Want to know a secret? I hate drywall anchors.
They’re supposedly simple. Make hole. Stick wall anchor in. Be happy.
But somehow over the years, I’ve managed to make every mistake possible. Here’s a running list of dumb things I’ve done involving wall anchor installation:
- Put a drywall anchor into a plaster wall, and wondered why it didn’t work
- Drilled too small a hole, and crushed the anchor when I tried to hammer it in
- Put a wall anchor in where there was a stud, and then spent 5 minutes wondering why the anchor wouldn’t go in any further
- Stripped a plastic wall anchor when driving it into the wall
- Shattered an anchor when adding the screw
Basically, every time I realize I’m going to need a wall anchor, I wilt like a sad basil plant that’s desperately trying to survive the winter.
So today I’m going to test all the different types to figure out which ones are actually best, both for my sake and yours!
Note: This blog contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.)
I’ll be judging the drywall anchors on a number of very official and scientific components, including ease of installation, foolproof-ness, price, secure-ness, and re-useability.
The weight capacity and possible uses for each wall anchor will be discussed as well, but I’m not going to consider that in the actual judging. Just because an anchor is only intended for lightweight applications doesn’t mean it’s a bad wall anchor.
It’s also worth mentioning that these things don’t really have names. “Molly Bolt” and “Toggle Bolt” are both fairly general terms that encompass half the wall anchors I’m testing. The specific variations don’t seem to have their own names.
“Toggle Bolts” are the ones where wings pop out against the back of the drywall, like anchors 1, 2 and 4 in the picture above.
“Molly Bolts” are basically sleeves in the drywall that help the screw grip the wall. Sometimes they expand a bit for more security. 9, 8, and 7 in the photo above are all molly bolts.
So because there aren’t more specific names, I’m just going to take lots of pictures of the packaging and the wall anchor itself, as well as link to the product website itself.
I bought most of my drywall anchors at Menards (a big box home improvement store in the Midwest,) but Home Depot and Lowes should have similar styles, if different brands.
Note: I don’t have any particular attachment to Menards, nor is this sponsored, they just had the best selection of small sets of drywall anchors.
1. The Big Plastic Toggle Bolt – 4 Stars
Every drywall anchor section seems to stock at least one of these giant plastic things:
I was always a bit scared of them, because they look a little intense. But installing it was easier than I thought it’d be, and the final hold was rock solid.
I used this wall anchor from Menards, and it’s rated for up to 100 pounds. This type of wall anchor is permanent and not removable, although you can countersink it and cover it with spackling if you decide you no longer need a wall anchor in that spot.
I’d use it to hang a particularly heavy piece of artwork in a location where I couldn’t hit a stud. I wouldn’t use it for shelving or cabinetry, for that I’d build a rail.
The directions on the back were pretty straightforward, and despite the fact I’d never tried a wall anchor like this before, my first installation attempt went smoothly.
Basically, you press metal part straight, shove it through a hole you drilled, then pull back toward you, forcing the metal part to pop out and hold against the wall. Then you move the plastic head up into the wall, break of the excess plastic, and add your screw.
This worked wonderfully the first time I tried. The hold was really solid, and I was super impressed.
The second time I tried, the metal part didn’t pop out immediately. I kept wiggling it and eventually it popped like it was suppose to.
Because I could see behind my drywall, it wasn’t a big deal. But if I was working on an actual wall I’m not sure I would’ve realized that the toggle hadn’t popped, which would’ve rendered my wall anchor useless.
So, moral of this, if you use this type, make sure you hear the anchor pop.
I give it four stars. They lost one for not being foolproof.
2. The Scary Metal Toggle Bolt – 5 Stars
I’d compare this toggle bolt to the giant plastic one in Number 1. They serve the same purpose, and once installed, work similarly.
The ones I tested are both rated for 100 pounds.
I tested this anchor from Menards.
Like the plastic anchor above, this wall anchor is permanent, although you can countersink it and cover it with spackling if you decide you no longer need a wall anchor in that spot.
This wall anchor claims to be self-drilling, and while it’s a little clunky, you absolutely can “self-drill” the anchor.
You could also drill a hole. If I wasn’t testing the anchor for this post, I probably just would’ve drilled the hole. It’s easier.
But past that, installation is easy. Drill/self-drill hole, drive in anchor, add screw. Done.
Like, you really can’t screw this one up. It really is foolproof. Both times I tested it, the hold was rock solid.
Adding the screw activates the toggle, and then you end up with the same type of hold as the giant plastic toggle bolt in number 1.
