Why Do Craftsman Screwdrivers Smell? (Do Your Handles Stink?)

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Oh No, What’s That Smell?

You have an important project and you reach out to your trusted Craftsman screwdriver set, open your toolbox and start to heave.

What’s that horrible smell? Is there something dead in my toolbox? Oh my, goodness has some sort of animal pooped in there? And then you realize it is actually your screwdrivers. Why do my screwdriver handles smell like vomit? And how do I get rid of that horrible smell? Let’s find out…

Why Do Craftsman Screwdriver Handles Smell?

Craftsman screwdriver handles are made of plastic and in particular, a substance call Acetate. Now, acetates are plastics that are derived from cellulose (fiber) and acetic acid. The most common acetates used in the manufacture of plastic products are cellulose acetate, which is used to manufacture clear plastic screwdriver handles, and triacetate, which is used by the military to make bulletproof vests for their soldiers.

What makes acetate plastic so good for manufacturing clear plastic screwdriver handles is its toughness, durability, and ease of cleaning. Acetate is also fairly easy to process which makes it an economical alternative to most other plastics. This is why they are chosen by manufacturers to produce clear plastic screwdriver handles.


A common problem with Craftsman screwdrivers is that the handles are made of old acetate which deteriorates over time. Even if the handles look fine to the naked eye they are going through a chemical breakdown process. A lot of people refer to it as “out-gassing” and that is what causes the terrible odors.

So… the simple reason why your Craftsman screwdriver smells (and this is not just restricted to this brand) is that acetate plastic is decaying. Acetone is a ketone and as such has a reasonably strong odor. And it comes from the decomposition of acetic acid.

If you have a lot of tools with shiny handles that are discolored and smell like vinegar, then acetate plastic maybe your issue. It is not biodegradable. The odor will not go away.

Is There Are Trick To Prevent Them From Smelling?

If you store your screwdrivers in some sort of storage container such as a toolbox they will more than likely end up smelling, especially if you live in a very warm climate or somewhere with high humidity.

One way around this is to make sure they are exposed to clean air. This means not keeping them in a drawer or in an enclosed space like inside your toolbox, or putting them away in places that are dark. Instead, make sure they are exposed to clean air by leaving them out in the open to retain cleanness and freshness.

But… the reality is, all clear plastic handles eventually smell bad. You might leave your screwdrivers in a neat little rack or tray, but there is no way to keep them smelling sweet for long.

Why Do Craftsman Screwdrivers Turn White?

Your Craftsman screwdrivers turning white is all part of the exact same process we have been talking about. It is caused by the same thing. Therefore the breaking down of the acetate in your plastic handle.

Only this time, unlike the above, when your handle may smell with no obvious outward signs of deterioration you can now see the physical results occurring.

There is a good chance your screwdrivers are very old and maybe past their use-by date. At the very least you should consider wearing gloves when using these screwdrivers to stop the smell and possible skin irritation this chemical breakdown may cause.

How Do You Clean A Craftsman Screwdriver?

The simplest thing to do is just wipe down your screwdriver with a rag after each use. No need for any cleaners or fancy degreasers.

But what happens if you have a set that has not been taken care of that way from the beginning?

You can wash them using soap and water. You may even have to scrub them with a wire brush or steel wool to get some of the gunk off.

But the thing is… if the deterioration process has begun the white stuff will just reappear again in a few weeks. People have tried coating them with various oils but that doesn’t seem to help.

Why Are People So Determined To Keep Smelly Craftsman Screwdrivers?

It seems a strange thing that so many people are just unwilling to let go of their trusty old Craftsman screwdriver and just get new ones. In fact, many of these screwdrivers came with a lifetime guarantee and participating retailers even have an exchange program.

Yet, many hardened tool users still don’t want to let go of their smelly screwdriver. Why? Because as the saying goes they don’t make things like they used to.

So… while the handle has its issues the actual steel in the old-fashioned screwdriver is soo much tougher than what you will get in the newer modern versions and that is why people want to hold on to them. They are actually great at getting the tough jobs done.

I’m personally not so fussy and when you combine that with my laziness it is way too much effort for someone like me to try and keep clean or restore an old set. I will go with a new set over an old smelly set any day.

In summary, your Craftsman screwdriver smells because of the material the handles are made of. This is not just a Craftsman thing however they are so popular for these types of plastic handle screwdrivers they seem to always get mentioned in association with screwdrivers smelling.

You may also be interested in… Is Craftsman A Good Brand? (Still Producing High-Quality Tools)