6 Household Substitutes for a Phillips Head Screwdriver

Cross-tip screws are screwed into wood using a Phillips head screwdriver.

Most homeowners have several screwdrivers on hand including a Phillips head screwdriver. Different sizes of drivers with an X-shaped tip match up with various sizes of Phillips screws. However, at some point you may not be able to find that Phillip screwdriver when you want it. Fortunately, you probably have several items sitting around the house that will substitute nicely.

Note: Proper sizing is still important or you risk stripping the screw while trying to drive it in or pull it out. You should try to find one of these objects with an end comparable in size to the screws you're using.

1. Flathead Screwdriver

If you can’t find one screwdriver, you can always give it a go with another. While it is not the same shape, if you can get at least half of a flathead screwdriver in the screw’s slots, you can build enough momentum to get the job done.

2. Metal Vegetable Peeler

Whenever you find yourself without a Phillips screwdriver, you may want to look in your kitchen drawers. The tip of a metal vegetable peeler is very similar in shape and size, and it can usually get the job done.

3. Butter Knife

A butter knife can be found in anyone’s kitchen. Although it runs into the same problem as the flathead screwdriver as far as not being the same shape, it can work just as well. Simply work your knife into two of the slots and build up momentum to get it to start spinning.

4. Loose Coins

The change in your pocket can actually substitute for a cross-tip screwdriver in a pinch. Small coins will work better, like dimes or pennies, but they will still likely fit only in a larger screw, where the rounded edge can get more grip.

5. Washers

Like a coin, a round washer can sometimes be fitted into the slots of a larger Phillips head screw. This substitute will definitely be too wide to use on smaller screws.

6. Pliers

If your screw has a rounded head that sticks out of the wood, or if you’ve managed to use one of these other makeshift screwdrivers to get the screw partially out or in, then you can avoid stripping the screw head by proceeding with a pair of pliers instead.

Grip the screw head firmly with the pliers and twist. Although any type of pliers will work, needle-nose pliers will probably provide the best grip on the screw in this case.

Substitutes for a Phillips Head Screwdriver FAQ

Do you need a Phillips screwdriver?

Any DIYer should have a Phillips screwdriver or two in their basic toolkit because this is such an often-used tool. But if you haven't got one and you need to tighten or loosen a Pillips head screw, you do have some options.

There are other household tools you can use as a substitution for a Phillips head screwdriver in a pinch, so the lack of one won't necessarily stop you from completing your DIY project.

But when you get the chance, be sure to add a couple of Phillips head screwdrivers to your toolkit so you can more effectively complete your DIY tasks.

How do you unscrew a screw without a head?

Sometimes, having the right screwdriver won't help you with the project at hand. Some screws may get damaged so that they no longer have heads, which makes any screwdriver irrelevant.

When a screw loses its head, this is known as being stripped. And there are ways you can remove a stripped screw.

Try using a rubber band. Place it over the screw and then insert any screwdriver you do have into the rubber band.

Turn the screwdriver counterclockwise to get the stripped screw out. Once you get it loosened, you can twist it out the rest of the way with your fingers to fully remove the screw.

If the screw is stubborn and the rubber band trick doesn't work, you'll have to use a pair of pliers to loosen and pull up the stripped screw.

What is a drill that can also be used as a screwdriver?

Some models of cordless drills, particularly newer models, have the ability to drive screws. Some cordless drills will strip screws, however, so you need to know how to tell if a drill can effectively drive a screw or not.

The way to determine this is to look for the clutch. A drill that has a clutch can be used to drive screws or remove them.

Look for a torque adjustment ring around the drill. This is the clutch feature you need to use a drill on a screw.

A drill that does not have this feature is more likely to strip a screw than to work as an effective screwdriver.

What can I use if I don't have a small screwdriver?

You may run into very small screws when you're working on a DIY or home improvement project. If you don't have a small screwdriver, this is a problem.

You can improvise using a very small knife, such as a cheese knife. Be sure to choose a knife with a rounded, not pointed, end.

Place the blade tip into the head of the screw and angle it slightly to get a better grip. This will work on a small screw.

If you haven't got a small knife, a dime can also work. This is more difficult to use because it's so small, so you may need a few tries to get this to work.

How do you make a key screwdriver?

A key screwdriver is more of a prank and not at all a functional tool. To make this, you cut the shaft off a screwdriver and use strong epoxy to attach your car key to the screwdriver handle.

This will make it look as though you have a screwdriver jammed into your ignition, rather than a real key. In fact, it can look too believable so exercise caution with this, as you could run afoul of law enforcement with this prank.