summary: Note this question

  • is not about installing a new grommet: I know how to do that
  • is about removing a grommet, so that I can install a new grommet in the already-existing hole


I have a 25-year-old SWB mesh-seat recumbent that still works quite well, but

  1. is showing its age, in that various non-standard parts are needing replacement
  2. its manufacturer no longer supplies replacement parts

One thing I'd like to replace is its seat, but for now I'll settle for replacing its broken grommets, mostly to prevent further damage to the seat. The broken grommets are currently all on the left side (facing) of the upper part of the seat:

(Note also that the rear/underside of the grommets are also broken similarly.) Here's a detail of 2:

The grommet holes are presumably still in good condition, though that will presumably not last: see lower grommet in above detail. I have grommets and install tools, so can presumably install new grommets in the grommet holes ... if I can get the old grommet pieces out. (FWIW, I have some replacement grommets that appear to be the same sizes as the original, but one will not fit over the existing/broken grommet.) How to remove the old/broken grommets without damaging the grommet holes?

Note also that I do not want to cut new holes (which I also know how to do) if there is any way to remove the old grommets.

Some things I have tried and rejected:

  1. Prying the old-grommet pieces up with a small/thin screwdriver. I can't get any purchase--those old grommets are very firmly seated into the mesh.
  2. Pulling the old-grommet pieces off with needlenose pliers. That kinda works, in that I can pull off very small pieces (i.e., the width of the needlenose) of the old grommet. Unfortunately, in addition to being tedious, this also leaves a jagged and convex edge where the piece has been removed.
  • I wonder if there is more expertise on this kind of thing over on the outdoors.SE site. outdoors.stackexchange.com/search?q=grommet+replace only has one result, but most tents have grommets.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 0:21
  • I'm guessing that you get on the bike from the left side a lot more than from the right side?
    – Criggie
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 0:35
  • I would recommend Lifehacks (lifehacks.stackexchange.com ) if not getting working answers here.
    – Willeke
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 9:26

2 Answers 2


After looking at half dozen videos the easiest means seems to be a Dremel or highspeed die grinder. Using a small diameter stone or steel burr make repeated passes around the inside of the grommet hole. Take care to not let the grommet to get hot enough to melt or burn the fabric. It is not necessary to grind all the way through, just remove enough material weaken the crimp.

  • works--more details in a bit, will incorporate into question
    – TomRoche
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 5:28

I see two solutions

  1. Consider the structure of the grommet once it is installed. There are two discreet circles of metal, with one inside the other, which is pressed back on itself.

From https://thesewingloftblog.com/grommet-how-to/
from https://thesewingloftblog.com/grommet-how-to/

If you could un-deform the inner ring so that it can fit back through the washer then both parts should simply pop off.

I'd suggest using either a sharpened flat screwdriver to push under the lip, and then lever it back, or use a triangular file to weaken the metal and work them apart. I'd worry that the heat of a power tool might damage the fabric. There's the possibility that glue or adhesive was used too.

  1. Replace the grommets in place - simply install a new smaller grommet through the middle of the existing one. That will add weight and reduce the hole size for the cord, but may be an acceptable temporary solution.

  2. Remake the whole seat. Use the existing design as a starter, but construct a complete replacement seat how you want it. Perhaps use a line of leather up the sides to hold the grommets int the future, or change the lacing system so it works different. Maybe even thread a longer cord back and forth between the rails uninterrupted - there are a lot of different ways to do it depending on what you want to change.

    • I'd suggest exploring whether velcro does the job instead of cord. 25 years ago "hook and loop fastener" wasn't that good, but modern versions are excellent and enough of it can support tonnes of weight.

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