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Testing Wall Anchors and Picture Hangers

By: Ben Erickson

Whether it’s a priceless work of art or a collection of family photographs, it’s important that what you hang on your walls stays put. While attaching directly to studs provides the most security, they are often not located in the ideal spot, and screws and nails provide little support in drywall alone.

We put some of the more common fasteners to the test to see which ones held the most weight in drywall, caused the least damage, and are easiest to use. For shear holding power, anchors that spread out behind the wall did the best, but they also did the most damage to the wall. Since most pictures weigh less than ten pounds, the size of the hole and ease of installation may be more important than the actual holding ability of the fastener.

Test Results

Tests were conducted using downward pressure on a hollow section of standard ½” drywall. While all of these fasteners can be used in plaster as well, the holding power may vary and precautions should be taken to keep the wall from cracking.

Toggle Bolt (1/4″ bolt) $ 0.75 3/4” 300+
Threaded Toggle $ 1.50 3/8” 200+
Molly Bolt (1/8″ bolt) $ 0.50 1/4” 170
Threaded Anchor (brass) $ 1.20 3/8” 130
Threaded Anchor (plastic) $ 0.45 3/8” 110
Plastic Anchor (medium) $ 0.20 1/4” 80
Picture Hanger (large) $ 0.50 1/8” 80
Picture Hanger (medium) $ 0.20 3/32” 70
Picture Hanger (small) $ 0.15 1/16” 60
Picture Hanger (WallBiter™) $ 0.80 3/16” 100
Wire Hanger $ 0.75 1/16” 50

Prices are approximate and may differ depending on brand and quantity. While the fasteners pulled out of the wall at the pounds listed (except for toggles, which remained intact), they started showing signs of failure at 10-30 pounds less, so be sure to include an adequate safety margin in your calculations.

Toggle Bolts

Toggle bolts are available in various diameters and lengths to accommodate different wall thicknesses. While the clear winner for sheer holding power, they require drilling a large opening to insert the spring loaded toggle, leaving them wallowing in an oversized hole. Also, they are almost impossible to remove without the toggle falling off inside the wall.

Threaded Toggle

New self-drilling threaded toggles offer improvements over traditional ones since the hole fits tightly around the anchor and the center screw can be removed while the toggle body remains in place. They are easy to install, though difficult to remove. For maximum holding power with hanging objects, position them so the long arm of the toggle points up. This also makes it possible to remove them without tearing up the wall. On the downside, threaded toggles leave a substantial hole and are the most expensive of any of the anchors tested.

Molly Bolts

Like toggles, molly bolts work by spreading out behind the wall. They are installed by hammering them into the wall then tightening the bolt, which causes the casing to flair out. Mollies have an annoying tendency to spin in drywall when being tightened and are impossible to remove once installed. Your best bet is to hammer them below the surface of the wall and spackle over them. On the positive side, mollies fit snuggly in the hole and the center bolt can be removed and replaced as needed.

Threaded Anchors

The oversized threads on these anchors are designed to screw directly into drywall. They’re available in nylon or brass and come with either a center screw or picture hook. The brass version with hook held more weight than the center screw type. While threaded anchors hold well and are easy to install and remove, they leave a nice sized hole behind should you decide to redecorate in the future.

Plastic Anchors

These often used fasteners are hammered in a hole drilled in the wall and press against the sides when a screw is inserted. Though they work well in hard materials, such as brick and concrete block, they are not the best choice in drywall. For best results use ribbed anchors that are split, which allows them to spread out a bit behind the wall.

Picture Hangers

Traditional metal picture hangers come in several sizes and are nailed into the wall. While they don’t support as much weight as many other fasteners, they are easy to install and remove, and leave a much smaller hole.

A new twist is the WallBiter™ which is available in either plastic or brass. This molded one piece hanger has two curved prongs that are hammered into the wall. While only rated at 25 pounds, the large plastic version we tested held 80 pounds before beginning to show signs of failure. On the down side, it causes more damage to the wall than traditional picture hangers and costs more.

Wire Hangers

Another newcomer to picture hanging is a curved spring steel wire that can be inserted in the wall without tools in a matter of seconds (sold under brand names such as Heavy Duty Wall Hanger, Hercules Hook, and Monkey Hook). While some brands claim they hold up to 150 pounds, in our tests they began to pull out of drywall at around 40 pounds and failed at 50, which is still more than most pictures weigh. Wire hangers are easy to remove and leave a small hole. However, they cost more than traditional picture hangers and will only work where there is not a stud or other obstruction present in the wall.

