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The light bulb broke off but the metal portion remains in the holder. What is the best or safest way to remove this bulb from the holder?

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    For ANY method using electrically conductive tools (potatoes, pliers like the ones below where you can easily slip forward onto bare metal), either: a) Make sure light fixture is physically disconnected by fuse or plug, or b) make sure (measure with a voltmeter that you positively tested on a live socket) there is no dangerous voltage relative to earth on ANY contact in the light socket. If that can't be done - well I cannot recommend using insulated tools, gloves and shoes since that is stuff diy'ers arent supposed to do under most codes :) – rackandboneman Dec 28 '15 at 21:25
  • what i wanted to say: "light/wall socket doesn't power a device plugged/screwed in" only means "there is no power to that socket that could cause an accident" if your house wiring has been done perfectly. Always assume it hasn't. – rackandboneman Dec 28 '15 at 21:34
  • A photo would be useful for this question for those that have never seen a broken light bulb - I've used CFL's for at least 15 years now, so it's possible for an 20 year old to have never had to change an incandescent. (CFL's break too, but they tend to have a large plastic base that's easy to turn) – Johnny Dec 29 '15 at 5:47
  • diy.stackexchange.com/q/47713/24626 – kasperd Dec 29 '15 at 13:27
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Make sure there is no power going to the light, and use a potato. Cut it in half, jam it in and twist(unscrew) to remove.

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    What size of potato in relation to the socket. Should the diameter of the potato be greater than that of the light socket? – Steven Dec 28 '15 at 19:57
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    The potato should be larger than the socket. The idea is that there are some glass shards sticking out that will dig into the potato. WARNING: Don't eat the potato! – James Dec 28 '15 at 20:25
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    I suppose that applies to during and after. I am guessing that it would be alright to eat it before, but then I would need a new potato. – Steven Dec 28 '15 at 20:42
  • I'd think the glass would just shred the potato. – Carcigenicate Dec 29 '15 at 0:14
15

TURN OFF THE POWER FIRST!!!

Put the jaws of pliers into the socket and force the handles apart to grip the inside of the socket. Turn the pliers to back out the bulb.

If the friction is not strong enough to turn the base of the bulb, you can wrap the jaws with a rubber band first.

enter image description here

  • +1 because this works - these pliers can also grab into the rim easily. – rackandboneman Dec 28 '15 at 21:23
  • I've had to do this many times, and I agree that this is by far the best method. +1 for you. – MPW Dec 28 '15 at 21:29
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    @MPW ... what goes on in your house that you had to do this many times? – Tschallacka Dec 29 '15 at 8:54
  • Heh. Not all at once, to be sure, and not all at my house. Last time was removing a couple of smashed bulbs from a ceiling fan for my mother-in-law. First time I tried it, I was trying to grab one edge of the socket rim with the needle-nose pliers, and it occurred to me to try splaying the jaws open inside the socket. It really does work and is very easy. Lots of times the problem is a bulb screwed to tightly and a socket that has developed a bit of a patina, resisting unscrewing the bulb. I always wondered if there was some sort of nonconducting lubricant I could wipe out the socket with. – MPW Dec 29 '15 at 13:13
  • @MichaelDibbets I had to do this fairly frequently when I was buying really cheap incandescent light bulbs from pound shops and similar. I would turn the light on, see a bright flash and the bulb would drop to the floor (usually the bulb itself was still intact – Peter Green Dec 29 '15 at 21:35
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If you can't be sure which switch position turns off the socket (say, with a double switch that lets you control the light from two locations), locate and shut off the breaker for that circuit, or remove its fuse -- or if a lamp, unplug the cord.

The potato trick works well as long as there's glass left on the socket (the potato needs to be big enough to catch on the broken glass attached to the base). If there's no glass left, but the central insulator post is intact, I've successfully removed the broken bulb by carefully gripping the internal glass insulator and using it to twist out the base (gloves highly recommended to protect your fingers in case the insulator breaks), or used small-nosed pliers to grip the edge of the base (which protrudes a few millimeters above the socket) and unscrew the base.

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Isolate the power to the circuit at the fuse box/consumer unit/breaker panel/whatever your country calls it first. DO NOT rely on lightswitches to isolate the power. If you know what other things are on the same circuit then you can use them to double check that the circuit is off. If you have a non-contact voltage detector you could use that to double check.

Make sure the circuit will not be turned back on. In a commercial situation I would want to see a lockout. With my own family I consider telling them not to turn the circuit back on to be sufficient.

Then use pliers to remove the remains of the bulb from the socket. Ideally these pliers would have approved insulated handles but at the very least you should ensure you don't touch any metal parts of the pliers during the work.

A good rule of thumb in life is to try and make sure that wherever possible you are at least two failures or screwups away from danger. Hence why you should isolate the power AND use insulated tools.

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