to be careful when you use them, because if you break the bulb, it may be even harder to remove.

The first step is to be sure the power is off.  For lamps or other lights that you can unplug, do that.   For fixtures you can’t unplug, go to the breaker box and turn off the breaker (best solution)  or at least turn off the wall switch and tape it in the off position.

The second step is to put on gloves and safety glasses.  If the bulb breaks while you are working on it, you don’t want to be cut with broken glass.  Sometimes using rubber dish washing gloves will improve your grip enough so that you can twist the bulb without any further effort.

The final step is to decide on a method to extract it.

bulb remover

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If you have a flat bottomed bulb inside a ceiling can fixture, you can use a small suction cup tool.  They can be purchased online or in any home store.  This example shows one that can be used with or without an extension pole for high ceiling lights or security bulbs.  Press the suction cup tightly against the bulb and twist the handle to the left.  If the suction breaks, try wetting the suction cup and pressing it again to form a tighter seal against the bulb.



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Another method is to use duct tape (or wide masking tape) to create a hand hold.   Cut a strip about 8 inches long, and get as much of it on the glass as you can.  Place it up over both sides of the bulb if you can get it there.  Squeeze the tape in the center so that it forms a tab hanging down an inch or so in the middle of the light, then press the rest of the tape against the bulb to create more friction.  Now just twist that tape tab to the left, and you should feel the light bulb begin to rotate out of the socket.

If you have a standard pear-shaped bulb, you can still use tape in a similar manner to get a better grip on the bulb.  Be sure the bulb is cool first by waiting several minutes after you’ve turned it off.  If you can reach around the bulb, cut two strips of duct tape (or wide masking tape) about 6 inches long.  Put one strip on each side, then clamp the extra tape together so that you have a tape tab sticking out on each side of the bulb.
Now, hold on to the tabs and turn the bulb to the left.  You shouldn’t need to squeeze the bulb which will reduce your chance of breaking it.

After the old bulb is out, put the new bulb in.   Use a small amount of silicone spray to lubricate the threads if you want.  Give the bulb a final wipe with a towel to make sure there are no hand oils remaining on the glass — those oils can shorten bulb life.  And be sure to avoid over-tightening it — just make it snug.   You don’t want to have to go through all of this again next time.    Now turn the power back on and you are all set.

If the bulb does break off in the socket, or if you can’t get it out, give us a call.  We’ll be glad to help with any electrical questions.

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  • larry birrell says:





    • feiadmin says:

      Try some to spray some rust breaking lubricant, such as WD40 or silicone spray, or a Rust-oleum product. Maybe if you spray a little and give it time to work, it will lessen the friction. Be sure to wipe it out thoroughly when you are done, so that the lubricant doesn’t burn or leave an odor in the oven.

  • Martin Hellman says:

    Thank you! I had several PAR30 can light fixtures where the bulbs would not come out by hand. Using duct tape worked like a charm. It allowed me to apply torque on both sides of the bulb at the same time, and without having to push up (the wrong way) to get traction. I used that technique on all the bulbs, even the ones that weren’t stuck. It made the process much faster. And I only needed one piece of duct tape for about 10 bulbs!

  • Margaret gabb says:

    Can I remove light bulbs above a basin without turning off the mains.

    • feiadmin says:

      Yes, changing a light bulb does not require shutting off a breaker. However, be sure to avoid all contact with water since it is near a basin.

  • Zelda Hockaday says:

    Wonderful, worked just like you said. Thank you!!

  • Kim says:

    I am trying to change a CFL light bulb in my kitchen, but I can’t get the old bulb out of the fixture. The bulb broke when I first tried, but even now that I have dealt with the broken glass, I do not see any way to get the remaining base out because there seems to be no socket? I even removed the casing of the fixture so that I would have a clearer view of the base of the lightbulb and more room to work, but it seems like the ceramic base of the broken bulb is permanently mounted into the ceiling and it will not turn at all? Does this sound like something you have heard of before? I have no idea what to do and I would really appreciate any advice you might have.
    Thank you very much!

  • tina says:

    I have a light bulb stuck on the outside light on porch. Do I need to turn breakers off?

  • Judith Harley says:

    The duct tape trick worked!! I had a bulb stuck (crooked) in the light fixture of my ceiling fan. Made the duct tape ”handle”, two gentle twists, and the bulb freed up. The bulb still worked once I carefully reinstalled it. Thanks so much!

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