The PowerHook is a more robust hanger that works on the same principle. While we didn’t test it, it’s claimed to hold up to 120 pounds, though it leave a larger hole than wire hangers.

The latest innovation in picture hanging hardware is a thin curved spring steel wire

Further Information

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24 Comments on “Testing Wall Anchors and Picture Hangers”

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  1. Kenneth Sharp Says:
    November 10th, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Our company, Novus Innovation Inc, have designed, patented and licensed an innovative and unique form of attachment mechanism. This patented techonology is simple and lends itself very well to the picture hanging industry. FYI, we are currently looking for a suitable company to manufacture and market the Grip IT picture hangers under an exclusive license agreement.

    Kenneth W Sharp

  2. Marc Says:
    March 21st, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    There is a new product called Wall-nut that is not listed. It has the same benefits as a toggle bolt without the oversized hole (just a 3/16″ hole will do) and is much less expensive. It is a great retrofit and is also excellent for new installations.

  3. trudy Says:
    July 26th, 2009 at 7:54 am

    I am preparing the walls in my house for painting. The previous owner used a lot of picture hangers, which from your photos I am guessing are “plastic anchors.”

    The screws have come out, but now the question is, how do I get the dratted anchors out of the walls without brute force chiseling or something? Thanks…

  4. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    August 4th, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Hi Trudy,
    If your walls are drywall, the best approch is to tap the anchor gently a few times with a crown head hammer to form a dent in the wall a 1/16″ or so deep. Be careful not to hit it hard enough to cause the paper on the drywall to break. Next, use a putty knife and spackling or drywall joint compound to fill over it, anchor and all. If needed, apply a second coat of compound after the first has dried. Finally, lightly sand the patch when dry and paint over it.

  5. maria Says:
    November 12th, 2009 at 12:53 am


    I need to install an art piece on drywall it is 63″ x 99″ and weighs 165 Lbs..

    Is that possible?.. Assuming the above chart is correct it means that toggle bolts shoud do the work? how many?
    Any reccomendations or suggestions?, I just want to prevent any tragedy..

  6. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 12th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Hi Maria,
    That’s one heavy piece of art! I would attach it using multiple wires and hangers (at least two: one on each side). Attaching hangers into studs with long screws is much better than attaching to drywall alone. If the studs won’t do, use toggles, threaded toggles (my personal favorite, remember to orient them so the long arm will be facing up for increased strength and to make removing them easier), or molly bolts (make sure they are the right size for the wall thickness). Good luck with your project!

  7. Peter Janssen Says:
    November 20th, 2009 at 12:16 am

    An alternative is the Thumbs Up! Tool Free picture hanger, it goes into drywall easily, with thumb pressure then locks in place with a simple 1/4 turn. Just push,rock and lock. Since they lock in place they resist withdrawal better than the wire hanger. They are also less likely to damage insulation or contact wiring in the wall.

  8. Donna Says:
    January 10th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    I have an old window that I want to hang on my PLASTER wall, I’m not sure how much it weighs…maybe 30pounds?? I have bought the plastic anchors w/ #10 screws but the package doesnt say how much weight they will hold. Can you help??

  9. denny Says:
    February 27th, 2010 at 9:14 am


    I have a mirror that weighs approx 100 lbs. I have 2 options for mounting it on the drywall.
    1. Ook professional picture hangers rated at 100 lbs/hook or
    2. NoStud drywall picture hanger rated for 200 lbs.

    I’ve looked on the internet and have not found anyone that have used either of these 2 items but their website have sworn by them….

    Any recommendations?

    Thanks denny

  10. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    March 1st, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Hi Denny,
    We haven’t tested the NoStud or OOK hangers, but here’s my take on them and your project:
    >100 pounds is a lot of weight to support, so I would use a separate wire on each side of the mirror and two hangers.
    >If possible, install the hangers to studs (assuming the mirror is at least 16″ wide and the studs are located where you would like to mount the mirror).
    >If you do attach to studs, you won’t be able to use the NoStud hanger, so you would need to use the OOK one.
    >If you don’t attach to the studs, use a hanger that provides support behind the drywall , like the threaded toggle and molly bolt in the article above, since they provide much more support than hangers that rely just on nails, though they will more damage to the wall.
    >Of the two hangers you’re considering, if you’re not attaching to studs, the NoStud hanger should support more weight since it provides support behind the wall, though it will do more damage to your wall.

