I know.  It’s a big, scary looking thing but once I explain it, it’ll be about as scary as a chocolate covered cotton ball.

Which is actually incredibly scary. You’d think it was a nice round chocolate you were biting into but inside would be horrid squinchy cotton.  Like running fingernails down a chalkboard but for your teeth.

So, we’ve all been there I’m sure … hung a nice full sized cow on our wall only to have it fall down in the middle of the night, scaring the farts right out of the cat.  It happens.  But it doesn’t have to.

For some reason people are under the impression that hanging things on the wall is frightening.  I think it’s the whole things falling off of the wall scenario we’ve all lived through.  But that’s only because you’re using the wrong drywall anchors.  I’ve used them too.  I’ll admit it.  Those plastic coloured anchors that you hammer into the drywall.  You keep screwing and screwing your screw into it and it just keeps spinning and spinning because it isn’t actually grabbing onto anything.  But you hang something off of it anyways even if it doesn’t seem like it’s going to work because you paid for it and installed it and can’t think of any other way to do it.  Then your cow falls down.

It’s because those plastic anchors aren’t really meant for drywall.  They’re usually meant for solid walls like concrete.  They *can* in certain circumstances be used for drywall but you’re taking your chances.

Enter the hollow wall anchor.  In this case the classic “Molly Bolt”.  THESE are the only drywall (sheetrock) anchors you should use.  They are the best.  How do I know they’re the best?  Just ask Bessie.

These are my favourite anchors. Yes there are others like screw in anchors and toggle bolts and a bunch of other things, but these are my favourites so that’s why I’m talking about them and telling you to use them too.

When you buy a box of Hollow Wall Anchors there are 3 things you need to look for on the box:


What to look for in Hollow Wall Anchors

  1. Make sure what you’re buying is indeed a Hollow Wall Anchor for drywall.
  2. Make sure they’re the right size for your drywall.  This box is good for drywall that is 3/8ths to 5/8ths thickness.  (there are other Hollow Wall Anchors that are for very thin materials like hollow doors)
  3. Note the size of the drill bit that they recommend you use and make sure you own one!

Also best to make sure you own a drill.



Mark the place on your wall where you want to hang something.  Using the right sized drill bit, drill your hole.  DON’T go wiggling all over the place with your drill.   Hold it stead and drill straight in and pull straight out.  If you wiggle you’ll actually drill a larger hole.


Take the Hollow Wall Anchor out of the package and hammer it straight into the wall.  You don’t have to adjust it or fiddle with it or anything.  Just whack it in there.



If you look back up at the first picture I showed you you’ll see that there’s tiny teeth under the flat edge of the anchor.  These will grip into the outside of the drywall so make sure you hammer it in good.



Now you get your screwdriver and start screwing the screw in. I know it looks like it’s already in (and it is) but what you’re doing at this moment is creating Hollow Wall Anchor magic.

As you screw the screw in, a sort of flange is being pushed out at the back of the drywall.  The more you turn the screw the tighter and tighter the flange gets.  Just keep turning until you can feel some good resistance.  It may take a while and you might get bored.



Once you’ve screwed it in to the point that you feel the resistance of the flange (I’m not really sure that’s the right word to be using) against the back of the drywall you can start unscrewing the screw.  Again.  Totally boring.

I recommend doing it by hand though and not with a drill because you don’t have enough control over the drill and if you screw your Hollow Wall Anchor in too tightly you could end up squishing your drywall and ruining it.  Just do it by hand.  Super exercise for your wrist anyway which will come in handy the next time you slap someone.

If you’re only hanging a mirror or picture then you can just pull the screw out enough to get your wire picture hanger over it.



If you’re attaching something to the wall like a bar or TV mount you might have to remove the screw entirely and then, yes, screw it back in again.

And don’t worry.  Undoing the screw doesn’t do anything to the flange.  It stays rock solid.  That baby’s in your wall for good now.

Seriously.  To remove it you have to just hammer it into the wall and cover it up with drywall compound.  Yes. I know.  That’s scared you even more.  You will now never hang anything on the wall again.



You say that now, but one day you’ll be driving around the countryside, hit a cow by accident and then what?  How do you think you’re going to hang it?

I hope you paid attention to all of this because tomorrow I’m going to show you something you’re going to need this little Hollow Wall Technique for a DIY I’m posting about on Wednesday.

A DIY that one year ago saved my life.


  1. Nick says:

    The Hilti HTB wall anchors are by far the best on the market and adjust to any wall thickness granted it isn’t longer that the anchor itself. They are also easier to use, install, and hold up better over time.

