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July 9, 2005

Helpful Hints From joe–eez: How to remove a broken light bulb


This much–loved feature of bookofjoe returns after some time in turnaround.

And it returns with a crash, to wit: the smashing of glass on your floor as a light bulb explodes or shatters in your hand as you're changing it.

Now what?

The screw part of the bulb is stuck in the socket, with sharp glass pieces sticking out; and those wiggly things in the middle don't look like a whole lot of fun either, I must admit.

Well, guess what: been there, done that, and not very well, I must confess.

Now comes wondergirl Jane Buckingham with a most clever piece of advice on what to do next.

Here we go:

1) Get a potato. No, this is not a joke — just get one.

2) Turn off the power to the socket or light.

3) Remove the fuse or turn the breaker off.

Note: If you don't know how to do step 3 do not continue — repeat, do not continue. Instead, find someone who can execute step 3 for you.

4) Push the narrow end of the the potato into the screw cap/remains of the light bulb.

5) Twist and the broken base should emerge, buried in the potato.

Ms. Buckingham recommends gloves and safety glasses: I concur.

But I must say I was somewhat surprised to read her instructions and see she'd not inserted the cautionary note between steps 3 and 4 above.

Well, that's why you have me too, isn't it?


Sort of like belt + suspenders: one or the other will do the trick for sure.

July 9, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink


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i always put wheel bearing grease on the threads of the light bulb before screwing it in. comes right out every time.

Posted by: shaw | Dec 8, 2007 3:41:21 AM

Hey Tony -- I've had the same thing happen. Cheap bulb and you go to twist and the bulb part breaks from the base.

That doesn't leave any room to do the potatoe trick.

Or in one of my old houses, a leaky roof meant that it actually rusted into place (YIKES! water running though electricty!!!).

Both times, I'm had to make certain the power was out and grab needle-nose pliers and yank the sucker out. If the bulb is still in there, break it. Use the pliers to remove all the glass either way. You can usually see where the two sides of the metal parts were pressed together -- using the pliers, grip onto either side and twist it in on itself. Repeat on the other side. You will probably get enough tension off of base that you can now twist the entire thing out. If not, just keep bending it in on itself and you will eventually get it.

Make certain you follow the 2 & 3 steps above -- it will save your life. And don't do it if you can't follow either.

Posted by: clifyt | Sep 13, 2006 12:04:16 PM

I have a light bulb that is burned out but not broken. I cannot twist the old bulb out. I have tried twisting, turning, wiggling etc., everything I can think of. What now???

Posted by: Tony | Sep 12, 2006 6:52:18 PM

Do not attempt to recover and eat the potato

Posted by: John Levien | Sep 15, 2005 9:07:15 PM

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