How to fix a door handle that is loose - a step-by-step guide

Tighten your door handle and get it back to full working order

White door with chrome handle
(Image credit: Future PLC/David Parmiter)

The more jobs around the house we can do ourselves saves time, money and stress. So learning things like how to fix a door handle that is loose is a great skill to add to your arsenal.  

Being able to fix a loose handle means you can keep your current handle or door knob without having to replace it, because replacing one would mean replacing the set, if you want to keep them all matching. Just like with fixing a door that sticks, this is a DIY job that will save you time, money and effort down the line.

'A loose door handle can be caused by a few things, including general wear over time, a loose screw, or even a malfunction of the handle or knob mechanism,' says Karl Huckerby, CEO, Square and Spare. 'Luckily, fixing door handles or knobs is usually a pretty easy fix, meaning there's no need to replace anything.'

Wooden door with metal hardware and knob

(Image credit: Future PLC/Alistair Nicholls)

How to fix a door handle that is loose

We've asked the experts and put together a step-by-step guide to show you how to fix a door handle that is loose with minimum hassle. You'll be glad to know that this is a relatively easy DIY project that can be done in as little as 10 minutes, so there's no excuse not to grab your screwdriver and get cracking. 

Firstly, check whether you can see the screws on your door handle. If you can't, you can jump straight to the section on how to fix a door handle that is loose with hidden screws. 

How to fix a door handle that is loose with exposed screws

If the screws in your door handle are already visible, you can learn how to fix a door handle that is loose relatively quicker than one with hidden screws. A door handle with exposed screws will usually have four screws, one in each corner of the plate. 

1. Remove the handle or doorknob

Selection of door handles on table

(Image credit: Smile Kitchens)

Find the set screw that holds the doorknob or handle in place. This is normally on the inside of the door, and can be loosened with an appropriate screwdriver from your essential DIY toolkit. Loosening the screws will allow you to remove the handle.

2. Rotate the shaft

The spindle, or shaft, will either be 'threaded' or 'unthreaded'. If the spindle is threaded, it will have markings going along the length of it, and you will need to rotate its handle so that it sits correctly in the door. If the shaft is unthreaded (i.e. no markings), there's no need to rotate the handle.

3. Place the handle on the spindle

Then, place the knob or handle on the spindle correctly by realigning the holes. Make sure that the face plate is also in the correct place.

4. Tighten the screw set

Tighten the screw set with the screwdriver to secure the door handle back in place, and that's it! You've now learned how to fix a door handle that is loose with exposed screws.

How to fix a door handle that is loose with hidden screws

Learning how to fix a door handle that is loose with hidden screws requires an extra step, because the screws must first be located. But it's still a job straightforward enough to do yourself and unlikely to result in any dramatic DIY mistakes.

1. Locate the detent hole

Silver door handle with hidden screws on blue door

(Image credit: Yale)

'On door knobs or handles with hidden screws, there is such a thing called a detent hole, which needs to be found in order to access the screws,' explains Karl from Square and Spare. 'The detent is a little pin that sticks out of the hole in the doorknob or handle.'

To locate the detent hole, you may need to remove the cover plate first with a flathead screwdriver. Once the detent is exposed, use a flathead screwdriver to press on the pin and remove the handle from the shaft.

Alternatively, round cover plates may need to be turned anti-clockwise to be unscrewed first,' explains Thomas Goodman, Property Expert, MyJobQuote. 'If not, prise it off carefully with a flathead screwdriver.'

2. Remove the handle or doorknob

Wooden door with matte black lever handle

(Image credit: Homebase)

Remove the door handle/knob base. Use the flathead screwdriver to gently loosen the ring.

3. Tighten the screws

Once the ring is removed, all screws should be visible, so you can use the correct screwdrivers to tighten them individually. 'Make sure that you keep hold of the backing plate while doing this, so that it doesn't tighten onto the door wonkily,' advises Karl from Square and Spare. 

Note that if the screws seem damaged in any way, they may need to be replaced with a new set, which you can purchase online or from a DIY store.

4. Reattach the handle and test

Door with painted stripe going across onto wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

After tightening every screw, put the ring back on the backing plate, and the handle or knob back over the shaft. Gradually turn the handle or knob so that it lines up correctly and the detent hole clicks into place with the knob/handle.

Your door handle should no longer be loose, and you should be able to move it up and down (or around) securely. 

What causes a loose door handle?

White door with silver lever handle in front of living room

(Image credit: Homebase)

Door handles will often become loose over time, as screws have a tendency to move from their original place. Repeated use of a handle will cause it to loosen, so maintaining a gentler approach when using them will help. 

'Door mechanisms and fixings can work loose over time, especially if they’re heavily used,' explains Thomas from MyJobQuote. 'Poor fitting and cheap materials can also be a factor.'

'One of the main reasons that door handles may come loose is due to the handle being misaligned when screwed in,' adds Christopher Varghese, Ecommerce Executive, GTSE. 'This misalignment can cause tension making the screw hole larger, the more it is used, which loosens the screws.'

It's worth learning how to fix a door handle that is loose as soon as you notice the problem, so it doesn't worsen and you're still able to repair it without replacing it. Fortunately, it's usually just a case of removing the handle and tightening the screws, not as complex as learning how to hang a door.

Can you tighten a loose door handle?

White door with chrome handle revealing living room

(Image credit: Homebase)

In most cases, you can tighten a loose door handle, but it's important to first check what the issue is. If it's a problem with the handle itself rather than loose screws, it might not be as simple as tightening the screws.

'If your door handle has had many years of use, it may be worth replacing the door handle, but in most cases, loose screws don’t mean the handle isn’t up to scratch,' says Wayne Kennedy, Head of Consumer Support, Yale.

'We only recommend changing the handle if the door has the incorrect handle set required or there is a mechanical handle failure.' In other instances, you can simply tighten the screws.

How do you fix a loose spindle on a door knob?

White door with brass door knob revealing living room

(Image credit: Homebase)

A loose spindle means your door knob isn't attached securely and will therefore be able to spin freely. 'If the spindle on an old or traditional style of door knob feels loose, it’s usually the case that there’s a small screw that’s loose', explains Thomas from MyJobQuote. 

There should be a little screw on the door knob collar that fits into the groove of the spindle. 'Check to see if this is worn or dirty as it may need cleaning or replacing,' adds Thomas. 

'The screw may be loose because the screw hole has become larger,' says Christopher from GTSE. 'Our useful tip is to fill the hole with small splinters of a wooden coffee stirrer or ice lolly stick and then screw the metal screws back in.' This will fill the excess room in the hole so the screw can sit securely in place.

Katie Sims

Katie Sims has been writing for Ideal Homes since spring 2022. She qualified from her Master’s in Media and Journalism in 2021 and has been writing freelance since. She has worked on Ideal Home’s ecommerce team where she researched the best home products on the market, and on the news team, researching the latest trends for feature pieces.