Price-wise, the two anchors were comparable. At posting, the plastic ones were $2.75, the metal ones were $2.89. Both sets came with two anchors.
I’d pick this one every time. 5 stars.
3. The Rocket Ship Wall Anchor – 1 Star
I tested this wall anchor.
There were no installation instructions, so I took a guess at installation.
My guess was very wrong.
I have no idea how this thing is suppose to work. I drilled the 5/16″ hole the packaging told me to, inserted the thing, and tightened the screw.
Or tried to tighten the screw. It just spun around in the drywall.
I legitimately have no idea what went wrong. Was I suppose to remove the screw, then reinsert it? But then that little plastic pointy piece would fall off, and I’m sure that’s there for a reason.
I tried a second time, with no success.
One star. While I’m sure it was user error, if I can’t figure out how to install your wall anchor, it’s pointless.
4. The Cheap Metal Toggle Bolt – 3 Stars
These bolts are the cheapest, simplest version of a toggle bolt and the four-pack cost me $1.98.
Note that in the image above, the toggle is placed backwards. I wasn’t thinking when I laid this out.
This bolt is rated for 30 pounds, but you can purchase larger versions that are rated for higher weights. It’s not really removable – you can get the screw out, but the toggle will just fall into the wall.
You also will need to supply something to go between the screw and the wall. That can be the thing you’re trying to hang, or a washer or random piece of metal or wood. For this experiment, I used a spacer left over from an Ikea installation:
The big selling point of this anchor is that it’s cheap. If you’re a contractor, or someone who just needs a bunch of wall anchors, buying these in bulk is the way to go.
But they take skill to install, and they’re not anywhere near as secure as the plastic and metal toggle bolts I tested in numbers 1 and 2. Even after I installed it correctly and tightened it as much as I could, it was still a little wiggly.
Basically, you drill large hole, smush your toggle together, and shove it through the hole. The toggle pops open on the other side, and then you tighten the screw to secure.
But you can’t just push a screwdriver into the screw and tighten. The toggle on the other side needs contact with the drywall, otherwise the screw will just spin in the drywall.
So you have to pull the screw towards you while twisting it into place. It is not intuitive.
You also have to supply your own washer, else the screw falls right into the wall.
Three stars. Useful for contractors, but if you’re a general homeowner who just needs a few secure drywall anchors, go buy the nicer version (number 2, “Scary Metal Toggle Bolt.”)
5. Removable Screw-Type Wall Anchor – Read for Stars
I bought a multi-pack of these on-sale awhile back (similar to this) and have used them extensively over the past few years. I have opinions.
These claim to be both self-drilling and removable. Weight capacity depends on the size of the anchor, but it’s generally less than the “toggle bolt” style, and more than the “molly bolt” style.
They come in both plastic and metal versions. One is far superior to the other.
The metal version of this anchor is fantastic. It’s self-drilling, easy to install, removable and reusuable.
The plastic version is junk. I honestly cannot get one of these into the wall without stripping the “+” sign, even when I drill a hole first. I usually have to strip three or four of them to get a single anchor into the wall.
And removing it? Please.
Plus, sometimes the plastic ones shatter. I’m not really sure how this happens, but I’ll put a screw in, and suddenly it’ll crack into a bunch of pieces. Not ideal, especially considering it’s already stuck in the wall.
So stay away from the plastic screw-type wall anchors.
The metal ones really are great though. Installation is easy since you don’t have to worry about stripping the anchor. And since there aren’t any moving pieces, you don’t have to worry that you installed it wrong, like some of the toggle bolts above. Once installed, the hold is solid.
So, I give two stars for the plastic version, since once you manage to get it into the wall, it’s a decent anchor. It’s also cheaper than the metal version, for obvious reasons.
And I give five stars to the metal version, because it really is excellent.
6. “T-Shaped” Wall Anchor –
2 Stars 1 Star
I’d actually never seen these before, but they looked interesting so I grabbed a set.
I purchased these from Menards. They were $2.98 for a 5-pack at posting.
These were the first wall anchors I purchased that were dependent on the drywall thickness, which is a little annoying, because I can’t think of a single place I’ve lived where the thickness of my drywall was a crucial fact I carried around in my head.
5/8″ thick drywall is the most common, but 1/2″ and 3/4″ exist as well.
Installation was a bit confusing, in that you were suppose to press the wings in, and insert the anchor through a hole you drilled. But the wings didn’t flatten easily, so I was unsure which way I was suppose to bend them. But I did manage to flatten it eventually and get the anchor through the hole.
