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Molly Bolts vs Toggle Bolts - Which Should I Use?

What's the difference between a molly bolt and a toggle bolt? Are they the same type of wall anchor with different names? Find out more here!

toggle bolt vs molly bolt

Are you trying to decide between a toggle bolt or molly bolt? These anchors are like close siblings, with people always mixing up their names! In this guide, you'll learn the main differences between these hollow wall anchors and when you should use them! 

A toggle bolt has a screw that connects to a set of folding, threaded wings. A molly bolt has a metal sleeve that expands when you drill the center screw into place or use a special setting tool.

molly bolt and toggle bolt as viewed from behind drywall

Both these anchors are great for hanging curtains, flat screen tv brackets, and large picture frames. However, they do have some differences, and depending on your preferences, one type may fit your needs better than the other.

Need to repair the damage from a toggle or molly bolt? Check out this step by step guide on how to fix drywall anchor holes for all my tips and tricks for a flawless finish!

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What are Molly Bolts?

Molly bolts are a type of hollow wall anchor made for drywall and plaster walls. They are used when you don't have a stud in the wall at the precise location you want to hang something.

molly bolt in closed, semi-closed and open positions

These anchors have a metal sleeve that flares out against the inside of the wall to evenly distribute the weight and hold your mounted item tight to the drywall.

molly bolt with metal sleeve expanded

When should you use a Molly bolt?

Molly bolts are medium to heavy-duty wall anchors for hanging fairly large items. What types of items require a molly bolt?

This type of expansion anchor is well-suited for hanging ceiling hooks, heavy curtain rods, large picture frames, floating shelves, coat racks, and even light fixtures.

coat rack mounted to wall

Can you use molly bolt drywall anchors for a TV? That's hotly debated. Some people don't trust wall anchors by themselves to mount an expensive TV on the wall, but you should be able to use these anchors in conjunction with a stud to attach the bracket to the wall securely.

How Much Weight Can a Molly Bolt Hold?

Molly bolts can handle anywhere from 30 to 100 pounds. Most manufacturers will list a weight rating for their drywall anchors on the package. But beware - the true holding capacity comes down to the thickness of the drywall, the size of the molly bolt, and how well they are installed.

This video gives you an idea of how much weight a molly bolt can withstand. It's pretty impressive!

How to Use Molly Bolts

Using molly bolts is simple! Here's a quick guide to get you started. 

Mark the Location

Make sure you know exactly where you want your molly bolt before you go drill that hole! You don't want to create a bunch of extra holes that will need to be filled later. Also, use a stud finder to check that the wall is clear of studs, pipes, and wires.

Drill the Anchor Hole

The packaging for the drywall anchor should list the size requirements for a drill bit – with a molly bolt; it's important that you get the sizing near perfect. If the hole is too small, you'll cause damage, and if it's too large, the molly bolt won't tighten correctly. 

Note: Some molly bolts with nail-like points allow you to place them without a pre-drilled hole. You just hammer them into place with a rubber mallet. However, these can cause more damage to the drywall, and it may be worth it to just pre-drill anyway.

Insert the Molly Bolt and Tighten

You have pinpointed the location and pre-drilled the hole. Now, there are a couple of ways to tighten the bolt. Some types just need a screwdriver, but others require you to use a special tool to set the molly bolts. How does it work? 

Just place the molly bolt into the hole, then back the screw out partially. Now, the setting tool hooks onto the head of the screw and pulls the anchor, causing the winged portion on the back to expand, setting the molly bolt in place. 

Then you can remove the screw and slide it through the mounting hole of the item you want to hang on the wall. Then you can reinsert the screw in the anchor and tighten it in place. The video below shows you how to use the setting tool for this type of hollow wall anchor.

What are Toggle Bolts?

Toggle bolts are wall anchors made for hollow walls, such as drywall and plaster. The metal anchor utilizes a pair of collapsible butterfly wings and a single center screw.

toggle bolt with packaging

Toggle bolts get their name from the folding toggle that acts as the anchor. You'll find toggle bolts in many sizes and different weight ratings. The larger and wider the toggle bolts, the more they will typically hold.

When should you use a Toggle Bolt?

Like a molly bolt, you should use a toggle bolt anytime you want to hang a relatively large object, but you can't find a stud. You could also use them for an interior hollow core door.

You can use small toggle bolts for hanging something like a picture frame with a glass panel, towel bars, toilet paper holders, or coat hooks. However, for lightweight items, you could just use a simple plastic anchor or a plastic threaded anchor. 

How much weight can a toggle bolt hold? They can hold from 20 to over 100 pounds (some can take even more!) when placed correctly. However, consider the size of the anchor and the thickness of the drywall.

How Do You Use a Toggle Bolt?

The steps for installing a toggle bolt are similar to a molly bolt, although you don't need any special setting tools. Check out my full guide on how to install a toggle bolt for a step by step tutorial.

inserting toggle bolt into wall

Which is Best: Molly Bolts or Toggle Bolts?

Which of these hollow wall anchors should you choose? Both will hold similar amounts of weight securely, and the installation process is almost the same. However, there are two major differences that can help you decide.

Toggle bolts are easier to remove

A molly bolt is more difficult to remove. There are several techniques for collapsing the arms, or you can just sink it below the surface of the drywall and patch over it. The video below shows a few different methods.

On the other hand, a toggle bolt simply unscrews from the wall. The butterfly wings fall off the end and drop to the ground inside the wall. You can't reuse it, but at least you don't have to struggle with getting it out of the wall, so you can quickly patch the hole and move on.

Molly bolts leave a smaller hole

Another difference between molly bolts and toggle bolts is the size of the hole they create. You'll need to drill a much larger hole to fit the folded toggle bolt wings through the drywall.

toggle bolt through hole in drywall

A molly bolt is much thinner because the "wings" create a sleeve around the screw. It's designed to fit snugly in the hole, rather than loose like in the hole you see above. So you'll have less patching to do when you decide to change up your decor!

I hope this article cleared up any confusion you might have had regarding molly bolts vs toggle bolts! Both of these wall anchors provide a secure hold on your wall, so the choice is up to you!

Check out these other handy articles!

Wayne Chism

Saturday 21st of January 2023

Also use Molly’s when hanging a mirror or similar with recessed keyhole slots or D-rings on the back. Once the Molly is set, you can back out the screw to fit a recessed slot or D-ring. Not so easy to do with a toggle.

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