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How to Remove Drywall Anchors Without Damaging Your Walls

Sooner or later, every homeowner will realize the artwork hanging in their hallway is no longer in style. Or maybe the flatscreen TV needs to make way for a new model. When either of those days comes along, knowing how to remove drywall anchors will be an important DIY skill.

If you’d like to learn how to remove drywall anchors without damaging your walls, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for the information you’ll need to do a professional job removing drywall anchors that are no longer needed in your home.

A man's hand showing how to remove drywall anchors

Types of Drywall Anchors

As a first step in learning how to remove drywall anchors, it’s important to understand the types of anchors with which you’ll be contending as you work to get them out of your walls. Here is a quick look at the four types of drywall anchors and their uses.

Plastic Expansion Anchors

Plastic expansion anchors, which can support items weighing up to 12 pounds, are the simplest type of drywall anchor. Comprising a ribbed plastic sleeve into which a screw is driven, plastic expansion anchors are easy to install and, as you’ll discover, are also easy to remove.

Self-Drilling Anchors

Self-drilling drywall anchors, which can support up to 50 pounds, also have a screw and a plastic sleeve like the plastic expansion anchors. Unlike plastic expansion anchors, however, the plastic part of a self-drilling anchor expands onto the inside of the drywall to create a more secure hanging point.

Steel Hollow-Wall Anchors (Molly Bolts)

Next on the list of drywall anchor types are steel hollow-wall anchors, also known as molly bolts. Constructed entirely of metal, molly bolts can support up to 100 pounds. As you might imagine, removing a molly bolt is a slightly more complicated process, but well within the skills of most DIYers.

Toggle Bolts

Like molly bolts, toggle bolts can hold up to 100 pounds when installed as drywall anchors. They are also constructed entirely of metal and feature two wings or toggles that move outward as the bolt is tightened into the drywall.

Toggle bolt in the ceiling

Removing toggle bolts is exceedingly simple, but as with all other types of drywall anchors, some drywall repair will be needed to hide the hole left by the removal process.

Removing Plastic Expansion Anchors

Once you’ve removed the screw from the center of a plastic expansion anchor, it’s just as easy to handle the rest of the job. Use a drill fitted with a bit two sizes larger than the hole in which the anchor sits to chew away the outer collar of the anchor.

Once the outer collar is gone, the rest of the anchor should just slip inside the wall, leaving you with a small hole in your drywall to repair as you work out how to remove drywall anchors. If the anchor doesn’t fall behind the wall, you can use a screwdriver to gently push it until it does fall.

If you’re not sure of the size of drill bit that you’ll need, just use trial and error until you find a bit that covers the hole and can chew into the plastic collar. As a general tip, you’ll find that trial and error is a frequent approach to questions of how to remove drywall anchors.

Removing Self-Drilling Anchors

Getting a self-drilling drywall anchor out of your wall is well within reach of almost any DIY enthusiast interested in learning how to remove drywall anchors. After removing the screw from the anchor, you’ll need to remove the collar around the edge of the hole in your drywall.

To remove a plastic anchor, simply insert a utility knife under the anchor’s collar and use a sawing motion to remove it. Then take a screwdriver, and with gentle taps, force the rest of the anchor through the drywall until it falls behind the wall.

The process for dealing with metal anchors is the same in terms of how to remove drywall anchors, except that you’ll need to use a cutting wheel to remove the collar. Remember to wear safety glasses, and once the collar is removed, tap the rest of the anchor with a screwdriver until it falls behind the wall.

Removing Molly Bolts

Molly bolts comprise a bolt attached to a multi-pronged metal flange that expands tight against the back side of the drywall as the bolt is turned. In terms of knowing how to remove drywall anchors, molly bolts are the most intimidating type of wall anchor to remove.

Molly screw in a wall

But don’t worry, it’s not all that hard. You simply have to hammer the head of the bolt into the wall and then fill the hole you’ve created. You can learn how to fix that hole in the Frequently Asked Questions section of this post as you learn how to remove drywall anchors.

Removing Toggle Bolts

Because toggle bolts are basically just bolts outfitted with spring-loaded toggles that expand once the bolt is driven into the wall, removing them is exceedingly simple in terms of knowing how to remove drywall anchors. All you have to do is use a drill to back the bolt out of the wall.

Once the end of the bolt passes through the toggle, you’ll hear the toggle fall into the space behind the wall as the bolt comes out. As a bonus, if you save the bolt, you can buy a new toggle for it and have a drywall anchor on hand for the next time you need one.

How to Remove Drywall Anchors Frequently Asked Questions

As you’ve contemplated learning how to remove drywall anchors, you’ve likely come up with questions regarding the best way to approach this DIY project. Here are answers to a few questions that might have occurred to you while thinking about how to remove drywall anchors.

How are the holes left by removing drywall anchors repaired?

Of course, once you’ve removed a drywall anchor, you’ll face the issue of repairing the hole left in your wall. In most instances, all you’ll need for the job as part of how to remove drywall anchors is some drywall spackling compound.

However, if the removal has somehow left you with a hole larger than a nickel, you might want to consider using a drywall patch kit to bring your wall back into shape.

In either case, your first step will be to use a hammer to gently tap the rough edges around the drywall anchor hole to flatten the edges for a smooth finish. Also, at this point, you should remove any drywall dust with a dry cloth.

Using drywall spackle to repair holes left by drywall anchors

Next, smooth the drywall compound over the hole with a putty knife, removing any excess compound. Let it dry overnight, and come back with fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the area. From there, a bit of primer and some touch-up paint, applied with a small paintbrush, will finish the job.

Can drywall anchors be concealed rather than removed?

You don’t necessarily have to remove any drywall anchors that no longer serve a purpose, and concealing them is an easy proposition as part of how to remove drywall anchors. As with drywall anchor removal itself, the first step is to remove any screws protruding from the drywall.

From there, you can hammer any collars lightly into the wall and then follow the instructions above to repair the wall.

Are there any alternatives to drywall anchors?

As long as the items that you plan to hang on your wall are light in weight, there are a number of alternatives to using drywall anchors. A bonus of these alternatives is that they leave only small holes to be filled if the item is ever taken down.

There is also an alternative to drywall anchors for hanging heavier items, but it is a limited option.

Alternatives for lightweight objects

One lightweight option, of course, is the hooked picture hangers available at any craft store or home center. These hangers are held to the wall by a small nail driven diagonally into the drywall, leaving only a tiny, easily concealed hole in the wall when removed.

Alternatively, you can use a regular drywall screw for lightweight items, as long as you remember to install the screw at a slight downward angle.

Finally, adhesive hooks and strips are also available for hanging light artwork and other items on your walls.

Hanging heavy objects without drywall anchors

If you’re looking to hang heavier objects on your wall, like a massive painting or shelves that will display trophies or treasured knickknacks, your only alternative will be to find a wall stud in which to drive a nail or install a screw.

A first step for this approach should be to buy a stud finder.

A drawback of using wall studs as hanging points, of course, is that you’re limited as to where you can hang items. In fact, you may not be able to find a stud, or studs, located where you need them for hanging items on your walls.

Using a paintbrush to touch up a wall after repairing it

Wrapping up How to Remove Drywall Anchors

Now that you’ve learned how to remove drywall anchors without damaging your walls, you have cultivated a useful DIY skill that will serve you well for years to come.

DIY Painting Tips has much more information on drywall anchorsdrywall repair, and other drywall tips.