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How to Remove a Broken Light Bulb

Your shouldn't feel too bad! After all, Murphy's Law says that the most likely bulb to break is the most difficult to replace, i.e. cathedral ceiling recessed floodlights!  Well, let's see what we can do to get it out.

I suppose you have heard of the old potato trick. Cut a potato in half, push it into the bulb base, and twist it out. Does it really work? I guess it could, though I must admit (sigh) that I never tried it.  Why, you ask?  I guess it's because I don't carry a potato in my toolkit!


Only one... if the power is on!  Sometimes, it's hard to tell whether the power is on, especially in a 3-way circuit where the switches don't have an obvious on/off position.  And when the bulb is broken, it may be impossible to determine the circuit breaker to turn off.  Which means you'll need to turn off the main.


  1.  First and foremost, make sure the electric power is off.  If you can't determine which circuit the fixture is on, turn off ALL circuits.
  2.  Put down a tarp to catch any remaining broken glass from the old bulb.
  3. Leather gloves are preferred if you have to touch the broken bulb base.
  4. Wear eye protection, especially if you are working on an overhead fixture.  A hat might also help keep glass off your head!

There are two ways to take out the bulb's base...

Way 1

If the first method doesn't work, try this:

Way 2


If you follow this simple, commonsense guideline, you will probably never have to remove another broken bulb (unless you do it for other people)!

When you replace a bulb, turn the bulb in just until you feel slight resistance. Turn the switch on. If the bulb lights without flickering, you are DONE.  Do not turn the bulb any further!

If bulb has not lit, turn switch back off, turn bulb a quarter turn, and try again.

Do this until the bulb lights. Never screw in a bulb so tightly that it bottoms out.

NOTE:  You should always have the switch (or power) off when replacing a bulb because (1) the resulting spark can damage the contacts in the fixture and (2) bulbs do occasionally burst upon lighting!

Let there be light!!

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