The packaging says the anchor holds up to 143 lbs, which seems like a lot given that those wings didn’t actually lay flat against the drywall once it was installed.
Maybe that was my fault, but that means installation wasn’t foolproof. And I don’t know what I did wrong, so I can’t even come back and do it better later.*
Two stars. There’s no way this thing is holding 143 lbs. Also, who out there is actually 100% certain of their drywall size?
*Side note: No, I did not mismatch the anchor and drywall size. I triple checked the drywall size afterwards, and I definitely purchased a 1/2″ piece of drywall to match the wall anchors.
I figured out what I did wrong. Apparently there was a “setting pin” included that I was suppose to use to stab the wings flat. Well. That was not clear.
I think it’s worth noting that I installed it wrong and still ended up with a functioning anchor. To me, that’s just straight up dangerous, because now you think your anchor can hold more than it actually can.
What if you tried to use it at that capacity, and something fell and someone got hurt?
Demotion to one star.
7. Pogo Stick Molly Bolt – 4 Stars
I don’t know why this one looks like a pogo stick to me, but it does. Do kids even still play with those?
I purchased this set of five wall anchors for $2.98. This specific set is rated for 35 pounds, however there are larger anchors that are rated for higher weights, although none of them are as strong as the toggle bolt anchors.
This is your standard “towel racks, curtains, light artwork” type of wall anchor.
This was easy and predictable to install. Drill hole, shove anchor through, add screw. It was a little challenging to get the wings through the hole, but nothing a little hammering didn’t fix.
They seemed to work as intended, in that when I added the screw, the anchor folded in and put pressure against the back of the drywall.
Worth noting is that these are not removable, nor is it easy to countersink them after the fact. I suppose with a large enough nail set-type tool, you could embed it further in the drywall, but this isn’t the type of anchor where if you keep screwing it countersinks.
Four stars. They work well, but lose a star for difficulty to remove or coverup. And although they’re generally fine wall anchors, I think the metal screw-type anchor (number 5) is still a better light/medium duty wall anchor.
8. Basic Molly Anchor – 3 Stars
This is the thing that comes with products that need to be hung. This one was sitting in my inventory, and it probably was included in some wall hook kit.
These are best for light duty applications, like a small piece of art. They don’t actually do anything other than increase surface area touching the drywall, so they’re not that strong.
They’re not what I would go to if I needed my wall anchor to hold any significant weight.
I find that the hardest thing about installing these types of anchors is that they come along with some other sort of hanging product, and don’t actually tell you what size hole to drill.
So you’re stuck guessing, which means you have some amount of trial and error. I’ve crushed more than one molly anchor by trying to hammer it into a hole that was too small.
They’re also not removable or easily countersunk, but using a nail set to embed the anchor further into the wall is always an option.
I basically use these if I’m hanging something pretty light that I think needs a little extra support, but isn’t worth buying a better anchor for. Or if they came with a product I bought.
Three stars. Fine, especially if you have a bunch of leftover free ones, but mildly annoying to install if you weren’t given a drill bit size, and not that strong.
9. Alligator-Style Drywall Anchor – 4.5 Stars
This one opens up and reminds me of alligator’s mouth:
I got this set of 6 drywall anchors for $2.98. It’s rated for up to 69 pounds, but like other anchors, different sizes are rated for different weights. Regardless of the size, these are still less strong than the toggle bolts tested in numbers 1 and 2.
I feel like I have nothing to say about this one, because it worked. It was simple, easy to install, and did what it said it would do.
I drilled a hole, inserted the anchor, drove in the screw, and basked in perfection.
Unfortunately these aren’t removable, so if you don’t need them anymore, you’re stuck countersinking with a nail set.
Four and a half stars.
There are three anchors styles that I’m willing/planning to purchase again: “The Scary Metal Toggle Bolt” (#2,) “Removable Metal Screw-Type Wall Anchor” (#5,) and “Alligator-Style Drywall Anchor” (#9.)
These are what I’d consider to be the best in their style and weight classification. The metal toggle bolt (#2) is best for heavy duty applications.
For medium and light duty applications, I’ll probably reach for #5 or #9 depending if I need the anchor to be removable. The removable anchor is more expensive than the alligator-style anchor, so I’ll probably go for the alligator-style if I don’t need it to be removable.
Both are easy to install and good for the same weight applications, so removability is probably the main thing I’ll use to differentiate.
That is, after I use up the many wall anchors I now have in stock. That may take awhile!