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.
How to Remove a Light Bulb from Recessed Socket
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 dishwashing 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.
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.
Another method is to use duct tape (or wide masking tape) to create a handhold. 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.