  11. Renny Barnes Says:
    April 3rd, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Have you tried the Attach-it May we send you a free sample

  12. - Says:
    August 7th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    for super heavy stuff, I’d try a cleat type hanger. (some steel cabinets used to hang off a matching steel cleat. a wall cabinet stacked full of ceramic dinner plates is heavy!)
    you can try hardwood plank perhaps, or if desperate for slim air space between wall and the object, look for heavy steel strap in the Simpson or Silver tie bins.
    the advantage is that you can hang off real wood, not sheetrock. the disadvantage is that you’re guessing the max load. i suppose you could mock up your assembly in your garage (but lower, so the final crash falls lesser distance), and put a lot of weight on it. (hang buckets and fill them using a hose??)

    these sales reps dropping posts here, need to post some load ratings… some estimate retail price, too.

  13. Jack Says:
    March 5th, 2011 at 8:15 am

    I had a dorm room in college that was cast concrete. It had a wood ‘hanging bar’ that was wood attached near the ceiling. It was designed to put hooks over the top, and to hang string / wire down the wall to hang pictures, wall hangings on, and keep from having holes in the walls or using other wall penetrating or adhesive hangers.

    I like the idea of using a French cleat along one wall to hang cabinets and / or pictures or message boards from.

    Just another option!

  14. Larry Hak Says:
    March 10th, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Attach-It is far and away the best, fastest, and easiest method I have ever found to hang a picture. Attach a couple of them to the frame of the picture and simply press the picture into the wall. The points on the brackets penetrate into the wall and the picture is there to stay and y does not slip like when wires are used. When you take the picture off there are only small marks on the wall, way less than with other pictures.

    I bought mine at a home and garden show where they had a try it yourself demo booth. I couldn’t believe how good they worked. I got a pack thinking no way will they work that well at home. Fortunately I was wrong and they do work that well. Another neat thing they include with the hangers is a mini level for ease in hanging.

    I saw above they offered a free sample. I would strongly suggest you take them up on the offer. Once you use them you will never go back to another method.

    I think you can only get them on line. There is an instruction video on the site that shows how they are used.

  15. tony Says:
    June 4th, 2011 at 1:06 am

    I would like to mount an LCD TV (32″ and weighs about 25 lbs). The wall (drywall) I want to mount it on has no studs (at least none I can find with a studfinder). I keep reading how you shouldn’t mount a TV unless it is to a wall stud, but I think they are refering to a larger/heavier TV. Do you think I could mount my tv with 2 toggle bolts safely or should I not risk it?

  16. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    June 13th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Hi Tony,
    In the testing we did on toggle bolts in drywall, they supported 300 pounds, over 10 times the weight of your TV, so it would probably be okay. However, if it were my TV, I would error on the side of caution, and screw it to the wall studs.

  17. Mark bennett Says:
    September 17th, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I have wall monted unit from ikea besta burs, 22 kilo, 48.50lbs in weight it has 3 anker points,
    I am wanting to hang it on dry wall but the studs are not in the right place to centre the unit would toggles do the trick.

  18. Bee Says:
    October 27th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Thanks for this article! Exactly what I was looking for!

  19. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    October 28th, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Hi Bee,
    I’m glad to hear the article helped!

  20. Renny Barnes Says:
    November 1st, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    I do not know who Larry Hak is but he explained the better then I May we please send you a sample for your review . It would save your readers a lot on time and effort . Thanks for your thoughtful review Renny Barnes ps. the attach-it is a product of the Barnacle Company

  21. Alison Says:
    November 9th, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I have just bought a restaurant and the pictures were professionally hung. I can’t seem to remove them. They have a bracket on the bottom and two on the top. I can slide the frame 1/2 inch or less in one direction but they are solid to the wall. Any ideas on how to remove them. I am assuming they hung them in this manner so no one could take them????/ Thanks

  22. Brittany Says:
    November 10th, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I spent a whole week looking for this information before finally coming across this article! Thanks for the help, I’ve used it to hang 2 items already! However, I now have a portion of an Italian hand-forged iron gate that I would like hung on a wall… it weighs approximately 350 pounds. There is going to have to be something holding it to the wall, as well as supporting the weight of it. The length of wall that it will consume has at least 4 studs. Any recommendations? Thanks in advance!

  23. Patrick Says:
    January 9th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    I want to hang surround speakers that weigh almost 12lbs each on drywall. What anchors do you recommend for this?

  24. Jeff Says:
    June 26th, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I am a professional home theater/stereo installer and for speakers mounted “on-wall” I use the metal(brass) large thread self drilling anchors, then use the appropriate sized screw to mount your bracket by screwing into the metal anchors. Anything 20# or less should do well, assuming your sheet rock is in decent condition. Be very careful to not break the paper on either side of the sheet rock or this will greatly weaken your mount.

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