  2. Jay says:

    Have a recommended brand? Since I couldn’t remember the last brand I used (worked really well) I bought a pack of Hillman and they were the worst, either didn’t expand at all (screw just freely spun round and round) or for the couple that did start to expand, they ended up shreading the wall, (expanded slightly and then were just stuck in that position).

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jay. Is it possible you just didn’t get the correct size for the thickness of your drywall? That could cause those problems too. ~ karen!

  3. Eileen says:

    Dear Karen,
    Your post on wall anchors was extremely well done and helpful – thank you! (Your post was much clearer and more thorough than several other posts I found on the internet on the subject, and thanks to you I was able to effectively install a heavy wood wall shelf/coat rack in my plaster wall correctly and sturdily!)
    I was wondering if you have done, or might do, a post on installing a ceiling hook? I would like to install a ceiling hook which would be sturdy enough to hang a heavy 2-gallon plant pot. I have absolutely no experience with ceiling hooks and wouldn’t know where to begin. I was hoping I might find a post about this on your blog, but my search for this topic came up negative. I’m guessing this issue may be quite similar to attaching something to a wall, but I’m not sure of any specific issues to be aware of for attaching something to a ceiling. And I don’t know how one would use an anchor with a ceiling hook. Any advice?

  4. nat says:

    knew this in general but followed your advice-actually figured out how thick the drywall was-and got the anchors. I don’t know why but I do the thing and the flanges don’t open- I can pull the whole thing out and it’s still skinny and closed. Hope I can figure it out. My walls are weird and ALL anchors seem to work their way out.Gaah. Love your blog. Any ideas on this?

  5. Wednesday says:

    I wish I had seen this three weeks ago….
    I purchased the pointed plastic things, it dug up the drywall, building up under the top part as I tried to screw it into the wall, when it “stopped” still sticking out of the wall, I turned the screwdriver harder… said not to but, I wanted the anchor in the wall, not standing out from the wall… the plastic anchor broke, I was able to remove it, in pieces (that was fun)… leaving a big hole in the wall
    I tried another on the hole that would hold the lower screw for the curtain rod bracket… it went less far in before it stopped… same procedure…

    so, nearly 3/8″ holes in the wall…. look too big for these anchors, I bet filling those holes with dry wall patch, won’t support new anchors?
    I’m afraid to try the curtain rod supposed to go up in the bedroom, have been staring at the the holes in the wall in the living room trying to figure out what to do next…

  6. Nickie Taylor says:

    Will these anchors work for mounting pallet boards on the plaster walls. I want to cover the wall with pallet wood then hang cast iron cookware on the wood.

  7. Mary says:

    Hi Karen,
    Storage closet in my basement has 4’ MDF shelves on drywall, each board supported by 2 metal brackets (underneath), one bracket toward each board end. Each bracket has 3 holes for screws. The owner before me installed them using plain old plastic anchors, so the brackets bent under the weight when I set average sz boxes on them (no heavy stuff like books, but some small appliances). The MDF board itself is pretty heavy, though. So
    1. Can I get by just replacing plastic anchor with molly bolt in each hole? (x3 for each bracket—a lot of bolts!) Or
    2. Do I need to use at least 1 toggle bolt/bracket (say for the bottom hole)? Or
    3. Should I just get better brackets, and stick with all mollies? (I doubt I can straighten the bent bracket well enough, but I could just buy another.)

    Advice, please! Thanks. 😉

    (Btw, there two rows of 3 boards (each) next to each other—two ~12’ long shelves, one above the other.)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary! Well if it were me, I’d probably start from scratch and do it all right. So replacing the brackets (if they’re bent beyond repair) and all the plastic anchors with Molly bolts. If you’re doing some of it, it doesn’t take much more time or energy to do all of it. If your brackets are bent, your shelfs will never be nice and level. Since they’re MDF which doesn’t bent too much, you’re probably O.K. with 2 brackets on each 4′ shelf, but normally I’d also put a bracket in the centre of the shelf to stop any bowing. Possibly not the answer you’re looking for, but there you have it. 🙂 ~ karen!

  8. Barb Lund says:

    We hung a barn door and it is now coming out of the drywall as the studs do not line up correctly. Can i use these eventhough there is already a hole there?

  9. Ricky Gibson says:

    I’m mounting a television bracket to a wall in an older home. It doesn’t have drywall or plaster. It’s a fairly soft material that doesn’t appear to be hollow. It’s not particle board but leaves quite a bit of “dust” when drilled. It’s approximately 3 7\8″ thick. I tried the lag bolts but because the wall is not hollow (at least not where I need to mount) it wasn’t able to open up. What type of anchor can I use to mount this bracket onto this particular wall? Thanks in advance.

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