How to Unstick Two Filters That Are Stuck Together

How to Unstick Two Filters That Are Stuck Together

Use two threaded circular filters at once and you run a terrible risk: they might get stuck together. It happened to me when I was using a neutral density filter and a circular polarizer. Here’s how I got them unstuck.

Methods Busted

A quick bit of research on how to unstick two filters turned up a few techniques that didn’t help. If your filters aren’t stuck too badly, they might work for you, but they didn’t for me. I tried:

  • Just twisting the filters really hard. They didn’t budge at all.
  • Using kitchen gloves for better grip. Again, the filters didn’t move.
  • Tapping around the edge with your finger or a knife handle. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work, but it didn’t.

Freezer Time

Thankfully, I found one solution that worked an absolute treat. I took my two filters and popped them in the freezer for 15 minutes.

filters in freezer

Yes, I ate the Calippo while I waited.

When I took them out, the two filters detached easily. The metal obviously contracted a tiny amount in the sub-zero temperatures, which let them spin freely. The filters were totally unharmed; the only thing to show they’d just come out of the freezer was a small amount of frost on the glass.

unstuck filters

Boom! Unstuck filters.

If you’re in a similar situation, just stick your filters on ice for a few minutes. It should do the job.

The Nuclear Option

And, if it doesn’t work, there’s always the nuclear option: sacrificing a filter.

Decide which filter is less valuable (either because it’s scratched and scuffed, or just cheaper to replace), and very, very carefully, break it with a chisel, glass breaker, or other similar object. Without the glass in the filter, you’ll be able to use pliers to get a proper grip on the metal ring and unscrew it from your unbroken filter.

Have you unstuck two filters that were stuck together? Let me know what worked for you. I’m sure I’ll need to do it again.

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37 Comments

Previous comments
Jon Tascon's picture

Hope that is only a joke. But I must admit that I can see myself doing that.

Don Risi's picture

I had 2 filter stuck together so tight nothing worked. Came close to using the nuclear option, but decided to send them back to the manufacturer. When they came back -- separated -- they were accompanied by a note that said, "We recommend that filters not be stacked."

Really?? I changed brands.

I find that filters made with aluminium frames stick together on a regular basis, regardless of manufacturer. But when the frames are made of brass, they almost never jam.

Why don't they manufacture filters with a closed loop hook on the edge? Then, with an angled piece of metal, eg Allen key, we could easily prise apart the filters. If not a hook, then holes, either on the metal face part, or edge part, and again, should be easy to prise apart with an Allen key. This is not rocket science.

Kevin Harding's picture

I just use cheap step-up metal adapters for my Haida & Nisi round filters. I've never had them stick because I don't ever over-tighten them which is the #1 reason people have issues and have never had two filters stick together using the method below.

Screw the filters on gently to when they don't feel like you can tighten any more with effort .. and then back them off 1mm. And no I've never ever had one drop off either (though I do check them during use from time to time).

NB. Posted twice, once as a reply.

Daniel Medley's picture

I've never tried it with two filters stuck together, but tapping around the edge with either a finger nail or a pencil definitely helps with removing them from the lens.

mike reece's picture

I had almost given up splitting these two apart, big man hands are really no good for getting a good grip on these filters. well i tried and worked a treat. thanks alot

How about filters stuck on lenses? I've given up. The lens is filtered permanently.